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.

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