Several years ago, the Christ in Youth Summer Conference (now known as MOVE) had a theme called ONES. The bottom line for the teaching that week is that we were never meant to be alone. I pray daily that those who attended the conference that summer will NEVER forget that bottom line, and I have incorporated that message into the “Love People” part of our vision statement at VCC. Life truly is better when we do it together. At VCC, Life Groups are the vehicle we steer folks towards so they can become more involved, and better known among the family of believers.
Among the purposes of our Life Groups:
Deeper study and application of God’s Word in a more intimate setting. Pouring over a passage of Scripture with 10 or 12 other people makes for a deeper time of study and reflection, a chance for give-and-take in discussion, and a bonding that simply is not possible in the Big Group time on Sunday mornings.
A chance to get to know some others on a deeper level. Our discussion are more than academic in nature, and because of that, we get to know the others in our Life Group on a deeper level. We learn their personalities, their quirks, maybe even their fears, and their faith issues (positive and negative), and can band together in love, prayer, and support for one another.
Doing Life Together. That means more than “just” a Bible study. While studying God’s Word is of primary importance, it is not the ONLY thing we do in Life Groups. We do social outings together (dinners, affinity activities, game nights, just to name a few).
There’s a Shepherding component that is HUGE here. When members of your Life Group are sick, in the hospital, having major life change issues, or whatever, members of the Life Group are the first responders. We fix meals, we check on folks who missed even one Life Group or Sunday morning gathering. We are there to help in whatever way necessary. We are family.
Challenging each other to move to that “next step” in our faith journey, ultimately getting to “Serve Others.” Whether it is serving inside the church structure on a ministry team, or serving outside the church structure in our community (and preferably both), we challenge each other to be the “hands and feet of Jesus.” It is so much easier and frankly more fun to serve others when you do it with a group of like-minded believers!
So often, the church loses as many people out the “back door” as come in through the “front door.” It is because we are not doing a great job in helping new believers connect with the body of Christ known as the local church. At VCC, our goal is to get everyone “plugged in” through a Life Group. We are far from achieving our goal, but we are making strides in that direction. Helping others see the benefits of being in a Life Group WILL make a difference in this matter.
So, what other benefits have you seen from being part of a Life Group? I would LOVE to hear from you on this matter.
I spent a little over an hour this morning, “helping” take care of a tech issue with a “Smart TV” with a member of Vero Christian Church . The family wants to use the Right Now Media app on their TV to be able to put Bible studies right on their television for ministry purposes. This family routinely opens their home to what I call the “hard cases.” Those are new Christians who carry lots of baggage, like addictions of various kinds, dysfunction of all kinds, but who are trying to follow Jesus and need a stable Christian marriage to watch and imitate.
I love the family for whom I “helped” with the TV issue today. BTW, as always, it was a “simple fix” but it wasn’t simple until we understood what to fix. It has been fixed, and Right Now Media will likely get more “air time” on that TV than anything else.
As we were conversing while trying to trouble shoot the TV issue, we both celebrated the fact that following Christ involves being in relationship. It is a multi-faceted relationship, and I want to briefly examine two of those components.
A relationship with Christ.
We need to draw closer to Jesus each day. We need to spend time daily in God’s Word. How can we get to know Jesus better if we don’t spend time with Him in the Word and in prayer? We can’t. Depending on someone else to always tell us about Jesus is like (thanks Brent Baker for this illustration) eating pre-chewed food. I listen to several sermon podcasts each week, and they are very helpful, but what I need most in my daily growth/walk with Christ is time in the Word of God. My desire is for my relationship with Jesus to be closer today than it was yesterday.
Set a specific time each day to be in the Word and in prayer. Stick to it. Not as a checklist kind of thing, but as a love thing. Love to be in the presence of Jesus through the Word and through prayer. Guard that time jealously and do not allow anything to come between you and your “Jesus time.”
How can you be more like Jesus if you don’t know what Jesus is really like? How can you know what Jesus is really like and not live your life to be more like Him?
Live out your relationship by being more like Jesus each day. How can you be more like Jesus if you don’t know what Jesus is really like? How can you know what Jesus is really like and not live your life to be more like Him? Love like Jesus loves. Unselfishly. Unceasingly.
A relationship with people.
Opening up your heart to others leaves you vulnerable to hurt, pain, and suffering. As C.S. Lewis puts it:
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy or at least to the risk of tragedy is damnation. The only place outside of heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is hell.”
Loving people the way Jesus loves them means that you will be hurt. Your heart will be broken. You will need to be a dispenser of Grace. But then, God feels the same way about you.
Pouring your life into people, loving them and serving them is what relationship is all about. Living out your relationship with Christ means that you will pour into the lives of the people Christ brings your way. That is what Christ-followers do. That is who we are. To do any less would be to deny Christ in us.
As I was leaving the house of this Christ-follower today, the comment was made that I had spent over an hour there, and it “probably wasn’t what you had planned for your morning.” Rest assured, the time spent in conversation and prayer while “fixing” the TV issue was the best part of my day. The encouragement of being around people who are doing their best to live out their faith, to establish relationships with people who will break their hearts…well, that’s what jazzes me.
So, what are some ways you are strengthening your relationship with Jesus? How are you pouring into the lives of people around you? I’d love to continue the conversation with you, so scroll down and leave a comment below so we can dialogue together.