Life Groups - IDENTITIES, PRACTICES, & RHYTHMS
As a church we want to help people and places experience renewal in Jesus. We do not do this as Lone Ranger Christians. Our Life Groups are gospel formed communities centered on Jesus. As those reclaimed by Jesus and being renewed in Jesus, we seek to live out our new identities together as a people. We are ordering our everyday lives together around Jesus and His mission. Our Gospel identity gives clarity and direction to how we order our lives together, and shapes our practices together. Our core identities below describe what is ours in Jesus and the new practices those identities create among us when we live them out. These identities are embraced and these practices carried out in a culture of prayer. Collectively we live consciously dependent upon God to make these truths increasingly visible among us as a people.
The gospel has changed everything about us. We are now Saints who rest; Sons and Daughters who love; Students who obey; Servants who serve; Stewards who Share; and Sent Ones who engage. The Christian life is all about becoming more proficient in living out these identities together.
Click on a core identity below to read the description.
SAINTS WHO REST
(Romans 1:7; 3:23-24; 8:27; 1 Corinthians 1:2; 16:1; 2 Corinthians 1:1; 9:1, 12; 5:21; 13:13; Ephesians 1:1, 15, 18; 2:19; 4:12; 5:3; Philippians 1:1; 4:21-22; Jude 3)
All those who are in Christ are called “saints,” holy ones, set apart to belong to God through faith in Jesus and the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. Though we are sinners, we have been justified, declared righteous in God’s sight by grace, a gift that is ours received by faith. The Father sees us in Christ as holy and blameless, loved and accepted, not according to our righteousness, but according to Christ’s righteousness credited to us by faith. We are simultaneously sinners and saints, struggling with sin and failure, yet justified by God through faith in Christ. The Gospel is the good news that my sin was credited to Jesus and he was condemned in my place, and by faith his condemnation counts for me. Additionally, his righteousness was credited to me so that God sees me as righteous and fully accepts me as He does his own dear Son. On the cross, God treated Jesus like he lived my life, so he could treat me like I lived Jesus’ life.
As those declared righteous by God through faith in Jesus, we rest in that status. We do not strive to earn a standing with God, but rest in the standing that Christ has won for us. We do not achieve a right standing with God by works; we receive a right standing with God by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:89; Titus 3:37). Jesus invites all who are weary from spiritual performance and exhausted from running on the treadmill of merit and earning, to come to him and find rest for our souls (Matthew 11:28-30). In Jesus we can be free from the tiring attempts to improve our religious resumes and to impress God. God is impressed with Christ, and Christ is ours, so God is satisfied with us (Philippians 3:79). We do not earn from God by our works; we enjoy God because of grace.
SONS AND DAUGHTERS WHO LOVE
(Galatians 4:47; John 1:12-13; Romans 8:12-17; 1 John 3:1).
We are the family of God, adopted by the Father given the same standing as Jesus himself, our older brother (Hebrews 2:11). We are fully loved and delighted in by the Father. We have a secure place in God’s heart and in his family. We are called the household of faith (Galatians 6:10; Ephesians 2:19). We are called to love one another as a spiritual family with a commitment that trumps even that of our commitment to blood relatives (Matthew 12:46-50). The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Sonship, unites us together and works a family love for one another in our hearts.
The mark of being in the family of God is that we love God and one another (1 John 2:7-11; 3:10-18, 23; 4::7-12, 20). As the family of God, we seek to love our Father and to love one another in tangible, sacrificial ways. As a family we love by rejoicing with one another, celebrating the good and beautiful things that are happening in our spiritual family. As a family we love by weeping with one another sharing one another’s sorrows and entering each other’s pain with active sympathy. As a family, we embrace recreational life together as a way to strengthen our family bonds. As a family we gather around a table of love together and regularly share simple meals. Much of Jesus’ ministry took place around tables sharing meals (Matthew 11:19; Luke 5:29ff; 7:36; Luke 15:12) . It was a token of friendship and an invitation to enter into each other’s life with joy. Jesus ate with his disciples regularly. The early church gathered regularly in homes to share meals together (Acts 2:42-47). Like a family that gathers for meals and enjoys each other’s company, we love and celebrate each other around a table of shared life.
STUDENTS WHO OBEY
(Matthew 10:24-25; 11:28-30; 28:19-20; Acts 2:42; Ephesians 4:25; Colossians 3:16)
As disciples of Jesus we are learning to live in the way of Jesus. The culture is constantly discipling us, telling us what to love, value, pursue, and promote. It is constantly seeking to shape our imaginations and our affections. As disciples of Jesus, we are unlearning the discipleship we have received from the culture and learning the way of Jesus, having our loves, values, and pursuits reordered by Him. We are his students, his apprentices, seeking to obey and help others obey all that he has commanded us.
As fellow students, we are to engage in “communal exegesis,” dialoguing together over the Scriptures and seeking to understand and obey their clear teachings (Acts 2:42). We are to help each other to order our lives around Jesus and to submit to his word by applying the Gospel to one another’s lives (Ephesians 4:25; Colossians 3:16). As we do this his Holy Spirit works to conform our lives more to Jesus. We seek to speak truth and receive truth from one another, listening, learning and putting into practice the things that Jesus by his Spirit is revealing to us. This process of helping one another center our lives on Jesus and be renewed by his gospel is how the members of the community administer “pastoral” care to one another (1 Thessalonians 5:14).
SERVANTS WHO SERVE
(Matthew 20:24-28; John 13:1-17; 1 Corinthians 3:5; 4:1; 2 Corinthians 4:5; Philippians 2:38; Galatians 6:10; 1 Peter 2:16)
Jesus came not to be served, but to serve and give his life away. As Jesus served us in his living and dying, we seek to serve others. We strive to lay aside our preference, comforts, assumed entitlements and lay our lives down for the good of others in practical ways.
God has blessed us that we might be a blessing. Just as Christ became a blessing to us in his incarnation, death and resurrection, we seek to be a tangible blessing to others. As he served us, we seek to serve one another (Galatians 5:13). We are to live our lives with open eyes and open hearts. Just as Jesus saw our need and was moved to action, we adopt a servant’s posture by first seeing the needs that are around us (Philippians 2:38). We are to be proactive in recognizing the needs of those among us and outside of us in our communities (Luke 10:25-37). As those who have seen the need, we are to choose to act in sacrificial ways to serve that need. Just as Jesus moved toward us in sacrificial love, we are to move toward one another in sacrificial love, serving others even at cost to ourselves (1 John 3:16-18). When we have a need, we are to humbly make it known that others might see it and be God’s instrument in serving us in our time of need.
STEWARDS WHO SHARE
(Matthew 25:14; Luke 12:42; Romans 12:6; 1 Corinthians 4:12, 7; 1 Peter 4:10-11)
We are not owners; we are managers of God’s good gifts. We are to faithfully steward our spiritual gifts, material resources and relationships to display, declare and advance the kingdom of God. We seek to be faithful with all that God has entrusted to us for his purposes and not simply to enjoy them for our own comfort.
In a culture of more, we will learn the art of contentment, finding our joy and security in Jesus. He is the bread of life (John 6:35), the pearl beyond price (Matthew 13:45), the surpassing value (Philippians 3:8) and we will strive to find our delight in him and not the things of this world. Contentment is a community project, requiring that we exhort each other away from materialism and consumerism into the simplicity of God’s provision and the satisfaction of God’s presence and power. When our joy is not in material things, we are free to release material things for the good of others. We follow in the steps of Jesus who although he was rich, for our sake he became poor, that we through his poverty might become rich (2 Corinthians 8:9). We are to embrace simplicity for the sake of radical generosity, sharing our resources for the good of others and the advancement of Jesus’ Kingdom (Acts 2:44-45). We are to faithfully employ not only our material gifts, but our spiritual gifts, using what God has entrusted to us to build one another up into more mature followers of Jesus (1 Corinthians 12:47).
SENT ONES WHO ENGAGE
(Matthew 28:18-20; Luke 24:46-49; John 15:16; 20:21; Acts 1:8; 2:14; 13:13; Romans 10:13-15; 1 Peter 2:9-10; 3:15).
The Father sent the Son from his side into the world to save the world. The Father and the Son sent the Spirit to fill the Church and empower the church for its mission to make disciples of the nations. We are the sent ones, commissioned by Jesus and empowered by His Spirit to take the Gospel to our neighbors and the nations that others might experience renewal in Jesus.
We are called to be a going and sending people, engaging the world with the gospel. As missionaries to our culture, we seek to understand its spiritual condition and grow in our capacities to engage it in spiritual conversations. We are to intentionally help others experience renewal in Jesus. We do not do this merely as individuals. We are to be missionary communities, demonstrating and declaring the gospel of Jesus together. We engage those far from God by entering their lives, but also by welcoming them into our lives and communities (Acts 2:47). The apostolic nature of the church not only requires us to go, but it also requires us to be a hospitable community, opening up our lives and homes and inviting others who may not know the grace of Jesus to sit at our tables. We are to introduce others to the network of relationships that make up our church and life groups that they might see the Gospel of Jesus loved and lived out in relevant ways among real people (1 Peter 3:15).