LIFE NOTES

Equipping and empowering adults to mature as disciple-makers of those they influence.

What is the mission of Life Groups?

A few weeks back I asked the question, “If Life Groups are embodying a way of life centered on Jesus, what kind of things should they be accomplishing?” Simply put, the mission of the Life Group ministry is the mission of the Church: to make disciples and multiply disciple-makers.

Every community gathered.
Every verse read.
Every song sung.
Every prayer offered.
Every story shared.
Every tear shed.
Every service rendered.
Every dollar spent.
Every mission taken.
Every correction made.
Every encouragement given.
Every guest welcomed.
Every relationship built.
Every connection established.
Every invitation extended.
Every life changed.

All for the purpose of making disciples and multiplying disciple-makers.

How is your Life Group intentionally working to make disciples and multiply disciple-makers? To whom are you focusing your efforts? In what unique and creative ways are you going about this Gospel-mission? Please share in the comments section.

In the coming weeks I’ll give a definition as to exactly what is a “disciple” and a “disciple-maker”. I’ll identify how Life Groups accomplish that mission of making disciples and multiplying disciple-makers. And I’ll speak to specific challenges we’ll face in 2015.

For those Life Group Leaders on the Warren Augusta Campus, I hope to see you at one of our remaining Winter Life Group Equipping Events on either Wednesday, January 28 or Sunday, February 1.

What Life Groups Are and What Life Groups Aren’t

“Aren’t ‘Life Groups’ just another name for ‘Sunday School’?”

This question expresses the single biggest misconception there is about Life Groups. While our Life Group Communities share a lot of similarities with Sunday School Classes, these are, in fact, two very distinct ministries.

A Cherished History

The first Sunday Schools in America began to appear around 1791. After an extremely slow start the Sunday School movement grew and evolved and became an essential part of most evangelical churches’ plan for evangelism and spiritual education. Throughout it’s history, the Sunday School program has been one of the primary means by which churches educated members and evangelized the lost.

It’s hard to believe it’s been this long, but did you know Warren moved away from a “Sunday School” program toward a small group discipleship ministry almost a decade ago!

So why did we move away from a “Sunday School model” to a “groups model”? Because of the power of community!

A Cultural Shift

The mid-20th century saw several shifting paradigms within culture. One important shift affected community and education—two obvious areas of interest to the church. Within education, people began desiring a shared community alongside those they were learning with. This desire was not simply to “know together” but to “grow together”. And not simply to have shared community but to mobilize that community to accomplish something together that could not be accomplished individually.

A Biblical Example

As people who take seriously the words of Scripture, we know this isn’t a new idea; it’s one that has been a there since the beginning. Community began in the Garden and has been an essential part of life since then. Communities have been good and communities have been bad. Community has always been central to the growth and spread of the Gospel. Acts 2:42 gives a clear description of a community in which the Gospel thrived:

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.

Life Groups are Gospel Communities

Scripture describes discipleship and the disciple-making process quite differently than what most church programming suggests. In Scripture, these tasks never happen on an exclusive day of the week, at a specified address, in a particular room, during a limited timeframe.

Instead, discipleship happens over a meal in a tax collector’s home. In the chariot of a foreign military leader. On a street called Straight. While walking with friends. In a marketplace. At a wedding. Beside a well. Near a pool. On a boat. In a garden. On a mountain. They never happen according to schedule and rarely as part of a larger program.

Scripture says these moments of life change happen as believers live a way of life centered on Jesus. These pictures illustrate a gospel community on mission for Christ.

We emphasize community because the Bible emphasizes community. Individually, Peter, John, Andrew, and others could only accomplish so much. But God uses Gospel-centered communities to change the world.

We describe Life Groups as gospel communities. Why? Because…

  • A gospel community is not confined to a specific address.
  • A gospel community is not restricted to a specific day of the week.
  • A gospel community is not another program to say “yes” to.
  • A gospel community is comprised of people who desire to follow Jesus and be changed by Him.
  • A gospel community embodies a way of life centered on Jesus.
  • A gospel community makes disciples and multiplies disciple-makers.

Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.

Next Week: If Life Groups are embodying a way of life centered on Jesus, what things should they be accomplishing? Find out when we discuss the mission and outcomes of Life Groups.

Christ In Every Book Of The Bible

(To download a PDF of this list, click this link.)

In Genesis Christ is the Seed of the Woman.
In Exodus Christ is the Passover Lamb.
In Leviticus Christ is our High Priest.
In Numbers Christ is a Pillar of Cloud by day and the Pillar of Fire by night.
In Deuteronomy Christ is the Prophet like unto Moses.
In Joshua Christ is the Captain of Our Salvation.
In Judges Christ is our Judge and Lawgiver.
In Ruth Christ is our Kinsman-Redeemer.
In Samuel Christ is our Trusted Prophet.
In Kings and Chronicles Christ is our Reigning King.
In Ezra Christ is the Rebuilder of the broken down walls of human life.
In Nehemiah Christ is our Restorer.
In Esther Christ is our Mordecai.
In Job Christ is our Ever-living Redeemer.
In Psalms Christ is our Shepherd.
In Proverbs and Ecclesiastes Christ is our Wisdom.
In the Song of Songs Christ is our Lover and Bridegroom.
In Isaiah Christ is the Prince of Peace.
In Jeremiah Christ is the Righteous Branch.
In Lamentations Christ is our Weeping Prophet.
In Ezekiel Christ is the wonderful Four-Faced Man
In Daniel Christ is the Fourth Man in “Life’s Fiery Furnaces”.
In Hosea Christ is the Faithful Husband, “Forever married to the Backslider”.
In Joel Christ is the Baptizer with the Holy Ghost and Fire.
In Amos Christ is our Burden-Bearer.
In Obadiah Christ is Mighty to Save.
In Jonah Christ is our great Foreign Missionary.
In Micah Christ is the Messenger of Beautiful Feet.
In Nahum Christ is the Avenger of God’s Elect.
In Habakkuk Christ is God’s Evangelist, crying, “Revive your work in the midst of the years”.
In Zephaniah Christ is our Savior.
In Haggai Christ is the Restorer of God’s lost heritage.
In Zechariah Christ is the Foundation opened to the house of David for sin and uncleanness.
In Malachi Christ is the Sun of Righteousness, rising with healing in His wings.
In Matthew Christ is the Messiah.
In Mark Christ is the Wonder-Worker.
In Luke Christ is the Son of Man.
In John Christ is the Son of God.
In Acts Christ is the Holy Ghost.
In Romans Christ is our Justifier.
In Corinthians Christ is our Sanctifier.
In Galatians Christ is the Redeemer from the curse of the Law.
In Ephesians Christ is the Christ of unsearchable riches.
In Philippians Christ is the God who supplies all our needs.
In Colossians Christ is the fullness of the Godhead, bodily.
In Thessalonians Christ is our Soon-Coming King.
In Timothy Christ is our Mediator between God and man.
In Titus Christ is our Faithful Pastor.
In Philemon Christ is a Friend that sticketh closer than a brother.
In Hebrews Christ is the Blood of the Everlasting Covenant.
In James Christ is our Great Physician for “The prayer of faith shall save the sick.
In Peter Christ is our Chief Shepherd, who soon shall appear with a crown of unfading glory.
In John Christ is Love.
In Jude Christ is the Lord coming with ten thousand of His saints.
In Revelation Christ is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!

Why Life Groups?

Throughout the month of January, I want to spend some time looking at the overarching vision and mission of Life Groups. This week we’ll begin by discussing how our Life Group communities fit into the vision of Warren Baptist Church. Next week we’ll look at what Life Groups are and what they aren’t. And then we’ll wrap the month up speaking specifically to the Life Groups’ mission and desired outcomes.

Vision of Warren Baptist Church

In everything that we do here at Warren, we are about leading people in a way of life centered on Jesus: His Life, His Sacrifice, His promise, His love. For some it’s starting a life with Jesus. For others it’s maturing to thrive in a life centered on Jesus. For some it’s coming back to a life centered on Jesus. And for some it’s finishing a life centered on Jesus. Everything we do as a church is intentionally designed to lead people in a way of life centered on Jesus.

Our vision is to lead people in a way of life that is centered on Jesus.

Mission of Warren Baptist Church

Flowing out of our vision is our church’s mission. If we are living our vision of a way of life that is centered on Jesus, what should we be accomplishing?

Our mission is to make disciples and multiply disciple-makers.

Our mission comes to us from the mouth of our resurrected Lord. Listen to the words of Jesus in Matthew 28:

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

The primary way in which we demonstrate a way of life centered on Jesus is by fulfilling Jesus’ command to make disciples and multiply disciple-makers.

So, why Life Groups? How do they fit into the bigger picture?

Life Group communities are critical to the success of our mission. These communities are, perhaps, the most vital element in helping us accomplish our mission to make disciples and multiply disciple-makers.

Life Groups are intentional communities that embody a way of life centered on Jesus.

Life Groups emphasize the intentionality of Christian community.

When we say Life Groups are “communities”, we mean that at their core these groups have a common identity that unites them together. These communities are comprised of people who desire to follow Jesus and be changed by Him. Life Groups are people who are united for the common goal of visibly representing a way of life centered on Jesus and the hope of His death, burial, and resurrection. In short, Life Groups proclaim the Gospel.

Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount describe how an intentional Christian community can impact the world with the Gospel:

“You [followers of Christ] are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

We don’t simply do Life Groups because “that’s what churches do” and certainly not because “that’s what we’ve always done”. For Warren, Life Groups are intentionally designed to be “a city set on a hill”. Life Groups are how we shine the Gospel the brightest. We join together to make disciples and multiply disciple-makers so the Father may receive glory!

What’s the Take Home?

Life Groups are an integral part of the mission and vision of Warren. And while having the right ministry structure in place is important, it’s YOU, the individual believer, who plays the most critical role in fulfilling our God-given vision! God is calling all Christians to make an eternal impact in the lives of others. We believe the Life Group community provides a safe, encouraging environment for you to grow in your calling.

We need you to join us in this vision! We need you to join us in glorifying Jesus by fulfilling His command to make disciples and multiply disciple-makers! We need you to unite with a Life Group!

Next week: Is a Life Group just another name for Sunday School? Find out when we discuss what Life Groups are and what they aren’t.

One Easy Step To Make Your Life Group More Inviting

Here is the story of two different guests who visited our church recently. Both guests were “technically” late for the Life Group hour but only by a few moments (no more than 10 minutes). Upon their arrival, our First Impressions Team greeted each and suggested an appropriate Life Group for each guest to visit. I happened to be near them at this time, so I offered to escort each to their specific group.

Guest #1 Experience

Guest #1 and I walked along hallways where every Life Group door was closed. Groups were inside laughing, eating, and fellowshipping together. Some groups were already giving some announcements but it was clear that the teaching time had not yet begun. When the guest and I arrived at the proper Life Group classroom the door was closed. I opened the door and brought the guest in. Because there were no empty seats available near the door, the guest had to walk to the other side of the room in front of the person giving the announcements. Members of the Life Group had to set out additional chairs for the guests to sit in.

Guest #2 Experience

Guest #2 and I also walked along hallways where every Life Group door was closed except one, the room we would ultimately arrive at. The group had already begun some announcements but they had chosen to leave the door open. Not only was the door open, one of the group members was standing at the door as a host to greet late-comers. I was able to introduce our guest to the Life Group member who was able to make a personal connection. The member escorted the guest just inside the door where an empty chair was awaiting the guest.

Guest #1 Impressions

What impressions do you think Guest #1 had of the Life Group she visited?

A closed door reinforces what she already knows, “I’m late!” It also provides an unnecessary feeling of guilt, “I should have planned better!” Or makes them feel a little defensive, “Well, I thought I arrived early, but it took longer than I thought to drop my grandkids off. Now I’m 10 minutes late to my own group!” A closed door provides an instant barrier in the guest’s mind, “I’d better not go in. I don’t want to interrupt. Maybe I’ll go next time.”

Once she finally got the courage to enter in the classroom, there were no seats for her to easily slip into. The guest thinks, “There’s no room for me here” maybe “They weren’t expecting me” or perhaps even “They don’t want me.”

Guest #2 Impressions

What impressions do you think Guest #2 had of the Life Group she visited?

An open door says to her, “Come on in! You might be late but you’re not interrupting us.” An open door communicates, “It’s okay if you’re a little late, we’ve all been there.” An open door eliminates one of the many barriers that guests face when they first visit a church. An open door provides an easy path for our guest to connect with a group.

A Life Group Host stationed at the door is another level of intentionality. A Host at the door says, “We are prepared for guests.” In the story I recounted above, the Life Group Host stationed at the door was able to provide a personal connection even before that guest entered the room. The Host ensured that there was a physical space for the guest to easily connect in with the group and then escorted the guest to that seat.

Challenge

When a guest visits your Life Group, what impression do they walk away with? Is your group as inviting for guests as you hope it is? What’s the one easy step you can take to make your Life Group more inviting? Give attention to the door. Creating a welcoming environment begins before a guest enters your room.

  • Consider leaving the door open for the first half of your Life Group time.
  • Assign a host to greet guests outside the door.
  • Set aside empty chairs near the door so a guest can easily slip in.

What other intentional steps has your Life Group taken to be more welcoming for guests?

If connections is an area that you’d like to develop, please let us know. We’d love to come alongside you and help equip this area of your Life Group.

Making a Connection Call

By God’s grace, each week we have loads of guests attending our Worship Services and Life Group gatherings. We are convinced that our “way of life” impacts how we view and care for guests. The guest services process is an essential tool that helps provide people with a personal connection to the body of Christ.

As outlined in a preview post, one of the ways in which we help guests make a connection at Warren is through a personal telephone call. Each week Warren Staff Members and Life Group leaders make personal phone calls to those who complete our Communication Piece in the Sunday worship guides. History has shown us that a personal invitation given through a phone conversation has a significant impact on a guest’s decision to connect in with our church.

But making these initial phone calls doesn’t come easy for most of us (myself included). We’re not salespeople or telemarketers by trade; we’re engineers or doctors or educators or manufacturers. Take heart: guests share their contact information because they want to connect in! So we’re not making ‘cold calls’ we’re making ‘connection calls’—helping people connect in to a way of life centered on Jesus.

So how do you make a successful connection call?

Before Calling

  • Be intentional. Pray before making your call.
  • Be prepared; don’t wing it. If that means writing a script, write a script. If that means following an outline, follow an outline. Rehearse it. Do whatever is necessary for you to gain confidence and feel prepared.
  • Be inviting. Plan an appropriate function to invite your guest to. Your Life Group meeting? To join you at a worship service? Coffee? A playdate? Dinner with your family? Etc. Select the most appropriate option.

How to Make a Connection Call

  1. Find a relatively quiet place to make the call. We have found that evenings are often the best time to make connection calls. If you have a lengthy commute home from work, this can be a opportune time to make these calls.
  2. Tell the person who you are and who you are trying to reach. Ex. “Hi my name is ___. I’m a Life Group Leader at Warren Baptist Church in Augusta, GA. I’m trying to reach ___. Is this he/she?”
  3. Tell the person the reason you’re calling. Ex. “I saw where you and your family recently visited us at Warren. I just wanted to call and say ‘thank you’ for visiting.”
  4. Ask if this is a good time for them to talk. Ex. “If I’ve caught you at a bad time, I can call you back. But if you’re available I’d love to speak with you for just a moment.”
    If not, find a time to call them back.
    If yes, thank them in advance for taking time to speak with you.
  5. Continue the conversation.
  6. Invite the person to be your guest. Give specific details. Ex. “I mentioned that I lead one of the Life Group communities at Warren, I would love for you to visit with us on (day of week). We meet at (time and location). If it would be easier for you, I’d be more than happy to meet you at ___ and we can go to our Life Group meeting together.”
    If they agree, then plan to meet up.
    If they say “no thanks”, use your discernment on what to do next. Be respectful; don’t be offended by a “no”. Maybe “no” means “let’s try another time”? Maybe “no” means, “now’s not a good season for me”? In the end, strive to be gracious.
  7. Thank them for their time.

What if I get a voicemail?

If you get a voicemail, that’s okay, because you’re prepared! Leave a voicemail that identifies who you are, your reason for calling. Tell them a specific time which you will try to reach them again. Ex. “Hi my name is ___. I’m a Life Group Leader at Warren Baptist Church in Augusta, GA. I saw where you and your family recently visited us at Warren and I just wanted to call and say ‘thank you’ for visiting. I’d love to follow-up with you so I’ll try calling tomorrow at ___ AM/PM. If you get an opportunity before then and would be able to return my call, please call me at ###-###-####. Thank you!”

If after that second attempted call you still receive a voicemail, don’t lose heart. I often leave another message with different details. Ex. “Hi my name is ___. I’m a Life Group Leader at Warren Baptist Church in Augusta, GA. I had left a voicemail yesterday and it looks like I’ve missed you today also. I wanted to invite you to connect with our Life Group at Warren. You provided the church with an (email or mailing) address so I’ll just send you a note there with more information about our Life Group and a personal invitation to join us when your schedule allows. I hope to connect with you at some point in the future!”

Remember

Every contact represents a real person. Over three-fourths of the people who choose to attend a particular church do so because of a personal connection with a friend or family member! Will you be willing to take that step and make a personal connection with a guest?

If connections is an area that you’d like to develop, please let us know. We’d love to come alongside you and help equip this area of your Life Group.

Thinking About Connections

Let’s talk about something we see a lot of, especially in December: guests.

By God’s grace, each and every Sunday we have loads of guests attending our Worship Services and Life Group gatherings. Because God is constantly drawing people to Himself, we want to take great care of those who visit Warren. Did you know that over three-fourths of the people who choose to attend a particular church do so because of a connection with a friend or family member! That speaks to the power of a personal connection and invitation.

Warren’s Initial Connections Process

If you’ve attended a worship service at Warren, you’ve no doubt heard someone say, “If you’re visiting with us today, we want to encourage you to complete the Communication Piece inside your worship guide…” The information we gather from that form is worth it’s weight in gold! Each completed form represents a real person with whom we have the opportunity to connect.

Every week, a Warren Minister makes a personal phone call to thank each guest for visiting. We answer questions, pray with them, counsel them, etc. Our Connections Team reinforces this message by sending out a personalized Guest Information Packet with a variety of information specific to the guest’s stage of life. Based on the knowledge gained from these initial connections, our team then attempts to match the guest with an appropriate Life Group.

The Connections Process In The Life Group

As soon as a guest is matched with an appropriate Life Group, we share that information with you, the Life Group Leader. As the Life Group Leader it is your responsibility to ensure these guests are invited to connect with your Life Group. Whether they accept the invitation is something altogether separate; we must be faithful to do our part.

Most Life Group Leaders prefer to make these personal invitations themselves. History tells us that the invitation given through a personal phone call has the strongest impact on a guest. Other Life Group Leaders have found it helpful to entrust this important task to a Connections Leader within the Life Group. The Connections Leader takes on the the role of promoting intentional relationships through the Life Group community. Regardless of who actually accomplishes the task, the Life Group Leader assures that the connections process is effectively taking place within the Life Group.

How Do You Connect?

So, who does guest connections within your Life Group? Is it you, the Life Group Leader? Or have you entrusted someone else with the responsibility of Connections Leader?

If connections is an area that you’d like to develop, please let us know. We’d love to come alongside you and help equip this area of your Life Group.

Next Week: Making That Initial Phone Call To A Guest.

On Mission During the Holidays

Without a doubt Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years are the heart of the American holiday line-up. This exciting season provides great opportunities to visit family and friends, to relive longstanding traditions, and to participate in numerous events here, there, and everywhere. This is a wonderful time of the year!

In these busy days, please let me encourage you and those you lead: do not neglect the work of the Gospel. The Advent Season is the perfect time for you and your Life Group to be on mission for Christ.

This Christmas some people will experience “church” for the first time since the previous year. Some will be exposed to the Gospel for the first time. By God’s grace, some will trust Christ for the first time. Some will come back to Christ. Others will experience pain and grief during the holiday season. Some will become calloused in order to suppress emotions. Some will begin to distance themselves from others. Some will grow complacent with their faith commitments. Some will lose hope. And some will drift away from Christ.

We need you to be actively engaged as ambassadors for Christ! Will you choose to be used of God this holiday season? Here are five easy ways you and your Life Group can be on mission during the holidays:

  1. Choose to make worship attendance and Life Group meetings a priority this season. Keep others accountable. Call members when they are absent and encourage them to be present and engaged.
  2. Pray that God will help you see others through Jesus’ eyes. And pray for wisdom and boldness to follow the Holy Spirit’s guidance to act on the Gospel.
  3. When present at church, actively engage with guests to help them connect in to what God is doing at Warren. Remember what it was like when you were a first time guest.
  4. When away from church, engage others with the gospel. As part of your normal everyday rhythms this Christmas, ask others how you can pray for them. Tell your cashier, “I know you must be busy this season. I am a Christian and one of the things we do is pray for people. Can I pray for you today?” Follow up with them and see how God acts.
  5. Demonstrate the Gospel by caring for others. Take a moment to call people on the phone and let them know you care. It only takes a minute. Invite them to coffee or dinner or a playdate or church. Offer to babysit for them. Bake them cookies. Take them Christmas shopping or to a doctor’s appointment. Share your excess wrapping paper. Find a way to invest in their lives for the sake of the gospel.

I am thankful for each of you and for all you do to lead communities that embrace a way of life centered on Jesus.

Isaiah 40:3-5
A voice cries:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all flesh shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken

Life Is Complicated | Week 17 Group Study

Here is this week’s Group Study to complement Pastor’s upcoming sermon Life Is Complicated: The Complication of Disease, Part 2.

NOTE: This is part 2 of 2 lessons from James 5:13-20. This week we will take an in-depth look at the ministry of prayer and its affect on the complications of life with regard to suffering, sickness, and sin.

Click here to download the Life Is Complicated | Week 17 Group Study (11.30.2014)

Distribution and Use:

Please forward this PDF on to your Life Group members. Encourage them to load it on their iPad or tablet device. If they prefer, they can print a copy and bring it to their Life Group Meeting. On Sunday mornings we have printed copies available at all of the welcome kiosks on both campuses, inside the Life Resources Center (Warren Augusta, D106), and inside the Life Groups Office (Warren Augusta, C105).

Life Is Complicated | Week 16 Group Study

Here is this week’s Group Study to complement Pastor’s upcoming sermon Life Is Complicated: The Complication of Disease, Part 1.

NOTE: This is part 1 of 2 lessons from James 5:13-20. This week we will focus on five foundational truths truths about suffering and next week we will take an in-depth look at the ministry of prayer and its affect on the complications of life with regard to suffering, sickness, and sin.

Click here to download the Life Is Complicated | Week 16 Group Study (11.23.2014)

Distribution and Use:

Please forward this PDF on to your Life Group members. Encourage them to load it on their iPad or tablet device. If they prefer, they can print a copy and bring it to their Life Group Meeting. On Sunday mornings we have printed copies available at all of the welcome kiosks on both campuses, inside the Life Resources Center (Warren Augusta, D106), and inside the Life Groups Office (Warren Augusta, C105).