Engaging the Whole Person “in the Community”

By Paul Wilkinson

The mission of Brentwood Baptist Church is to engage the whole person with the whole gospel of Jesus Christ anywhere, anytime with anybody. What are some possibilities for “engaging the whole person” in our LIFE Groups?

We must internally engage the whole person. We have group members who live as chaotic lives as we do. They carry the same guilt and shame from poor decisions, broken promises, and sporadic failures as the rest of us. On the other end of the spectrum, we have people who are incredibly, dangerously comfortable with the status quo. Life is good for them and they are perceiving, undiscerningly, material fruits as God’s favor. And we ourselves, as leaders, are perpetually moving back and forth across this spectrum.

As Mike Glenn says (my paraphrase): we’re either coming out of a storm or about to go in one. We leaders have the advantage because we are steeped in Scripture as we prepare to teach the Bible each week. Are our group members diving as deep as we are; are they diving into the Bible at all? We are perpetually praying about our groups, that we lead them to rich springs of faith and that they are quickened by the Spirit; are they praying like that? We spend time alone thinking through the content of the text in solitude with the Spirit; are they having Sabbath like that?

The Holy Spirit intercedes and compels us to become our whole selves that the Lord designed. We are remaining in tune with the Spirit through our prep work each week. We must help our group members to do the same: give them homework, let them struggle with theological tension, forever challenge them to be “in the Word” coupled with a commentary or the like. The first step in engaging their whole person is getting them in tune with the Holy Spirit: repentance leading to worship and obedience.

A second level of internal whole person engagement is that we are caring for one another materially. James asks, “If a brother or sister is without clothes and lacks daily food and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, stay warm, and be well fed,’ but you don’t give them what the body needs, what good is it?” (James 2:15-16) Do we personally know the material struggles of our group members? More strategically, do we have the substructure in place such that care groups know the material struggles and needs of our group members? If our LIFE Groups are primarily social space discipleship elevating community, mission, and practice through Bible and prayer, then how are we creating personal space discipleship elevating closeness, support, and challenge through deeper Bible, more personal prayer, and sharing/confession? Does your group have a set of care leaders that regularly follow up with assigned members to see how they are and in what ways the group can support them? If not, then strongly consider creating such a ministry.

Part of reaching people spiritually is caring for them physically. We must help them get in sync with the Holy Spirit so that they can respond to the Spirit’s conviction and prompting. We must create healthy communities that are welcoming and hospitable so that they can readily receive the lost and searching. We must organize the necessary substructures to care for people’s material struggles, coupled with the Brentwood Baptist Church benevolence team. As Allan Taylor is wont to say, if we want to reach people with the gospel, then it’s going to cost us time, money, and effort. May we be willing to count the cost.

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