For us at Christ City Church, Life Groups are going to form the heart of our long-term, ongoing, commitment to grow in Christlikeness and be filled with the Holy Spirit. In my previous post I outlined what Life Groups are, why they are important and how to get going. As I said in the blog, you’ll need to find your rhythm, frequency and location. However once you have worked those out, you need to think about what you’ll do with your time. Here I simply list some resources to help you think about what you could do.
Before I get going, let me start with two warnings. Firstly, Life Groups can become very legalistic and draining if we fail to remember and apply God’s grace and love to our lives and if we fail to remember and ask for the help of the Holy Spirit. All our efforts to grow as Christians are only a response to God’s prior love, acceptance and empowering. Secondly, there is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to Life Groups. Different people prefer different rhythms and even the same group might like different rhythms during different seasons of life. So please find the rhythms that work for you and, in order to keep it fresh, you will probably want to change what you do every 3-6 months. Do post any questions or comments you have below and if you have other suggestions or you have found something particularly useful, please do share that too.
(1) Accountability Cards
The most typical way to structure a Life Group is to use a set of accountability questions which you use when you meet. Either you ask each other every question each time (and it is quite quick and prompt) or you ask each other one or two questions and spend time on them. This approach was famously started by John Wesley when he was a student at Oxford — a group that detractors called “The Holy Club”. The first list appeared about 1729 or 1730 in the preface to Wesley’s second Oxford Diary. It was common practice for Wesley as he discipled new converts and kept himself and other leaders sharp. Others have adapted it and come up with similar ideas. Here are two options of questions you can download and put in your Bible.
NOTE: coming back to my point that there is no such thing as ‘one size fits all’ and we must be aware of the dangers of legalism, sometimes this process is much less structured and more of a “meet for coffee every 2 weeks to catch up.” And then over 2-3 months you get to know one another better, have fun, chat through life, ask each other a few questions and pray for each other. So the focus is more on building the friendship, getting to know one another and enjoying hanging out. That is great!
(2) Developing a devotional life
One of the things we all find challenging is developing a regular and life-giving devotional rhythm where we read the scriptures and pray. Some of us do it regularly but it is not life giving. Others of us don’t even do it. If we are to grow as Christians we need to grow in our relationship with God so we need to (a) listen to him (in the scriptures) and (b) speak to him (through prayer). Having someone to hold you accountable for your devotional life can be a really useful discipline, at least for a short season until the habit is cultivated.
To that end, some Life Groups will choose to read 10-30 chapters of the Bible each week (e.g. half of the book of Genesis, or the whole of John’s Gospel, or Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians & Colossians). They will then meet up to discuss how God has been speaking to them through the scriptures and what they are going to do about it. That is the number 1 question you need to ask each other in this group format : “How has God been speaking to you in the scriptures and what are you going to do about it?” For an alternative suggestion, do check out a previous blog post on resources to help you develop your prayer life. Many of them would be suitable for Life Groups. You commit to reading through a devotional book, a small Bible commentary or a book about prayer together and then discuss it. Or even read them together when you meet (i.e read the book/scripture passages, talk about them and then pray).
Finally, a book many people have found helpful is Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster, which outlines how to use the spiritual disciplines as a path to spiritual growth. This is a classic! So in your 2s, 3s or 4s, buy a copy of the book, read a chapter between meetings and then discuss what you learnt.
(3) You Can Change by Tim Chester
This is probably the best and most accessible book to help you think about personal change. It is nice and short and simple and at the end of each chapter there is a “change project” that you can do together. The idea here is to read a chapter each week/fortnight/month and then meet up to discuss the chapter and the ‘change project’ questions at the end.
TOP TIP: If you’re not sure how to start a Life Group, this would be my number 1 suggestion: everyone buys a book, you arrange a date and time, you read chapter 1 and off you go. Simple!
(4) Henri Nouwen Henri Nouwen was a Catholic Priest and Professor (at Yale no less!) and left his position of status to go and serve mentally and physically disabled people. He has a remarkable personal testimony and his writings are great for reflecting on your own heart, examining your motivation, learning more about God’s love and living out God’s grace. Here are 3 books you could read in a Life Group (again 1-2 chapters between meetings and then you discuss what you learned).
- In the House of the Lord: The Journey from Fear to Love
- In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership
- The Return of the Prodigal: A Story of Homecoming
(5) Sexual Purity & Godliness in Relationships
Sex and relationships are huge issues for young Christians today. We need a place to be honest, to work through past pain, to confess present sin and to commit to a future living according to God’s standards. Many people will need weekly, if not daily, accountability with regards to pornography, masturbation, sexual purity with their partner and resisting one-time flings. Do download Covenant Eyes onto your computer and set up a report so the browsing history goes to your friend. They can then hold you accountable and speak grace and truth in your life to help you break free from the addiction to porn and masturbation. Check out the list of resources from the blog post Sexual Immorality, Thinking it Through. The best starting place is Joshua Harris Sex is not the Problem, Lust is or Sexual Detox, the free ebook by Tim Challis.
(6) Bible Study
Something I have done for years with 2-3 guys is meet every fortnight over breakfast for Bible study. This is also something Leanne and I have done together at different seasons in our married life. You can either go for the suggestion in point 2 – commiting to reading the same scriptures together and then reflecting on how God has been speaking to you or you can use a Bible study book to help you. Here are a few suggestions:
- Tim Chester on the Psalms, Soul Songs or John’s Gospel, Introducing Jesus
- Tim Keller ‘For You’ series – e.g. on Judges or Galatians
- Tom Wright ‘For Everyone’ series, e.g. start with John or Ephesians and Philippians
(7) Other Christian Books
Finally, here some other authors and Christian books that people have found helpful and have proved themselves through the years. These authors have many other helpful books so if you like them, you can research other books they have written.
- The Fight: A Practical Handbook to Christian Living, by John White
- If You Want to Walk on Water You Have to to Get Out of the Boat, By John Ortberg
- A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society, by Eugene Peterson
- Prodigal God or Counterfeit Gods, by Tim Keller
- Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the Character of Christ, by Dallas Willard
So there is a good list of ideas to get you going. Remember to try different things, persist, keep it fresh, don’t take yourself too seriously and watch the Holy Spirit change your life as you commit to sharing your life intimately with another brother or sister. If you have any questions or suggestions then do comment below or speak to your City Group Leader or Steve or Leanne.