By Jay Fennell
I think it’s obvious to everyone that popular culture is changing rapidly. Instead of the culture leaning in toward God, it leans in the opposite direction, away from God and against Biblical values and worldview. We have known that the world is in darkness, blinded by sin and thus cannot see the Light, which is Jesus Christ. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4:3-4, “And even if this gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” This is not new. The enemy is active and seeks to kill, steal and destroy. We look around and confirm that he is good at what he does.
But as the world continues to drift more and more into darkness, as Christ followers we are called more than ever to be a light. As we embark on the day, God is sending us out as missionaries in our own context, to demonstrate and communicate the redemptive grace of God wherever we go. We participate in His Kingdom by being His ambassador, a messenger with good news, and reflecting the glory of Jesus Christ by the things we say, do and think. And this work is not easy. In fact, it is extremely difficult. Darkness doesn’t understand the Light (John 1:5). As we go out as Christ’s ambassadors, we will undoubtedly face ridicule and persecution and conflict. We will be depleted and poured out as we interface with a lost world. There is war going on for the souls of men and we are on the frontline of that war, engaged in battles that will at times discourage and exhaust us to the point of giving up.
That’s where the LIFE Group community comes in… to be a community of encouragement and refuge where Christ followers come to be filled up so that they can go back out and get depleted all over again. LIFE Groups are not the destination. They’re not to be “holy huddles” removed from the world. They are to be a place where Christ followers gather to mutually encourage and build each other up; to receive the nourishment of God’s Word; to pray and enjoy community with others who have trusted Christ and are saved by His grace; so that they can be sent out like sheep among wolves to engage the culture with the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. A LIFE Group is an interdependent community of people who are all on mission to love Jesus and reach a lost world together.
Yes, we are in different times. Yes, we look around and can become discouraged by what e see in the world. But the mandate remains: we are to go and make disciples of Jesus in this world. And LIFE Groups are designed to be Christ-centered environments where people are empowered, equipped and encouraged to do that.
My encouragement to you is to position your group this way. Don’t settle for laissez-faire expression of LIFE Group. Keep the mission of Jesus front and center… to seek and save he lost.
By Susan Hill
In LIFE Groups, there will be times when group members are faced with difficult circumstances. It might be the death of a loved one, a hospitalization or illness, job loss, or a variety of other issues that cause the group member to be in a season of high stress.
During these times, it is especially important to be supported in biblical community. Galatians 6:2 says, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”
So how does a LIFE Group respond when a group member is in a difficult season?
- It’s important to reach out to the group member so he or she doesn’t feel alone. A simple phone call goes a long way in ministering to a person in need. In seasons of struggle, it’s common to feel isolated so reaching out is a great first step.
- It’s a good idea to see if there is a tangible need your group can provide. Would it be helpful if someone delivered a meal? Does the group member need a ride or help around the house? Would the group member appreciate visitors? It’s beneficial to access the situation and then decide how the group can minister most effectively.
- Be sure to cover the group member in prayer. In times of distress, it is important for the group member to know that their friends in biblical community are praying. Consider sending a card, text, email, or giving them a call to let them know you are praying.
In a LIFE Group community, it’s essential that we love each other well. For the group to run smoothly and to be sure everyone’s needs are met, it’s best to delegate these types of needs to an “L” Leader. The “L” function of the LIFE Group represents “Loving One Another” and it’s an important aspect of all good LIFE Groups. No one likes to go through seasons of distress but, when the body of Christ responds in a loving way, these times are more bearable and can even be seasons of spiritual growth.
By Susan Hill
We all know a lone ranger who prefers time alone to an evening spent with a group of friends. But the reality is, no matter whether we are an outgoing extrovert or a quiet introvert, we all need biblical community. There is not a single example in Scripture of a spiritual hermit or one who followed Christ alone. God created us to be a part of community.
This is one of the reasons LIFE Groups play such an important role in discipleship. Biblical community is necessary to become the kind of Christ followers God intends for us to be. While there are multiple examples of why we need to be a part of biblical community, here are just a few:
- We need the accountability and protection that a LIFE Group provides. The enemy is fierce. 1 Peter 5:8 says, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of suffering.”
- LIFE Groups provide a place to grow in our understanding of the Word and have fellowship with other believers. This is the precedent set in the New Testament. Acts 2:42 says, “They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”
- Life can be difficult and when we go through tough seasons, we need to be surrounded by other believers. Galatians 6:2 says, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”
Those who are disconnected from biblical community are vulnerable. As you think of people God has placed in your sphere of influence, consider those who are unconnected and invite them to your LIFE Group. Encourage your group members to do the same. Everyone needs to be actively engaged in biblical community.
As a LIFE Group leader, you are making an enormous spiritual investment in the body of Christ and in the lives of those you lead. Be encouraged that this commitment is time well spent and your contribution matters a great deal.