I want to talk to you about Life Groups at Cities Church.
The reason we have this time of exhortation is for the pastors and others to have a chance to address the church on specific issues relevant to our walk as disciples of Jesus, whether these issues are within the life of our church or in society at large. As the Spirit leads, we want to exhort one another in faith that then leads to corporate and individual confession. And from time to time, these exhortations will have to do with the nuts and bolts of our community.
Today I want to talk briefly about Life Groups, answering three questions: Why? What? How?
Our mission at Cities Church is to make disciples. Jesus tells us as his disciples, because of his lordship, to go out and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit, and teaching them to observe all that he has commanded us. Discipleship, then, involves baptizing and teaching, which we take to mean,
- first, for baptizing, going out and making Jesus known in the world in the hopes that others will embrace him by faith. This is discipleship that crosses oceans, streets, and hallways. We are taking the gospel to others. We call this discipleship in distance.
- But then discipleship, like Jesus says, also involves teaching, which means that we who believe in Jesus want evert part of who we are to come under his lordship. We are not just called to make Jesus known to others, we are also called to know him more deeply and be transformed by him. We call this discipleship in depth.
So those are the two pieces of discipleship. We make disciples in distance and in depth. Make disciples in distance means in your community and beyond. Make disciples in depth means your entire life overcome by the gospel. And our structure fits with this. Discipleship in distance is what our Community Groups are about. Discipleship in depth is what our Life Groups are about.
And a Life Group is, as many of you know, a group of 3–5 men or 3–5 women who are intentional together about living under Jesus’s lordship. It is a group that walks through complexities and struggles by having level-three conversation. If you’ve been coming to Cities for a while, or if you’ve poked around on our website, you’ve probably seen or heard that phrase. We mean by level-three conversation is that we don’t want to merely get together and have chit-chat (talk about the Vikings), and we don’t want to get together and just talk about your glory days in little league baseball, we want to go level-three — we want to talk about the hopes and fears and desires and frustrations that abound in our souls. We want to have that deep level of conversation.
And again, if you’ve been around here for a little while, you’ve probably heard that. But the problem is that we haven’t really said more than that. When we started, so many of us were coming out of small group ministry and we sort of just said: “Okay, let’s all go have level-three conversations in our Life Groups.” And, well, that doesn’t work. It’s time to say a little more — not just why and what, but also how these groups work.
Okay, I can’t say everything now, but I want to give you the three main ingredients for how Life Groups work. And then, I will follow up this week, on citieschurch.com with specific resources on how to do these.
So how do Life Group meetings work?
Here are the three ingredients: 1) remember your story; 2) listen well; 3) speak the truth in love.
Remember your story.
This is really foundational. We need to know one another’s stories — how we each have collided with Jesus. And in most cases, we all need help in how to tell our stories. So, at the start of each group, we want to exchange stories and grow in how to understand and explain our stories in light of God’s great story. New groups will want to start here, and established groups will want to circle back and do this. I’ll have a specific resource on our site this week.
Life Groups are not just about what we have to say or get off our chest, but most of the time it will mean each of us are listening to others. You are going to be listening more than twice as much as you are talking. And we want to know how to do that well. How do we listen well? A lot of this involves asking good questions, and we’ll have resources on the site this week to help with this.
Speak the truth in love.
After listening well, we want to speak truth to one another in love, which will always include reminding one another who Jesus is and what he has done, and who we are because of him. And there is a lot of training to be done here, so I’ll post a resource on this next week as well. And then we are brainstorming some other ways to do Life Group training.
But now, to lead into a time of confession, we should step back and understand that none of this matters unless we realize that there is more of Jesus for us to know. There is a greater experience of knowing his love, and living in his grace, that we not yet known. There is room for us to grow. That is the point. So I want to lead us now in a prayer of confession.
Prayer of Confession
Father, the truth is that change is hard, and it’s not mainly because we don’t want to change, but because we do want to change and the process is so slow. We want to be conformed more and more to Jesus in this great race of life, but so often it feels like we are crawling, like we are dragging ourselves toward the finish line, and we’re just tired. We are tired of fighting and falling, tired of relapsing and repenting, and sometimes we wish, instead of the Holy Spirit, that we had a fairy godmother who could just wave her wand and make us different. Forgive us for this. Breathe into our souls hope and perseverance, and let us know you are with us.
And then for others of us, Father, we think our nose is clean, that we are doing just fine. We are too content to go through the motions, we are too unmoved, too bored with following Jesus to expect or seek anything more. It is hard for us to imagine that there is more of Jesus to possess, that there is more of him to know. Forgive us for this, Father, and breathe into our souls a renewed passion to be overcome by the gospel, to have our affections transformed with deeper desires for you.
And, Father, we know that if we as your people regard sin in our own midst or in our own hearts, our prayers will be ineffectual. So we confess our individual sins to you now.
Assurance of Pardon
Many of us just now have confessed our sins to God. The Bible tells us that if we confess our sins, that God is faithful and just to forgive us of all sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. So just as we have been called to confess sin, now I want to remind you, if you trust in Jesus, that confessed sins means forgiven sin.
Church, because Jesus loves you, because he died for you and was raised for you, and because you have been united to him by faith and you’ve now confessed your sins . . .
By the authority of Jesus Christ, and as a minister of his gospel, I therefore declare to you his entire forgiveness of all your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Thanks be to God!