Suppose we have a LIFE Group that is loving, caring and all the warm fuzzy words you can imagine. Tina is a member of this group and she has a problem with gossip. She is a member of this LIFE Group for a year. She continues to gossip and the group continues to love her and make her feel good about herself.
Is this discipleship? Is this transformational? NO! This enabling situation has all the spirituality of a Hallmark commercial – it is warm. It’s fuzzy. It feels good. But it is not bringing her into an encounter with Jesus and therefore resulting in her becoming more Christ-like.
First, all growth – spiritual and otherwise – comes through a disciplined, many times painful process. Think about it. From learning to walk, ride a bike, to trust or not trust a friend, learn a skill, or program your VCR – all these things took discipline, failures, and many times painful failures in order for us to acquire to those skills. It is no different spiritually. A Christian will not grow without pain or trials. It is impossible to read the Bible and not see this pattern in scripture. Listen to any Christian leader and it is plain to see that growth is not without pain and struggle.
Secondly, spiritual transformation is intentional. It does not happen by accident or by osmosis. It is the result of an individual intentionally yielding his or her heart to God.
Spiritual transformation, while happening to individuals, best happens in Life groups. The capacity for the human mind to hear a sermon, write notes on it, and it never penetrate the heart and affect how life is lived is staggering.
Finally, being in a Life group does not guarantee spiritual transformation. Iâ€™ll talk about this in the next session in more detail but for now letâ€™s understand that as leaders our primary responsibility is two-fold. First, we are to be about spiritual transformation ourselves. In other words, we must be people who constantly seek life-changing encounters with Jesus. We canâ€™t take people where we are not going.
The second responsibility we have is to help provide an opportunity for others to have a life changing encounter with Jesus. We â€˜frameâ€™ the picture. Itâ€™s not our responsibility as to how people respond to that opportunity. People must choose for themselves if they are going to engage in that process and allow God to transform them. Just because someone has choosen to show up to a LIFE Group, it doesnâ€™t mean they are willing, ready, or able to allow God to meet them.
So why is spiritual transformation so hard? Simply because there are some hindrances to spiritual transformation. Here’s my short list…
1. Satan – 1 Peter 5:8 says it best. He does not want to see anyone changed.
2. Our culture – Ephesians 2 calls the devil the ruler of this earth so it would follow that our culture reflects this. Our culture celebrates freedom without discipline and rights without responsibility.
3. Our Selves – transformation is hard, it isn’t easy, and often times it means enduring something that is avoidable. However, the greater reward is later, not now so our flesh gets in the way at times. See Romans 7:15-20.
4. Lack of faith – Matthew 17:14-21, we don’t think we or anyone else can be changed.
5. Lack of knowledge – Acts 18:1-4; 24-26
6. Drifting – This would be unintentional. This is someone who is easily swayed by what is going on around him and just goes with the flow.
7. Rebellion – this is intentional. This is someone who knows the truth and chooses to reject it.
8. Distraction – Matthew 19:16-24
9. Fear – It is scary to trust God.
There are other things that help. We call those things “disciplines” or “practices.” The Disciplines allow us to place ourselves before God so that He can transform us, writes Richard Foster in Celebration of Discipline. The disciplines themselves are not transforming. They are a means to an end. God is and must be the focus of these disciplines.
There are three arenas where spiritual disciplines are practiced. In the Corporate arena we would see singing, teaching, and praying. The Sunday morning, large group worship time is a corporate arena.
Over the next couple of chapters, I want to unpack the other two arenas â€“ community and individual (inner). I think there are some core disciplines that HAVE to happen in order for there to be spiritual transformation and they take place in these two arenas.
Before we do that, I want to cover one more thing – framing.