The Bible – The Word of God – Three Views: Part 1

Over the next few days I will be taking a look at the question of what it means to say that the Bible is the Word of God. I will be doing this by examining Barth’s, David Law’s, and Nicholas Wolterstorff’s doctrines of scripture.

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If one were to go to a typical evangelical church it would not be strange to hear the pastor referring to his or her Bible as the word of God. In an intuitive way we recognize that somehow the Bible is the word of God. But what exactly it means to say that the Bible is the word of God is difficult to say. While it is difficult to say what it means, there is some scriptural backing to this claim. For instance if one were to look at Matthew 15:1-9 we see that Jesus refers to the Hebrew Scriptures as the word of God. In this pericope we are given an encounter between the Pharisees, scribes, and Jesus. The interlocutors ask Jesus why his disciples break the traditions of the elders. Jesus replies by asking them why they break God’s commandments, specifically the commandment to honor one’s father and mother, for the sake of tradition. Jesus tells them that in doing this they make void the word of God. Yet the claim that the Scriptures are the word of God is not unique to the New Testament, throughout the Old Testament we see the prophets declare “the word of the Lord.” So in one sense what we have in the Old Testament prophets is the word of the God.

Historically the Church goes on to affirm the claim that the Bible is the word of God. For instance, The Council of Trent asserts that the “Synod receives and venerates, with equal pious affection and reverence, all the books both of the New and Old Testaments, since God is the author of both.”[1] Thus they affirm that the Bible is the Word of God because God is its author. The Westminster Confession of Faith makes a similar assertion claiming that “the authority of the Holy Scripture…dependeth not on the testimony of any man or Church; but wholly upon God (who is truth itself) the author thereof.”[2] Thus once again the Bible is said to be the word of God because God is its author. The First Baptist Confession of faith claims that in the Bible we do not find “(men’s laws, or unwritten traditions, but) only the Word of God contained in the Scriptures.” So according to the First Baptist Confession the Bible is the word of God in that the word of God is contained in the Scriptures.  Although there are differences between all of these important documents they all claim that somehow the Bible is the word of God. If we are going to be in continuity with the church’s dogma we must discover what it means to say that the Bible is the word of God.

In this paper I will analyze three different views as to what it means to say that the Bible is the word of God. We will look at the theories of David Law, Karl Barth, and Nicholas Wolterstorff. By critically examining these three positions hopefully we will be able to articulate a view that affirms, but clarifies what the Church has claimed all along, that the Bible is the word of God.


[1] Henry Bettenson and Chris Maunder, eds., Documents of the Christian Church, 3rd ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, USA, 1999), 276.

[2] Bettenson and Maunder, eds., Documents of the Christian Church, 319-20.

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Missiology Book Review: Muslims, Christians, and Jesus

Introduction

In the book Muslims, Christians, and Jesus Carl Medearis writes to Western Christians, specifically Christians in America, about Islam. He notes that due to politics and national security issues, especially since 9/11, many Americans hold views about Muslims that perpetuate stereotypes and promote fear and hate. Medearis seeks to write a book that will assist Christians in understanding their Muslim friends and neighbors, help Christians to share the Gospel with people in the Middle East, and live lives that are good news to Muslims.
In this communication analysis report I will be examining Medearis’ communication strategies with Muslims as is displayed in Muslims, Christians, and Jesus. I will examine his methods in this book in light of Kraft’s, Gudykunst’s, and Smith’s work on communication. We will briefly look at three aspects of his communication methods: 1) the importance of involvement with Muslims, 2) his understanding of Muslims, and 3) the receptor oriented nature of his communication.
Medearis the Communicator
Smith claims that “the communicator’s personality and experiences modify the form of a message.” Since the communicator himself drastically affects the message and the method of communication we must understand who Carl Medearis is. Medearis is known for his extensive experience in the Middle East, especially among Muslims. He lived in Lebanon from 1992 until 2004 ; and in these years he spent time working with international leaders from various faiths. He teaches these leaders to bring change to their nations through the teachings of Jesus. One can tell that he is committed to sharing the good news of Jesus Christ to those living in this region.

Involvement with Muslims
The mere fact that he has lived in the Middle East for twelve years, and that he has committed his life to working with this group of people shows that he understands that “communication is involvement, ” that communication involves relationships, and that building relationships is the foundation of all communication. Similarly Kraft says that the personalness of the communicator must be visible to the receptor. It is apparent that Medearis understands the importance of involvement and personalness in the communication process. He advises that Christians form real friendships with Muslims . He suggests that Christians get involved in the lives of their Muslim neighbors. For instance, Christians can get to know their kids, invite them over to their homes for dinner, and involve them into significant events of their lives. Medearis asks Christians to let go of their agendas when interacting with Muslims . Instead of treating Muslim persons as the means to an end, Christians should treat the person as an end in and of themselves. In teaching Christians to let go of their agenda when befriending Muslims, he shows that ‘we do not get involved in order to communicate, but we communicate by being involved.”

Understanding Muslims
Another aspect of the communication process that Medearis seems to be aware of is that a person’s perception of an out-group drastically affects communication between groups of people. Gudykunst notes that stereotypes can often create breakdowns in the communication process. He goes on to explain that in holding one’s culture as the normative culture, the more likely it is that one will misinterpret a stranger’s messages. Medearis understands these principles and seeks to get a better understanding of Islam and Middle Eastern Culture. He does this by studying the Qur’an, visiting mosques, living among Muslims, and building relationships with them. We see how important it is in his eyes that a communicator breaks down stereotypes and false perceptions by the mere fact that he commits five chapters to topics that serve as foundations for understanding Muslims.
In addition to understanding the culture, Medearis advocates for breaking down stereotypes by getting to know individual Muslims. He says that “the preconceptions you may have about Islam need to be discarded… if you want to have a genuine relationship.” He suggests that one look as at Muslims as individuals, not as groups, and that once one has done this communication will be more effective.
Receptor Oriented Communication
One final aspect of Medearis’ communication method is that it is receptor-oriented. Kraft suggests that to “love communicationally is to put oneself to whatever inconvenience necessary to assure that the receptors understand.” This receptor-oriented approach to communication can be contrasted with an approach in which the communicator insists that the receptor operate within the communicator’s frame of reference. A good communicator will “seek to reach his receptors by entering their frame of reference.”
There are several ways that Medearis displays a receptor-oriented communication method. For example in communicating with Muslims, he advocates for using Jesus’ name Isa instead the Arabic version of Jesus, Yesua. He suggests that we use the name Isa because it is the name for Jesus used in the Qur’an, and that it does not carry western baggage along with it. Also, Medearis suggests that we should not import our culture and religious traditions to tell people about Jesus. By importing our own culture in sharing the gospel we force others to enter into our own frame of reference in order to be reconciled to God. Finally, Medearis claims that “it doesn’t matter what we think we are saying- it’s what others hear. ” By saying this he shows that meaning is internal, and that it cannot be transferred from the communicator to the receptor. Because he understands that meaning is developed in the receptor’s mind, and that it is shaped by the receptor’s experiences and worldview, he can tailor his message in such a way that it can be grasped and understood by the receptor.
Conclusion
Medearis makes use of several other important communication principles when he communicates with Muslims in the Middle East; however we have only chosen to look at three of the principles that he uses. It is evident that he understands these principles and applies them; one can see that this is so merely by looking at the results of his communication. The many stories that he tells about Muslims moving toward Christ and following the way of Jesus is evidence that Medearis is a good communicator.

Simple Smallgroups (pt. 3): Pattern 1 – Connecting

Pattern 1: Connecting

I’m trying to keep these short, I promise! But sometime I just can’t help myself, I am a loquacious person. So the last time we took a look at how the three patterns play out in the Bible and in the history of the Church. This time we will take a more in depth look at the pattern Bill Search call’s connecting and Soma calls community.

Community (No not the show….)

Community is one of my favorite shows on NBC; well at least it used to be, it quickly got supplanted by 30 Rock (Tracy Morgan is a genius or stupid I don’t quite know). Anyway I’m not telling you that I like community just to tell you about what I do on my spare time, I’m going to try to make a point. In Community we have a band of disparate characters with nothing in common other than the fact that they go to a crummy jr. college. The cast of characters is diverse: a black Christian lady, an asian Spanish teacher, a WASP lawyer, an Indian nerd, a black nerd, and a white “activist,” oh yea and the old guy. (By the way where are the Hispanic characters? Personally I am offended.) So you have this rag tag group that goes through ups and downs, fighting and laughter, pregnancy and murder by paintballs. Yet there is something that keeps drawing this group back together. What is it that draws them back together despite it all, and especially despite Pierce’s diabolical schemes? It’s the fact that they are a real community, they are a family that has covenanted together to stick through with everyone’s bs at least until the end of the semester.

Community shows us that community is hard. Its not natural. Its hard because we live in a world plagued by sin. Everyone is inherently looking after their own good, they are turned in on themselves (incurvatus en se). This show shows us how hard it is to maintain in the real world.

The people in our community can be irritating and exhausting. But so can you. The people in our group will let us down, and you will let them down too. You will undoubtedly have an EGR in your group (extra grace required). And if you don’t have an EGR, that means that its probably you… just saying. But the fact is that community is worth it. We were created for community. God is a Trinitarian community. The Church is a community thus as Christ’s redeemed community should be a priority for us, especially us shepherds. As shepherds we are called to shepherd to flock. Notice: a flock. Not one sheep. Not two sheep, but a flock. A community of sheep. So lets take a quick look at some things that kill community.

 

How to Kill… Community

        Bill Search points out three things that kill community: time, relational exhaustion, and wierdos.</br>

  1. Time: The fact is that we don’t have a lot of time. How many times have you been asked someone else to hang out or get some coffee only to hear: “yeah we should totally do that let me look at my schedule and I will get back to you.” And then never hear back from them? Or how many times have you heard “I would love to hang out, but I’m just so busy right now.” Is there ever going to really be a time when you aren’t busy? I doubt it. Life is by nature busy. Now sometimes these excuses are legitimate and sometimes they are just BS. It’s hard to tell. Either way a lack of available time does not strengthen community, instead it kills it. So as leaders we need to make sure that people understand that community is a commitment. If community is going to happen its not going to happen on our free time, we have to be intentional about allowing it to form if we are going to experience meaningful Christ centered community.
  2. Relational Exhaustion: All of us have other relationships. Family, friends, ministries. Our list of relationships can often get long, and the fact is that we often end up ignoring a lot of the most important ones. So if we already have all these relationships why add more through our Lifegroup? Well the plan is that Lifegroups will allow us to form relationships that function on a different level than so many of our other relationships. In a Lifegroup we give people permission to check our blind spots and to call us out when they see sin creeping up. Ideally this would also occur outside in our normal relationships too, but often it doesn’t. So here is my warning: don’t overextend yourself in your relationships. Be intentional with who you are investing into. As a leader you can only have so many intentional relationships. In this season your Lifegroup is one of those sets of relationships. If you feel like you are relationally overextended it might be wise to seek counsel to see if this is where God wants you in this season of life.
  3. Wierdos: Yes wierdos… I know its insensitive to call someone a weirdo but its true. You know those EGR’s, the ECR’s, the EBH’s… No you don’t know them? Well they are the “emotional black hole.” Every group has one. If you don’t shepherd them well and don’t protect everyone else from getting get sucked into the lifeless vacuum (I know I’m a jerk…) the entire group will suffer and community will die. These kinds of people require a lot of care and a lot of discipline. You have to put them in their place for the sake of the rest of the flock but you must also realize that they are a part of your flock so its your duty to protect them. Beware the weirdo, creeper, dolt, awkward person, they can kill your group.

 

Give Me Some Space

So obviously there are things that will kill your Lifegroup’s connection. So what strengthens it? I want to suggest one thing: create a safe space.

“We can use big words like authentic, confidential, honest, and safe, but ultimately what we mean is that we hope people feel comfortable in our group.” If our members aren’t comfortable they probably won’t connect. Now creating a comfortable space can happen in two different ways: relational spaces and physical spaces.

If people don’t feel relationally safe in our groups they will not connect. Have you ever been to a group that feels awkward? Or a group that has someone that makes you nervous? Or how about a group that has someone that you don’t trust? Its easy to kill a Lifegroup when people don’t feel relationally safe in that group. The group will always stay shallow, people won’t share their lives, and people will not grow in your group. So as leaders its our job to make sure that our groups are relationally safe. That is why we sign covenants at the beginning of each quarter. That is why we have the “vegas rule of Lifegroups.” However you must remember that creating a safe place is not a guarantee that community will happen, there are a lot of other factors involved, however it does make it a heck of a lot easier. After all your role “is not to force connection but to facilitate a safe relational space.”

The other way we can facilitate connection is by creating safe physical spaces. This means don’t have your Lifegroup in the Valley, I’m just kidding, this means having adequate lighting, air conditioning or heat, enough chairs for everyone. Think of it this way, have you ever been at church and its way too hot for you to focus on what the pastor is saying? Well that can happen in Lifegroup too. A safe and comfortable place will help people engage and thus it will also help people connect with one another relationally. Another way to create a comfortable physical space is to offer snacks. Snacks are good… I’m just saying.

 

Community: What it Doesn’t Looks Like

        Connecting is simply a growing relationship with an identified group of people who meet regularly around the presence of Christ. Its not complicated. Community doesn’t have to be the deepest thing that you have ever experienced in your life. If someone doesn’t break down crying confessing their sins in your group each week you are not a failure. If this were the standard for connection then few groups would ever qualify as really having a meaningful connection. Yes intimacy is good, in fact its great, but you should not determine your groups success only by means of intimacy. Bill Search makes an interesting suggestion. He says that connecting in Lifegroups isn’t a small bull’s-eye that we aim for, it’s more of a pattern that has varying degrees of intensity. This intensity will fluctuate from group to group and season to season.

So remember, if your group doesn’t feel like a family of brothers and sisters, that does not mean that your group is a failure. Don’t set yourself up by having dangerous expectations. Afterall there are a bunch of different ways that people connect; we don’t always have to share our deepest, darkest secrets to truly connect.

Wrapping Things Up

        So we took a look at the first pattern: connecting. We will be sticking on this pattern for a little while, so get comfortable. Next time we will be applying some of this stuff to our specific groups. Until then, remember that we are created to connect and that levels of connection vary from group to group. One last thing, I talked a lot about practical ways to kill your group and practical ways to strengthen it. However there is a theological truth that we need to remember if we are going to understand this pattern. Through Jesus’ atoning death on the cross for us we receive the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit reminds us as individuals of our union with Christ. The entire Church experiences union with Christ, therefore as individuals our connection isn’t merely a natural connection. We are quite literally united with Christ on account of his work for us on the cross. The Holy Spirit reminds us of this. We must remind ourselves and each other of this if we are going to truly be a community that experiences union with Christ.

 

 

 

Simple Smallgroups (pt. 2): Biblical Life Groups

Biblical Lifegroups

Okay I know that the last “article”/post/lesson (what do I even call these things!) was pretty long…. I’m sorry, but I had to set down the groundwork before we could start building upon it. Anyway today’s article is going to be a lot shorter, I promise!

So last time we took a look at Bill Search’s three patterns for small groups, however we didn’t rely too much on the Bible (that’s a bad thing). So today we will take a look at the classic small group verse/story from Acts 2. If you have ever been in a Lifegroup or have led one then you know what this is all about, but its super important so lets take a look at that, then lets go ahead and take a look at how God has used small group gatherings throughout the history of the church to advance his kingdom.

Acts 2:42-47

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts,praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. (ESV)

 

         So here is the context: Peter has just preached a killer message on the gospel. And this isn’t just a 4-spiritual laws sermon or a version of the Romans Road. No this is the gospel as rooted in the story of Israel. Peter says that what Jesus did on the cross is the climax of all that Israel had been waiting for, all the promises that God made to them all their hopes and dreams are finally fulfilled in Jesus. And now because God has exalted Jesus through the resurrection God’s promised Holy Spirit is poured out on his people. All we have to do is repent, be baptized and confess Jesus as Lord and all of our sins will be forgiven and we will receive the Spirit of God. Now I don’t think that this was the only thing that Peter said, I can’t imagine him giving a 30 second speech and 3000 people get saved, surely there is more but this is the stuff that Luke decided to include when writing Acts. This story is so cool and gets me pumped for preaching the gospel but preaching the gospel creates a problem: what do you do with these new believers? What did Peter do with these 3000 new believers? That’s like a church the size of Rocky Peak springing up in 5 minutes, how do you handle that? Do you create some sort of program to handle these people? Maybe; but I think the early church was smarter than that. They allowed these believers to develop organic communities based around the life, teaching, and presence of Jesus. These organic communities are what we today would call Life Groups.

Breaking Down Acts 2:42-47

         Looking at this passage we see these new believers drawn into a community. This new community was a family with new traditions, new patterns, and a new way of looking at the world. This new community of faith displayed three patterns (which we have already talked about):

1-A relational pattern: they gathered in homes and shared meals.

2-A growth pattern: they talked about and lived out the teachings of Jesus

3-A missional pattern: they increased

Lets take a quick look at each one of these patterns.

The Relational Pattern

         Luke uses the word “fellowship.” This isn’t just friendship and this isn’t just a potluck. This is real life commitment to one another. Fellowship was often used to describe the kind of committed care that takes place in marriage. This was family. As a family they did certain things, just like any other family would; they had their own little quirks/traditions/values. These families gathered and broke bread. No they didn’t just sit around and ate bread, they likely had dinner together and at some point within this meal they had communion. They sat and remembered what Jesus had done for them. They would likely tell stories about Jesus, the same stories we get in the Gospels. So basically they were doing life together, they were pursuing Jesus together. On a side note, we need to remember that these fellowship meals weren’t exactly like the kind of meals we have for our Lifegroup socials. The majority of Christians were poor, really poor. So for many these meals were the only meal they would get. They were the place in which the larger community cared for them and met their physical needs (Acts 6). Thus the fellowship is more than just spiritual or physical, its holistic.

The Growth Pattern

Look at the passage again. This group of believers was not only committed to community, they were also committed to growing in Christ. Remember they didn’t have the New Testament as we have it so they relied upon the Apostle’s teaching to learn about Jesus. So they were devoted to Jesus’ words as delivered by the Apostles. But this devotion to Jesus was more than just learning for the sake of learning. They learned to live out the truth of Jesus’ work and words. As a community they gave to the poor. You can tell that this community took Jesus’ words seriously because Jesus is constantly teaching about loving others and caring for the poor. They put Jesus words into action. Thus we see that God really was changing their heart and making them more like Jesus.

The Missional Pattern

As a result of their devotion to Christ and to one another God increased their numbers. The changed lives and the deep community became attractive to those outside of this faith community. God used this community to draw people back to himself. This community was not turned inward they had an outward gaze. As they cultivated their own relationship with Jesus they were propelled outward towards the lost. This community began to reach out to their friends, families, and neighbors to tell them about what Jesus had done. They were missional.

A Very Brief History of Small Groups

I’m not sure if anyone has ever written a book on the history of small groups, but I’m sure they could because the Church has always thrived in small group settings. Looking back to the medieval church we come to realize that monastery’s were basically small groups. They were small groups of men who devoted their entire lives to pursuing Jesus. Although we might think of monasteries as inwardly focused homes of self-righteous monks the reality is that these monks don’t really get credit for how much they cared about their surrounding communities. It is well attested that these monasteries were actually centers of mission and culture for their surrounding communities.

Passing through the middle ages we see an upsurge in small group gatherings. In the 1700’s John Wesley developed a small group structure. Wesley realized that a weekly sermon was not enough to disciple believers so he began to use classes and groups to help people connect and grow. These groups required high levels of commitment and accountability, but they paid off and the Methodist church movement was born. The Methodist church was vital to the growth of Christianity in America. If it weren’t for the Methodist’s commitment to preaching the gospel in the frontiers of America, who knows where America would be at today.

The use of small groups is not limited to the western Church. The church in Africa, Asia, and Latin America very closely resembles the church of the first few centuries. In the global south (the third world) churches often refer to these groups as “cell-groups.” In Latin America, Catholics call them “base ecclesial communities.” These BEC’s were known for taking care of poor communities around them. Whatever you want to call them God uses these small groups help believers mature in him, and draw the lost back to himself.

Wrapping Things Up

So we have taken a look at a Biblical model for small groups and we have seen that the Church has always had small gatherings revolving around these three patterns. Small groups work. They are effective. The church has been doing them for thousands of years. Lives change. Missionary movements are birthed. So the question is, “are we living out these patterns in our own Lifegroups?” Do we have a growth pattern? A relational pattern? A missional pattern?

This is my heart I want to see churches and Soma do Lifegroups well. Why? Because God uses communities like these to expand his kingdom. The strongest communities throughout history did not merely have an inward focus they also had an outward focus. As they looked away from themselves a funny thing happened, they ended up growing more than if they had focused on growth. This is an axiomatic truth that holds true for individuals and communities: God uses mission to grown individuals and communities. As individuals and communities focus on God’s mission he grows them so that they might be effective in bringing him glory. So lets focus on proclaiming Jesus inside and outside of our Lifegroups and the rest will follow.

Simple Smallgroups: Three Simple Patterns

Simple Small Groups: Three Simple Patterns

So recently I started to read this new book by a small groups pastor out in Kentucky. He started out as a skeptic about small groups but now he has fully bought into them. Naturally I wanted to see what he thought was so great about them so I ordered the book on Amazon (it was only $3!) and I started to read it. What I realized while reading is that most small group books say the same thing over and over and over and over…. However that doesn’t mean that these books aren’t good. It just means that everyone is coming to realize the same things about small groups. So I wanted to take the next couple of weeks and share what I have learned from Bill Search’s book Simple Small Groups. Over the next few weeks I will be pointing out some stuff that I thought was important in this book. So lucky you! You get to reap the benefits of me reading this book! You get all the good stuff without any of the hard work!
Bill’s book revolves around 3 C’s. Personally I don’t like the C’s but I think he is on to something good. The 3 C’s are: Connect, Change, Cultivate. He says that all good small groups will have these three elements or patterns. So lets go ahead and take a quick look at each of these patterns and draw out how we can be thinking about our own Lifegroups in terms of these three patterns.

Connecting
We all know that connecting is an important part of smallgroups. Connection is how community happens. For a Lifegroup to develop meaningful community connection must happen. Usually members of Lifegroups start out as casual acquaintances. Luckily at Soma we don’t have to worry about creating acquaintances, that naturally happens through our Sunday night meetings and our hangouts after Soma. (I’m thinking the intern house…) Eventually those acquaintances become friends. Once this happens we see the group move from “hanging out in smallgroup” to “hanging out outside of smallgroup.” Not everyone makes it to this stage, but that’s okay! Finally some groups move from being a group of friends to being a family. Not every group makes this shift, but that’s okay! Intimacy is not required for groups to experience meaningful connection.

Changing
Bill says that changing is “the spiritual and relational renovation that transforms us into the likeness of Christ.” Changing is not merely learning, not is it simply behavior modification. Its becoming more Christ-like through the Spirit’s work using scripture, the preached word of God, prayer, spiritual disciplines and community. Basically for Bill its about our growth.

Cultivating
This is probably the “C” that I like the least. It sounds so strange to me and it doesn’t seem to communicate what he wants it to communicate. Anyway Cultivating “is the missional lifestyle.” Its wholistic, its not simply evangelism or simply service. Its living out your faith outwardly, with your whole being. He says that “When a group is cultivating they are developing an outward focus that engages their hearts into action.” This is an important pattern, and its possibly one of the most difficult patterns to do well. However as “cultivating” becomes important to us each follower realizes that they have been called to make an impact for the kingdom in the world around them. As they realize their call they will begin to step out in faith and use the gifts that God has given them.

The 3 C’s at Soma
So hopefully by now some of these patterns are beginning to resonate with you. You might be thinking to yourself… “yeah I wish our group did that more or did that better.” Or maybe you are thinking “yeah we are pretty balanced with all three of these.” Both of those places are good places to be at.
Also you might be thinking: “these sound very familiar.” Well they should sound VERY familiar, after all these three are super similar to our vision for Lifegroups at Soma. In case you forgot our vision for Lifegroups is:
1-We come to encounter Christ
2-We desire to connect with and minister to one another as the Spirit Leads us
3-We desire to be missional and expand God’s Kingdom
Yes, these are our three C’s! A long time ago Dairek and I preached a series on our vision for smallgroup and we shaped it around three C’s as well:
1-Communion with Christ
2-Community
3-Comissioned with the gospel
So the point is that we already had these patterns! That is why this book is so useful; it helps us examine where we are at with them and how we can grow in them. So for the rest of these “articles” you can translate for yourself: Change=Encounter Christ, Connect=Community, Culitvate=Missional. So lets take a super quick look at Soma’s three patterns.

We Come to Encounter Christ
This is the heartbeat of our groups. Without Jesus in the middle our groups are nothing but self-help groups. We are no better than AA or the Rotary club. We encounter Christ in our worship, in our communion times, in our discussion of the sermon, in our prayer times for eachother. Christ is the focus of all we do and he should permeate all of our actions in group. As Lifegroup leaders we must constantly remind our group that we are here to encounter Christ and grown in him through our encounters.
On a side note, encountering Christ is not something we do as individuals. We also encounter Christ through others. As we see Jesus change the lives of others we see how good Jesus is and we are transformed as well! So encountering Christ is not something that we do “together as individuals” we do it as a group!

We Desire to Connect With and Minister to one Another as the Spirit Leads Us
The Holy Spirit is the agent through which community is built up. (1 Cor 12:12-25). Ephesians 2:21-22 says that the community of believers is joined together and rises to become a temple of the Lord. Paul tells us that we are being built together as God’s dwelling place by his Spirit. Thus the Spirit is interested in us growing in unity. So building community is more than just facilitating hang out times or creating meaningful memories. As leaders we build community by giving the Holy Spirit space to create community. This means that we create space for the members of our Lifegroup to minister to one another as the Spirit guides us. This might mean leaving time open form encouragement and prayer, or it might mean creating space to pray for God to heal someone in the group.

We Desire to be Missional and Expand God’s Kingdom
This is probably the most unnatural to us in our Lifegroups, but its one of the most key components of biblical Christianity. God calls us all to be on mission, but as I have said before in sermons: our most effective witness is not what we say as individuals but how we live as communities. We desire that our communities (Lifegroups) be places where the love of Christ is lived out for eachother and for others. Christ’s love is so attractive to unbelievers! But we need to create opportunities for non-believers to see Christ’s love in our community! Also we need to be proactive about inviting non-Christians in to our communities. I know its hard! But as we see God begin to bring people to himself something happens in us. Our faith grows and our excitement for the kingdom to expand increases!

Wrapping things up
Okay so we have talked A LOT about a bunch of different things. Keep these three patterns in mind as we move forward in the next few weeks. Next time we will take a look at what Biblical Lifegroups look like. Have a great week!