pew sitters

February 18, 2016

hand sign

 

Instead of aiming for competency in a set of skills or techniques, this series helps people identify the areas that must be developed in a believer’s life. In other words, while it’s necessary for a believer to know the “howtos” of the Christian life, it’s not sufficient. Knowing how to do personal Bible study and how to share Christ with others are praiseworthy skills. Developing these skills, however, is not the end goal but the means by which we live out who we are as new creatures in Christ. That’s why this series addresses four critical components of the Christian life: identity, community, integrity, and ministry.

 

This series proposes that the Christian life involves:

 

knowing your identity in Christ

 

so that

 

you can make yourself known to others in a Christian community

 

so that

 

you can pursue a lifetime of growth in the context of community

 

so that

 

you are best equipped to glorify Christ by serving others.

Identity

 

To understand our need for transformation, we must understand who we are currently, both as individuals and as members of the body of Christ. Who we are has undoubtedly been shaped by our past. Therefore, we explore various aspects of our identity, such as our heritage and temperament. What do these tell us about who we are and what we value? The interaction during this study bonds us and builds trust among us. Our goal is not to analyze, criticize, or control each other, but it is to grow and affirm what God is doing in and through one another.

 

In Identity, we ultimately want group members to see themselves in light of their identity in Christ. However, many of the values we actually live out stem from such influences as temperament, family background, and culture. Not all of those values are contrary to our new identity in Christ. For example, the value one person places on honesty, which he learned from his parents, is affirmed by his identity in Christ.

 

It can take a long time––more than a lifetime allows––for the Spirit of God to transform our values to line up with our new identity in Christ. We cooperate with the Spirit when we reflect on what our values are and how well they line up with our identity in Christ as described in Scripture.

 

One of the most significant characteristics of our identity in Christ is that we are now part of the body of Christ. The Christian life cannot be lived in isolation.

Community

 

So, while talking about my place in Christ, I need to pay attention to our place in Christ as a community. Understanding our corporate identity in Christ is crucial for a healthy community transformation process. The Community study helps a group not only understand how a Christian community develops but also experience a growing sense of community.

 

In order to experience intimate community in the biblical sense, we must learn to reveal ourselves to others. We need to honestly, freely, and thoughtfully tell our stories. Our modern culture makes it easy for people to live isolated and anonymous lives. Because we and others move frequently, we may feel it’s not worth the effort to be vulnerable in shortlived relationships. However, we desperately need to keep intentionally investing in significant relationships.

 

Real involvement in others’ lives requires more than what the term fellowship has too often come to mean. Real involvement includes holding certain values in common and practicing a lifestyle we believe is noble, while appreciating that this lifestyle doesn’t make us perfect. Rather, this lifestyle is a commitment to let God continue to spiritually form us.

 

Community includes a group exercise, “Life Story,” that has been tremendously effective in building community and enhancing self-understanding. “Life Story” walks a person through the process of putting together a personal, creative presentation of the most formative relationships and experiences of his or her life. As people share their stories with each other, a deep level of trust and commitment grows.

Integrity

 

By the time a group has experienced Identity and Community together, members have built significant intimacy and trust. Now they’re ready to pursue a harder step. It’s the heart of our approach to spiritual transformation. Many believers greatly underestimate the necessity of intimacy and trust for successful growth in Christian holiness. But we must be able to share honestly those areas in which we need transformation. We can deal with deep issues of growth only in a community in which we’re deeply known by others. We need others who have our best interests at heart. They must also be people we trust to hold sensitive issues in genuine confidence.

 

Why does the pursuit of Christian holiness need to occur in community? There are at least two reasons. First, we need accountability in the areas of sin with which we struggle. When we confess our struggles to a group, we become accountable to all of the members to press on toward growth. Because the group is aware of our sin, we can’t hide it in darkness, where it retains a hold on our life and can make crippling guilt a permanent fixture in our walk. If we’re struggling, we have not one but several people to lean on. In addition, the corporate, or group, setting increases the likelihood of support from someone else who has struggled in the same way. In one-onone accountability, one person may not be able to relate well to the other’s struggles. He or she may have different areas of struggle.

 

The second benefit of corporate pursuit of holiness is that without the encouragement and stimulus of other Christians, we’re often blind to the ways in which we need to grow. In the counsel of many who care for us, there can be greater wisdom. If some believers are blind to being hospitable, the hospitality of another believer can spur them on to develop that quality in their own lives. If some never think about how to speak encouraging words, the encouraging speech of another can become contagious.

Ministry

 

With Identity, Community, and Integrity as a foundation, believers are prepared to discern how God wants them to serve in the body of Christ. “Where can I serve?” is not an optional question; every believer should ask it. Nor is this a matter simply for individual reflection. Rather, we can best discern where and how to serve while in community with people who know our past, interests, struggles, and talents. The community can affirm what they see in us and may know of opportunities to serve that we’re unaware of.

 

How many terrific musicians are sitting in pews every Sunday because they lack the confidence to volunteer? Those gifted people might merely need others who know them well to encourage them to serve. Maybe someone’s life story revealed that while growing up she played in a band. Someone might ask, “What have you done with that interest lately?”

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

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