In a couple of hours I’ll be headed to the first Life Group sync at LPC in 2015. The “sync” is an event where our current and future life group leaders gather for training that includes large group sessions of vision casting and small group breakouts on various topics. I’m really excited about the event. I get to kick it off this morning at 9am with a brief session I’m calling “The Reason Life Groups are a Thing at LPC.”
Why are Life Groups a thing for us? Thanks for asking.
It’s not because the church manual of the nations says “Life Groups should be a thing at your church.” That’s not the reason. Not even a little bit. Life Groups aren’t a program we put on because we somehow feel obligated to be a church with groups.
Life Groups are a thing because as a church we exist to glorify God as a community being transformed by Jesus Christ. And practically speaking, that can’t happen at LifePoint simply by gathering on Sundays as a big group. We have come to realize that if an individual Christian simply experiences life as a series of anonymity-laced connections to a big group, they’re not going to get very far. The gospel of Jesus takes deep root in our lives (because of God’s grace and by God’s Spirit) through multi-layered connections within Christian community. Without the deeper-level connection that being in life group community brings, it is very difficult for things like discipleship, care, and mission to effectively take place in a life.
Discipleship: this is learning to walk with Jesus. When we gather to worship as a big group we are taught and edified as we engage revelation and response, and this is vital. But if you have lived as a Christian for very long you know that you don’t really practically learn how to follow Jesus day after day through (simply) listening to sound teaching. Walking out what you learn is something that happens with other people. Growing in our walk with Jesus isn’t a solo trot. We grow on this journey as we walk it together. An isolated Christian is a biblical anomaly.
Care: In a big group church context caring for people’s needs is frankly impossible if the entire body doesn’t step up to the plate. We use terms like “pastoral care” to refer to the necessity of caring for people through the ministry of presence as they lay in a hospital bed, lose a loved one, celebrate a new baby, or need counseling and guidance in life. The problem is that most Christians grow up assuming that pastoral care is something simply reserved for some class of professional clergy. This is far from the biblical reality, and I’d argue that it’s not only practically unattainable, but theologically short-sighted and restrictive. Paul says in Ephesians 4 that when the body of Christ is equipped and all the joints and ligaments are working properly that it will “build itself up in love.” A suffering person doesn’t need a professional clergyman at their bedside, they need a loving Christian. That Christian can be a vocational pastor, but in most instances it won’t be, and if the vocational pastors of our world are doing their jobs every bedside will have caring Christians mourning with those who mourn and rejoicing with those who rejoice.
Mission: For the mission of the gospel to move forward in an exceedingly pluralistic culture, we don’t need bigger buildings, flashier ministry programs, and more mass mailings. We need the church to be the church. The church facility is not intended to be the gravitational center of your Christian galaxy. Every Life Group that is planted in another neighborhood, school district, and section of our community becomes an outpost for the mission of Jesus. These neighborhoods where the church lives out discipleship and care become epicenters for mission. A dying world is no longer attempting to peer through the ornate stain-glass windows of cathedrals to get a look inside. But they’re looking at your life and mine, living out the gospel right next door.
You can sign up for a Life Group at LifePoint here.