Tag Archives: Second Reformation

Why Lifegroups Work


God is about family. He is moving His Church into families. Those organizational churches who get this are intentional about community and family. Those that don’t, or won’t, will continue to hold on to a corporate, organizational paradigm and God will remove His own from their care. Scripture says:

   “Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation. God settles the solitary in a home; he leads out the prisoners to prosperity, but the rebellious dwell in a parched land.” (Psalm 68:5–6, ESV)

“For the shepherds are stupid and do not inquire of the Lord; therefore they have not prospered, and all their flock is scattered.” (Jeremiah 10:21, ESV)

Because God is doing this, Lifegroups and Christian community work. Traditional church leaders–who have a heart for God–are heeding God’s warnings and shedding historic, corporate, political structures for more organic, family and biblical community. Those who grasp, tightly to their own little papal kingdoms have buildings and programs that are emptying out and drying on the sapless vine.

Church families take the form of house churches, lifegroups, cell churches, home fellowships, etc. If Jesus is in the lead, he will build his church-family. Being in a Lifegroup (cell group) is a powerful antidote to poor choices. Intentional community can often prevent poor choices and deep hurt altogether. Granted, we all suffer in life at some point or another, but God wants us together, bearing one anothers’ burdens and encouraging each other on the journey. What happens to believers that have not been taught to value and prioritize community, rather than mere church attendance?

Imagine that you are in your late twenties, happily married, with two little ones. You love your wife dearly. You enjoy going out to a lounge or dancing on a Saturday night. You enjoy friends over for cards or an occasional meal. You take the kids out to the in-laws on Sunday afternoon and then treat them to Butterfinger McFlurries on the way home. You struggle sometimes to make ends meet but life is good.

One day a colleague invites you to a Bible study at his house. Though a little uncomfortable, you enjoy the other guys. They do not seem too weird. So you decide you will attend again. After several weeks, you begin to realize that they have something you do not have. They experience a genuine camaraderie and seem to share their lives in real ways that you have secretly desired, but never attained for various reasons. You like the way the men hold each other accountable, but in a warm, caring way, not judgmentally. Then one night an insight rather overwhelms you—it is not what they have but Who they have that makes the difference in their lives. So after the meeting you turn from running your own life, from your sinful self-rule and give your life to Jesus Christ.

You begin to walk this life with Jesus and these brothers in a lifegroup. Though somewhat bewildered by all you don’t yet know, you find it difficult to contain your excitement. You seem to have this sense of joy and cleanness of heart. The shame of the past, the guilt over past actions has gone. You first share the transformation with your wife. Major problem—she isn’t as excited about this new direction as you are. She goes along with you, but makes it clear that she does not want to be “religious.” She and the kids attend church with you for a few weeks. Then she suggests that you take the kids. After all, you may have signed on for this new Jesus life, but she didn’t. She doesn’t mind the kids going because, after all, some values and morals in their lives could not hurt.

After many months, she approaches you and tells you that you have become distant. You don’t like to “have fun” the way you used to. You don’t enjoy the same people anymore. You seem to prefer your church-friends. You are more picky about how she tells little white lies and you seem holier-than-thou to her. The distance grows between the two of you. She begins staying out or coming home late. By accident, you find an email to another man.

Sound familiar? This is a typical scenario and only the people change. Most often it’s the other way around. The wife is the one who is transformed by Christ and rejected by the unbelieving husband. She found his email to another woman. This marriage, like so many before it, is in deep trouble. It does not have to, but it may end in divorce. The lifegroup can provide the support  and prayer that may save this marriage, or at least support the believer through to whatever comes.

Try to imagine this second situation.

A young woman is in love with Jesus. She is finished with school and is out working. Days are great, but nights can be lonely. Every movie reminds her of romance and love. Walking down the sidewalk she sees a family laughing, a young couple holding hands and looking at each other with love and excitement. Loneliness digs in. She longs to have someone to share her life with too. She knows from her Bible studies and the pastor’s messages that she should not marry an “unsaved” guy. She’s heard some of the heartbreaking accounts of what a marriage to someone who doesn’t know the Lord can be like. Unfortunately, at church all the good men are taken. Few visitors show any promise. Her biological clock is ticking toward midnight. She gets impatient.

Some of her old girlfriends call her up on a particularly tough night for her. They invite her to drive them to the “Club 28.” She has been despondent that she’ll ever be married or have the children she has dreamed of. She knows that if she sits around thinking any more she’ll just go crazy. She decides to go.

There she notices an attractive man who seems to be a little shy, but enjoying the company of his friends. He notices her. After an hour or so, they are sitting together talking. She is impressed with his shy, but attentive manner. He is thoughtful and kind. He is well spoken and a good listener. She doesn’t know how, but she agrees to a date. An inner voice is gently warning her not to give her heart or affection. They continue to meet and though she has told herself that she wouldn’t even date someone who didn’t know Jesus, she knows that he is different. He’s so nice. He will surely come to know Jesus with her influence and friendship.

Her sisters-in-Christ gently but firmly warn her of the danger and pain ahead for her. But she knows that this relationship is different than any other. If they knew him the way she does, they would realize that God brought them together so that her love might be used to bring him to Christ.

Dating turns into friendship, friendship into love and she soon marries him. Within two years, he has tired of her church life and though he is not being unfaithful to her, they have little contact and nothing in common. More recently, he has been violent with her and then stormed out of the house. He has his friends and life. She is lonely again. Only now she has no chance of a relationship with a Christian man. She’s married, pregnant and alone. She is broken hearted and wondering why God let this happen to her. He still lives in the house, but they don’t speak. She still can’t see or admit her own sinful choices. It is God’s fault and she plans to compound her bad choices and sin by filing for divorce with no biblical ground.

What do these scenarios have in common?

In my thirty-five years of ministry, I have seen them played out over and over. The details differ, but the human situation is the same. And both lead to heartache and deep pain. Those who get caught up in these situations and make the wrong decisions have great difficulty getting back on track with the Lord. Or they don’t ever get back. Not that the Lord doesn’t love them, they just find it hard to forgive themselves and the churches they often attend don’t know how to flow in the authority of forgiveness that could restore them.

This place of spiritual zero-to-the-bone can be avoided. Intentional community can often prevent poor choices and deep hurt altogether. That is true for several reasons. The choices can be different if the person is connected to community instead of Sunday go-to-church Christianity. Churches who meet as Lifegroups, in community often provide the kind of fellowship and togetherness that avoids these scenarios, if its members foster a lifestyle–rather than meeting–mentality.

Lifegroups should embrace the family of a new believer, not just the new believer. When this happens, often the unbelieving spouse will connect with one or more of the personalities in the group. The group can bring value to the family by considering the family needs, by engaging in the life of the family of a new believer.

Imagine that you are in your late twenties, happily married, with two little ones. You love your wife dearly. You enjoy going out to a lounge or dancing on a Saturday night. You enjoy friends over for cards or an occasional meal. You take the kids out to the in-laws on Sunday afternoon and then treat them to Butterfinger McFlurries on the way home. You struggle sometimes to make ends meet but life is good.

One day a colleague invites you to a Bible study at his house. Though a little uncomfortable, you enjoy the other guys. They do not seem too weird. So you decide you will attend again. After several weeks, you begin to realize that they have something you do not have. They experience a genuine camaraderie and seem to share their lives in real ways that you have secretly desired, but never attained for various reasons. You like the way the men hold each other accountable, but in a warm, caring way, not judgmentally. Then one night an insight rather overwhelms you—it is not what they have but Who they have that makes the difference in their lives. So after the meeting you turn from running your own life, from your sinful self-rule and give your life to Jesus Christ.

You begin to walk this life with Jesus and these brothers. Though somewhat bewildered by all you don’t know, you find it difficult to contain your excitement. You seem to have this sense of joy and cleanness of heart. The shame of the past, the guilt over past actions has gone. You first share the transformation with your wife. Major problem—she isn’t as excited about this new direction as you are. She goes along with you, but makes it clear that she does not want to be “religious.”  She and the kids attend church with you for a few weeks. Then she suggests that you take the kids. After all, you may have signed on for this new Jesus life, but she didn’t. She doesn’t mind the kids going because, after all, some values and morals in their lives could not hurt.

After many months, she approaches you and tells you that you have become distant. You don’t like to “have fun” the way you used to. You don’t enjoy the same people anymore. You seem to prefer your church-friends. You are more picky about how she tells little white lies and you seem holier-than-thou to her. The distance grows between the two of you. She begins staying out or coming home late. By accident, you find an email to another man.

Sound familiar? This is a typical scenario and only the people change. Most often it’s the other way around. The wife is the one who is transformed by Christ and rejected by the unbelieving husband. This marriage, like so many before it, is headed for trouble. It does not have to, but it may end in divorce.

Try to imagine this second situation. A young woman is in love with Jesus. But she is finished with school and is out working. Days are great, but nights can be lonely. Every movie reminds her of romance and love. Walking down the sidewalk she sees a family laughing, a young couple holding hands and looking at each other with love and excitement. Loneliness sets in. She longs to have someone to share her life with. She knows from her Bible studies and the pastor’s sermons that she should not marry an “unsaved” guy. She’s heard some of the heartbreaking accounts of what a marriage to someone who doesn’t know the Lord can be like. Unfortunately, at church all the good men are taken. Few visitors show any promise. Her biological clock is ticking toward midnight. She gets impatient.

Some of her old girlfriends call her up on a particularly tough night for her. They invite her to drive them to the “Club 28.” She has been despondent that she’ll ever be married or have the children she has dreamed of. She knows that if she sits around thinking any more she’ll just go crazy. She decides to go.

There she notices an attractive man who seems to be a little shy, but enjoying the company of his friends. He notices her. After an hour or so, they are sitting together talking. She is impressed with his shy, but attentive manner. He is thoughtful and kind. He is well spoken and a good listener. She doesn’t know how, but she agrees to a date. They continue to meet and though she has told herself that she wouldn’t even date someone who didn’t know Jesus, she knows that he is different. He’s so nice. He will surely come to know Jesus with her influence and friendship. Her sisters-in-Christ gently but firmly warn her of the danger and pain ahead for her. But she knows that this relationship is different than any other. If they knew him the way she does, they would realize that God brought them together so that her love might be used to bring him to Christ.

Dating turns into friendship, friendship into love and she soon marries him. Within two years, he has tired of her church life and though he is not being unfaithful to her, they have little contact and nothing in common. More recently, he has been violent with her and then stormed out of the house. He has his friends and life and she is lonely again. Only now she has no chance of a relationship with a Christian man. She is broken hearted and wondering why God let this happen to her. She still can’t see her own sinful choices. It is God’s fault and she is planning to file for divorce.

What do these scenarios have in common?

In my thirty-five years of ministry, I have seen them played out over and over. The details differ, but the human situation is the same. And both lead to heartache and deep pain. Those who get caught up in these situations and make the wrong decisions have great difficulty getting back on track with the Lord. Or they don’t ever get back. Not that the Lord doesn’t love them, they just find it hard to forgive themselves and the churches they often attend don’t know how to flow in the authority of forgiveness that could restore them.

This place of spiritual zero-to-the-bone can be avoided. The choices can be different if the person is connected to community instead of Sunday go-to-church Christianity. Their only hope is intentional community. Churches who meet as Lifegroups, in community often provide the kind of fellowship and togetherness that avoids these scenarios, if its members foster a lifestyle–rather than meeting–mentality. Lifegroups invite Jesus to be at the center and make them a caring family–spiritually gifted fellow travelers. They hold together and love God’s ways and Word. Lifegroups are more interested in loving one another and impacting their communities than filling their buildings.

That’s why Lifegroups work.

©2012, David C Alves

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What if You’re Not Who You Think You Are?


Ever wonder why the western church lacks such power and presence? Ever wonder why your life seems to be missing something that would take you over the top in your spiritual growth? Do you want to be more like Jesus?

This word is to those who consider themselves disciples of Jesus Christ. This word is to those who have experienced supernatural regeneration and are “born-from-above.” This word is for those in that group who want to go deeper into the mysteries of Christ.

This word is for those who do not think that they already know all there is to know about being a child of the King. This word is for those who have tasted and seen that the Lord is good and want to know Him better. You’re disatisfied with the status quo. Tired of fighting the church wars. Underwhelmed by the crowds of professing believers who are more about appearances, perfomance-based-easy-believism, and simple platitudes. You are more interested in relationship than a pursuit of knowledge for knowledge-sake. You beleive the Scripture that says knowledge “puffs up” but that love “builds up.” So you want to know the deep love of Chirst and of the Father.

What if you’re not who you think you are?

What if you’re who God thinks you are? What if you’re not merely a servant of God, or a disciple, or even a friend of God. What if you’re who the Father says you are . . . a “son”?

I believe that He has illumined His intent for the church at this season of our journey? I believe that our understanding of who God says we are is an essential prerequisite to the Second Reformation–God’s recapturing of Family, of relationship in His image.

What difference would it make to KNOW that you are loved deeply and have an identity that you may have heard of, but not yet discovered in experience? What if entering into who God says you are were to transform not only your thinking but your everyday decisions and activities? What if the truth about you placed you squarely in the family that God is Father of?

I believe that the Father wants us to know this important truth:

“All who are led by the Spirit are the ‘sons of God.'” (Romans 8.14)

Are you born-from-above? Then you have “the right to become [one of the] ‘sons of God.’ (John 1.12)

Are you “led by the Spirit” of the living God? Then you are one of the “sons of God.” When’s the last time you heard a message on “sonship”? And if you did hear one (and I’d stand amazed, because in 40 years as a Christian, I’ve never heard ONE–not once) did you understand how important it is to God that you understand that identity? Why did He make sure that Scripture preserved and outlined our sonship?

This is an important word for the church today. Sonship is the key to you living into the fullness of what Jesus did in His Atonement. His sacrifice accomplished more than simply forgiving your sins so that you could fly off to heaven [which is an unbiblical image anyhow].

Your identity as one of the ‘sons of God’ is the word for His Family today.

We’re the ‘sons of God’ . . . So What?: Believe God About Who He Says You Really Are!

 

My book explains from the Word of God why the biblical doctrine of sonship is so important to God the Father, and thus needs to be important to me and you. Perhaps understanding sonship is the next step in your walk with Christ and your fellowship with the Father. I wrote this book to help those who have responsibility in spiritual formation or who are mentors. I also wrote it for anyone who is willing to go deeper. WSOGSW is not an easy read. You may find that you read some and then put it aside for awhile because you have to ponder or dig into the Word. But you receive what you’re willing to give. If you study and meditate upon these truths, you will be amazed at the result.

What others are saying:

Believe Who You Are, Do What You Must,” @ Lay It Down | Carl Simmons

Five-star Amazon Reviews by church leaders

QUESTION: How do you view yourself in light of the fact that God has made you a “son.” (yes, ladies too).

©2012, David C Alves

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