Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Atmosphere of Vulnerability

Exposed. At risk. Vulnerable. No one likes to be that way. But being vulnerable with people you disciple will make you and them more like Jesus.

I remember the first time I experienced being truly vulnerable with someone I was discipling. I don’t know exactly why I chose to approach this situation in my life this way but I knew I needed a trusted friend to enter into a real battle in my life. I was struggling with a real pride issue. I was living in fear that people would not view me to be as good a leader as the man who discipled me. My self-centeredness was affecting my prayers for him, my friendship with him, and my ability to trust him. It was all my own sin and it was eating me up.
So I sat there and told the person I was discipling about this issue. I told him everything. It was HARD! There I was the “stronger, older, wiser, more holy discipler” throwing my real weakness and sin on the table.
I did not know what the person I was discipling would think or how he would react. It was a real risk for me. Would I lose his respect? His trust? Would he tell other people? Would he just turn around and run! The amazing thing was that he embraced my struggle with understanding, respect, deeper friendship, accountability and prayer. That person walked with me all the way through that specific struggle. I, the discipler, became more like Jesus because the one I was discipling walked with me.

Jesus was an amazing model of vulnerability with His disciples. It was much later in His relationship with them that He opened up the deepest things of his personal life to them. It was not day one of their relationship. It was 3 years in. In Matthew 26 He made known to them around the dinner table that He was going to be betrayed and handed over to be crucified. It must have been really hard for the 12 or should I say 11 to hear this truth. Jesus betrayed! By one of them! No way! What was also amazing about this moment was that in the end of that conversation Jesus led them to sing a song of worship (Mat. 26:30). He pointed them to God in His own hard moment. Then Jesus took them further into His soul by allowing them to come into the garden with Him. He did not have to do this.

“Taking along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. Then He said to them, “My soul is swallowed up in sorrow – to the point of death. Remain here and stay awake WITH ME.” (Mat. 26:37-38)

It was important for Jesus, the creator and sustainer of the universe, to allow those He was discipling to see the depths of his own pain. Jesus asked them to stay with him in His sorrow. The Son of God exposed. This was truly the atmosphere of vulnerability. Wow.

Jesus’ example has helped me see the great value of this principle:

Inviting those we disciple to see and walk with us in our deep struggles in life leads us both to become more like Christ.

What I have learned by being vulnerable with people I am discipling:

1. It is hard and scary – You never really know how someone will respond when you reveal deep things about yourself to them.
2. Once I take the step of faith to be vulnerable I find freedom to let go of many of my fears – I find freedom.
3. It is still hard – The enemy does not want me to become like Jesus.
4. It leads me to be more gracious and experience grace on a deeper level.

Practical Handles

1. Be completely honest with God about yourself
2. Pray for a commitment to genuine humility
3. Identify a person or people in your community that you trust the most.
4. Invite them to look at and listen to what is going on in your life.
5. Allow them to enter into the real battle for your walk with God by telling them the real “struggles” of your life.
6. Keep the focus on the glory of God in your life and not the struggle.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Atmosphere of Privilege

I can easily call to mind one of the most significant worship experiences of my life. One of them had to do with the guy that was discipling me, Tim. I was living in Little Rock, Ar. and serving in a ministry with him.

Tim decided to take a personal day to spend in worship at a local retreat center. He did not have to invite me along but he did. I’ll never forget sitting in the little 10 x 10 room pouring over the Bible (Is. 62) and allowing it to lead us in worship. We would read a little. Talk a little. Pray a little. Sing a little. I think we even cried some! There was no “plan” just God and us.

I was blown away at one point when Tim started to sing really LOUD! I think the song was “You Alone”. It made me a little uncomfortable at first but then I just joined in. I followed his lead into the presence of God. I experienced Tim in an intimate moment worshiping his Father in Heaven. It was amazing!

I learned deeper things about Tim.
I learned deeper things about God.

Tim brought me into the atmosphere of privilege

Matthew 17:1-8 helps me understand this principle in disciple making.

Those I disciple can have life changing encounters with God when I invite them into my personal worship.
Jesus did not have to take Peter, James, and John up on the mountain with Him. But He did. I think He did this so that they would understand on a deeper level WHO HE was. Can you imagine standing there and watching Jesus shining so bright that He “shone like the sun”?

I love Peter’s simple response to Jesus. Peter said, “It’s good for us to be here!”

If that was not enough a “bright cloud covered them and a voice from the cloud said: This is my beloved Son. Take delight in Him. Listen to Him.” God the Father spoke! Out loud! I can understand the disciple’s next response. “. . .they fell face down terrified.” If I were there, Matthew may have had to include, “and Doug had to go change his pants!” (was that inappropriate?)

Here is an important thing to note: The experience was more intense and the revelation into the reality of Jesus was deeper. They saw more of Jesus and they worshipped.

Our challenge is clear. As we disciple people, we should invite them to experience our own deep encounters with God. Bring people into your privileged moments with your Father in Heaven.
Some practical ideas:

• Invite someone into your home just to spend time in prayer and worship.
• Take a day to spend with God and ask someone to join you.

Maybe these ideas will help you think of more that apply to the specifics of your life. Be intentional. Bring someone along.

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Atmosphere of Challenge

Matthew 14:22-33

Notice that the experience is more intense; the relationship more intimate, the revelation into who Jesus was is deeper.

MAIN POINT: In making disciples we must be watching for opportunities that the Spirit orchestrates and then lead those we disciple to step into experiences where their faith will be stretched, their fears overcome, and their worship of Jesus taken to new depths.

Observations and Applications from the story:

Our job is not to “invent” random experiences that we think are good but listen and watch for where the Holy Spirit is moving in their lives and helping them embrace His movement as much as possible.

1) Jesus was intentional: He MADE the disciples get in the boat. It was not a “whatever happens, happens” attitude to disciple making.
Part of our responsibility in disciple making is helping people see and take steps of faith.
2) Jesus stayed behind to be alone: He did not get in the boat with the disciples. He was alone, they were alone.
Sometimes the best thing for those that you disciple is for you to stay behind.3) The disciples were in the midst of the storm without Jesus, their discipler.
4) Jesus came out to them when the disciples needed Him.
Even though we may stay behind, we should still remain observant.
5) Even though He came to them He used the opportunity to push them further in their faith.
We don’t need to automatically play the role of rescuer but sometimes push people in.
6) Jesus spoke to the reality of their fear that could hinder their faith.
One of the central roles of the discipler is to help those you are disciplng to overcome fear. Fear may be the greatest enemy of faith so we need to be encouragers and challengers in moments of fear.
7) Peter responded to Jesus’ presence by asking him to prove himself.
8) Jesus responded. “come”
Help people hear, recognize and respond to God’s voice in challenging steps of faith.”
9) Jesus saw Peter and heard Peter’s cry for help and didn’t let him drown.
10) The response of Jesus in their small faith caused them to see Him deeper and led them to worship Him.
As people you are discipling step out on faith, point them to see and worship God in that moment.

Here are a couple of questions to help you discern what challenges God may want those you are discipling to walk through.
1. How do sense God moving in your life right now?
2. Is there something that you think God may want you to do but you are afraid to do it?
3. What could stop you from following through and why?
4. What can I do to help you?

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Atmosphere of Vision

As you begin to disciple someone you must help them see their true identity and potential in the Kingdom.

The atmosphere of vision happens early in the relationship between Jesus and His disciples. Jesus has not revealed much about Himself to them yet but He is grabbing on to the moment and helping the disciples see life beyond themselves. He is telling them something that is almost impossible for them to believe about themselves. Robert Coleman in the book Master Plan of Evangelism describes the disciples this way.

“By any standard of sophisticated culture then and now they would surely be considered as a rather ragged collection of souls. One might wonder how Jesus could ever use them. They were impulsive, temperamental, easily offended and had all the prejudices of their environment…Not the kind of group one would expect to win the world to Christ.”

But imagine the sense of wonder and confidence that must have overcome them when Jesus looked them in the eye and said, “You will be fishers of men”, “You ARE the salt of the earth…YOU ARE the light of the world… …because of who you are people will worship God.

The atmosphere of vision is you helping a person see their life from the reality of who they are in Christ. It is helping them see that they are defined by God’s truth about them not what the world says. It is helping them see the things they don’t see about themselves; helping them see things they see wrong about themselves. Helping them see misperceptions about God and replacing them with Truth’s like Ephesians 1 that says

“God chose you before the foundations of the world to be holy and blameless before Him to praise of his glorious grace.”

“In Christ all the fullness of deity dwells in bodily form and in Him you have been made full.”

Maybe it is just looking them in the eye and saying “I love you. I believe in you. You matter to God.”

When you help people discover their identity in Christ you are casting vision into their lives to do great things for God. It’s the atmosphere of vision.

Here are few questions that I often ask early in the discipleship process to help cultivate the atmosphere of vision.

1) Have you ever thought about how God could use you to change the world?
2) If you had unlimited resources and guaranteed success, what would you do with your life?
3) What do think it means to follow Jesus?
4) What do think could hinder you from being all that God wants you to be?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Atmospheres of Disciple Making: An Intro.

Over the next several posts I am going to be writing about what I call “Atmospheres of Disciple Making.” What I mean by this is that there are certain climates or conditions that we will see the Holy Spirit initiate for those we are discipling and we need to be ready to walk with them in the moment. It is not about manufacturing or controlling situations but responding to the leading of the Spirit and helping those we disciple see where God is at work in their lives. Then we challenge them to dig into the moment and face what God has put before them.

The end goal is always the same; lead those we disciple to encounter Jesus so that they can become more like Him and bear more fruit for Him.

I am going to walk primarily through the gospel of Matthew to show that over time Jesus built a deeper relationship with the disciples, created progressively more challenging moments for them to encounter Him, and lead them toward the glory of God in some way.

Before I get into the Atmospheres of Disciple making I want restate a couple of important things.

1. The only way to make disciples of Jesus is in the context of relationships based on sacrificial love. The discipler must lay down their life for those they are discipling.

2. Making Disciples takes a long time. There is no shortcut. The discipler must understand this or he will be filled with frustration when things do not happen as fast as they want.

3. The point is the glory of God through the multiplication of more disciples. The point can never be to just get people to do something. It must be about God being glorified as much as possible in them and through them.

Here are the Atmospheres of Disciple Making.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Building Blocks for Making Disciples

Disciple Making

God’s heart is that people all over the world come to know Him intimately and worship Him (John 4:22-24).

He has designed a way for us to participate with Him in making that happen: The Making of Disciples (Matt. 28:19-20).

Greg Ogden, in Transforming Discipleship, states that Jesus invested in a few at a time for the following reasons.

1) Internalization – of the person and teachings of Christ
2) Multiplication – of more disciples

There is always the internalization of the person of Jesus and the mission of multiplying more disciples of Jesus. Without both of these it is not Biblical disciple making.

Disciple (mathetes) = pupil, learner, student. “Always implies the existence of a personal attachment which shapes the whole life of the one being described as “disciple” and which leaves no doubt as to who is deploying the formative power.”

Theological Dictionary of the NT

Disciple Making = Followers of Jesus Christ INTENTIONALLY and RELATIONALLY, TEACHING other people to follow Jesus, who will in turn do the same.

Building Blocks for a Theology of Making Disciples
The following building blocks all flow from the foundation of a community that seeks to Love God, Love the Body of Christ, and Love those outside the Body of Christ

1) Following Jesus - Being a person who has said “yes” to the sacrificial following of the life, teaching, death of Jesus as God in the flesh.

Luke 9:23; 14:23, Matt. 4:18-20; 8:18-23; 16:24

Deny Self  Take up your crossFollow Me (cleave steadfastly to me, conform wholly to my example, in living and if need be in dying also)

2) Inviting others to Follow you as You follow Jesus Christ – In the spirit of Christ, bringing others along on your journey. Do not be afraid to do this.

I Cor. 11:1; I Thess. 1:6; II Thess. 3:7-9, Phil. 3:17

3) Intentionally Teaching the whole Gospel – Teaching the Truth does not happen accidentally. Jesus or Paul never give indication that if you just spend time with someone Truth will be taught. They do the opposite.

Matt. 28:19-20; John 8:31; Acts 11: 26; Acts 20:20&27; 2 Timothy 2:2

4) Relationally Investing beyond friendship (time) – Friendship is not all there is to the discipleship process. Just because two Christians are friends does not necessarily mean they are discipling each other.

The Four Gospels, I Thess. 2:8 – The imparting/giving/sharing of our souls (life)

Where disciples are made, people share/impart their souls. “Life” is too weak of a word because it does not communicate the depth of the imparting. When you share your soul you are dipping in to the depths of your HOPE in Christ in the real places of your life.

Hebrews 6:19 - We have this [hope] -- like a sure and firm anchor of the soul -- that enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain.

5) Humble Earned Authority – There is a place for people to submit to authority in our spiritual lives; it is earned.

I Thess. 2:7&11-12; 1 timothy 1:2 ; 2 Timothy 1:2; 2:2 (All of 1 & 2 Timothy has the language of Paul’s authority in Timothy’s life). It is important to note that Paul and Timothy had probably been together 15 years. The relationship is characterized with words like “father”, “son” and “child”. These indicate a relationship of authority based on LOVE, not control. Humble earned authority is always in a relationship of the discipler loving the one being discipled.

6) The Power of the Holy Spirit – It is clear from Jesus and Paul that strength does not come from our own effort in discipleship but from the promised Holy Spirit.

I Thess. 1:5-7; John 14:12-17; 15:26-27 The Spirit of truth

There will be almost no greater joy in your life than seeing that person become more like Jesus – to see the light bulb of a love for God’s word – the defeat of a sin – watching them pass you in their influence for the kingdom.

“I constantly remember you in my prayers night and day. Remembering your tears, I long to see you so that I may be filled with joy, clearly remembering your sincere faith. . .” – 2 timothy 1:3-5

To the Thessalonians:

“We greatly desired and made every effort to return and see you face to face. . . For who is our hope , or joy, or crown of boasting in the presence of our lord Jesus at His coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy!”

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Love One Another Part 2

What is Biblical Love?

1 John 4:10-11 describes love like this:

“In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”

Here are a couple of observations that will help us understand what kind of love we should pursue in our communities.

1. Biblical love always starts with God. He is the definer of love so if we need a clear picture of what love really is then look at what the Father did. We cannot look to the world.

2. Biblical love always involves the sacrifice of self. God gave something (His Son Jesus, God in skin, Jn. 3:16) so that we might experience something (mercy or protection from His wrath).

3. Biblical love is expressed through us by imitating what He did.

Jesus tells us that the way the community of believers is to act towards one another is by actively pursuing to lay down our lives for one another. “Greater love has no one than that’s that He lay down his life for friends” (John 15:13). So the role of the disciple or Life Community leader is to help the community see ways to sacrifice themselves for each other and by setting the example themselves so that the love of Jesus might be seen.

One way to do that is by following Paul’s teaching in Galatians 6:2, “Bear one another’s burdens and thereby fulfill the law of Christ”. The law of Christ is to love one another (see 5:14). The context is Paul challenging us to help each other in our struggle with sin. So instead of judging we are to extend grace and carry each other towards repentance and holiness. This is not always easy. It requires the sacrifice of prayer, time, friendship, and accountability even when there is no guarantee of reward.

Another way we love is by intentionally learning about those in our communities through time spent together. Jesus did this. He stepped out of Heaven as an act of love and spent time with His creation. What an amazing and powerful thing to do. Our Life Communities will grow in love when they just spend time together learning about each other.

We can also display love by entering into the real issues of life with each other. Let’s say someone in your group is walking through the experience of their parents divorcing (happened to me in college). The Life Community should be asking that person “how can we as a group help you?” “What do you need from us?” There should be a conscious effort by the group to take hold of these moments as potential for God to move rather than move past them too quickly.

There are many more ways to show love. So our responsibility is to look for them and respond. 1 John says “Little children, let us not love with word or tongue, but in deed and truth.”

1 Corinthians 13 is always read at weddings. It is actually meant to be read as a community (the Church Corinth). Go back and read it but put in your mind that it is being written to your Life Community. Ask God to start showing you how all of those attributes of love can be evident in your group.

Let us become great at loving in the way Jesus loved us.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Love One Another Part 1

The Centrality of Love in Discipling Communities

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.” --John--

Disciples of Jesus are made within the context of relationships characterized by love. Therefore, true Christian community is characterized by love. Unfortunately it is much easier to go through the motions of leading or attending Bible study and never really experience receiving or giving the kind of love that we are told is THE mark of the Family of God.

Our Life Communities will be successful only if we are pursuing to cultivate Jesus centered love relationships with each other.

Honestly, as I sit and write about this I am overwhelmed. It is mostly because to think that I can communicate the depth of what it means to love one another as the Bible defines it through writing is pretty ridiculous. Another reason I am overwhelmed is because I have been loved in this way and it is truly humbling.

Over and over the News Testament tells us that love for one another is a huge deal. It is not an add-on or an elective. Love is what identifies our communities as communities of faith in Jesus Christ. Anybody can dispense information but it takes men and women of God to truly love in the way Jesus told us to.

Here are a few examples from scripture that show the importance of love for one another.

“Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end” – John 13:1

“A new command I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By THIS all men will know that you are my disciples, IF you have love for one another.” – John 13:34-35

“My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. Just as the Father had loved me, I have also loved you; abide in My love.” – John 15:8-9

“This is my commandment, that you love one another, JUST AS I HAVE LOVED YOU.” – John 15:12

“This I command you, that you love one another.” – John 15:17

“I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known, so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.” – John 17:26

“For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOUR SELF.” – Gal. 5:14

“Beyond all these things, put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.” – Col. 3:14

“This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us.” – 1 John 3:23

“Beloved let us love one another for love is form God….the one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” – 1 John 4:7-8

The list could go on and on. I have barely scratched the surface. What amazes me is how much of Jesus’ teachings to His disciples in those last hours was about love. He could have said and done a lot of things but He loved them and challenged them to love.

My fear is that we are so accustomed to reading the word “love” in the Bible and hearing it said in the world with no real meaning, that we have become desensitized to the power and depth that Biblical love for one another holds.

The point is that for us to be (as communities of believers) who God wants us to be then we must pursue to love in the way that He loves. We have to understand that when we gather in our Life Communities and walk along side of each other (and just live life as disciples of Jesus) we need to be praying and asking God to help us love. If we do not do that, we miss the point.

Part 2 will be “What is Biblical Love For One Another”

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Praying for Your Life Community

Prayer is a non-negotiable in the Kingdom of God and in the nurturing of an environment of life transformation. Not praying would be like me telling you to fly to the moon, then giving you a space shuttle, providing all the training you need, all the equipment you need, all of the instructions, a place to launch from, and then you saying “no thank you I will just walk outside and start flapping my arms”. Unfortunately we do that too often in the Christian life. God has said over and over in His Word that if we will pray He will do great things. But we choose not to pray and expect great things anyway. When we don’t pray we miss out on what God wants to do.

Here are 5 things that I believe you should pray for your Life Community.

That God would bring the people He desires into your Life Community
As Jesus was in the process of choosing His 12 he went away to pray (Luke 6:12). It is important to remember that Jesus was always motivated but what the Father wanted and He didn’t do anything without the Father’s initiative. We should not take lightly the call to ask God to create the community that He wants.

That they would value what Jesus values, the glory of God.
The glory of God was what motivated Jesus. He always sought to do what pleased the Father because He knew that was the greatest source of joy in life. Everyday students are bombarded with the opportunity to “exchange the glory of God for a lie”. That temptation may come in the form of an unhealthy relationship to believing that pursuing money will be more satisfying than knowing Jesus Christ. Pray that they would be worshippers of Jesus alone.

That they would live a life of sacrificial love for one another.
Jesus told His disciples that the world would know they were His by the quality of their love for one another (John 13:34-35). Pray that those in your community would be united in love for each other as Jesus prayed, “that they may be one even as We are.” Pray this so that those around them who do not know Jesus would be able to see that Jesus is real.

That they would persevere in trials.
Jesus prayed that Peter’s faith would remain strong when he was tested (Luke 22:31-32). As you know, your fellow students face every temptation imaginable on the campus. As brothers and sisters in Christ it is our responsibility and privilege to fight with them and for them in prayer. Pray that their faith would remain and that God would grant them victory over trials and temptations.

That they would be used to change the world.
I believe that all Christians on campus are “workers for the harvest”. You need to pray that they would see themselves as world changers and be obedient to God’s call to the mission field they are on. Pray that they would be used to spread the gospel to the ends of the earth through their time on campus.

I love these two passages. They challenge me deeply in regards to prayer. They are amazing promises.

Jeremiah 33:3
“Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know.”

John 16:12-14
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.”

Monday, June 15, 2009

Creating an Environment for Life Transformation - Part 2

A couple of Ingredients that help foster Intimacy

1) Transparency – Another way to put this is to say that the leader must take risks with himself. Others in the Life Community will see that it is safe to be open and honest only as the leader models that himself. This is very risky but when done under the leadership of the Holy Spirit it can open the door for others to be honest about themselves.

Have you ever thought about Jesus as being transparent? Scripture indicates that as time went by He revealed more and more of who He was. At the start of His ministry with the disciples He simply said “come follow me and I will make you fishers of men” (Mat. 4:19). He did not tell them everything about Himself or about what was going to happen. It was just the first invitation to follow. By the end of His investment in them He said, “I no longer call you servants but I call you friends, for all things I have heard from my father I have made known to you” (John 15:15). Then in a huge act of transparency He says to His disciples, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with me” (Matt. 26:37).

The One who is the “Head over every authority” said to His creation “My soul is sorrowful, stay with me.” That blows my mind. But, I see this as a model because the disciples were able to see how Jesus related to the Father in his most sorrowful moment so far in His life. It was a moment of great intimacy.

Those we disciple need to see how we walk with God in our hardest moments. We need to be open to having those we disciple sit with us while we hurt.

Some insights I have learned about this.
1) We miss out on the power of God in the Body when we are not transparent.
2) It is hard…but when done by the leading of the Holy Spirit it is life transforming.
3) It takes wisdom and discernment. You don’t want to throw all your trash on the table on day one.
4) It is still hard…there will be times when you are transparent and people will turn their back on you…but we still need to model it in faith.
5) Moments of true transparency are moments orchestrated by the Holy Spirit to teach us how to love one another.

2. Time and Patience – All I really want to say about this is that we do not need to be frustrated if intimacy does not happen fast. True intimacy takes time. The relationship I have with Brent, Josh, and Brett took time. We can not force it but we can be faithful to one another through caring and encouraging one another in the Lord so that the stage is set for the Holy Spirit to move when He wants to move. Paul says they were gentle and caring like a mother and encouraging like a father…laboring night and day (1 Thess 2:7-12). Be patient. Be faithful. Pray for intimacy to come.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Creating an Environment for Life Transformation

Creating an Environment for Life Transformation – Part 1
Doug Hunt

It is important to remember that a Biblical community is evidenced by life change. We should never multiply groups just to multiply groups. Multiplication is the natural overflow of lives being changed by Jesus Christ. So the questions before us are, “What are the ingredients of life transforming community?” and “What can a leader do to foster this type of environment?”

I was recently reminded of what it feels like to be among a group of followers of Jesus where it is completely safe to be completely “me”. I was sitting with Brent, Josh, and Brett and I knew that I could reveal the deepest and darkest things about my life to them and their response would be love. I knew that they could do the same and my response would have been love. We have truly shared our some of our greatest and some of our hardest moments in life and walked with each other no matter what. We rallied around each other. We celebrated victory over sin together. We celebrated life change together. We rebuked each other and carried each other’s burdens.

It is what I call an environment of TRUST AND INTAMACY. I define trust in this context as “having the confidence to be who you really are without the fear of judgment or retaliation.” I recently read this definition of intimacy; it is a familiar and very close affective connection with another as a result of entering deeply or closely into relationship through knowledge and experience of the other.

I believe that many times we enter in to small groups that never reach this deep of a level of trust and intimacy. When that happens we are never really sharing our souls that need to encounter the Holy Spirit among us. When we do reach that depth, the Holy Spirit has the space to change us in profound ways.

Here are a couple of ingredients that help foster TRUST.

Humility – My favorite passage that shows this is Matthew 11:28-30 when Jesus says “Come to me all who are weary…learn from me for I am gentle and humble in heart.” This is the only passage where Jesus describes His own heart and He chooses two unimpressive words, gentleness and humility. What I also love is that He uses them in the context of teaching for the soul.

Another passage that helps us is 1 Thess. 2:5-6. Paul says that he, Silvanus, and Timothy “did not come with flattering speech…nor with a pretext for greed-God is witness. Nor did we seek glory from men”

These passages tell me that in order to create an environment of where life change can happen we must not be doing it for our gain or to prove something or to boost our pride. The point is to create a place where those who participate know that they are valued and it takes a leader who is pursuing a humble and selfless heart for that to happen. No one likes a prideful leader.

One Way that Humility Shows itself in community– Listening. Too often we view leading a small group as our chance to have the platform with the expectation that everyone should listen to us. We do need to teach the Word because it is the power, but we also need to listen to the stories and struggles of those in our midst. People who come into our Life Communities will bring all types of issues both good and bad. We need to always be aware of these things and the way we do that is by asking and truly listening. Power comes when we are able to ask the questions like “How are you” and “what is on your heart” and then just listen to understand the other person. When we are truly listening we can have a better sense of how the Word can help transform them.

Have you ever been truly listened to when the person you were talking to was not just trying to “fix” you? Or when they did not act like they had all the answers?

I know from my own experience that when I have been listened to I feel valued and my trust level for the other person goes up tremendously.

Integrity – The leader must be leading the community towards words matching actions. There is a great deal of skepticism in our world that is due in large part to hypocrisy or saying one thing and acting another way. Paul says in 1 Thess. 1:5 that their “gospel did not come in word only but in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.” Paul also said in 1 Thess. 2:10, “You are witnesses and so is God how devoutly and uprightly and blamelessly we behaved towards you.”

The power of God was seen among them as they lived out their convictions, proving that Jesus was worth following.

We as leaders make some of our biggest mistakes right here. We can’t say that we love people then make derogatory jokes about certain groups of people. We can’t tell people to sacrifice for others if we do not do it ourselves. We can’t preach holiness and then live in sin. We lose the trust of those we are trying to disciple when our faith and our lives to not match up.

Challenge: Ask someone you know to tell you their story. Listen for the ways that God has shaped them. Ask them question to learn more.

Challenge: Ask someone that you trust if they see any things in your life where your words have the potential to not match up with your actions? Ask them to pray with you about those things.