The mission of Life Groups at the Ridge is “to connect people in community, to invest in their spiritual growth, encourage them to serve others, and multiply disciple-makers.”
For us, it is both a connection strategy as well as a discipleship strategy. We do want to find places for newcomers to connect, closing the back door, so to speak. But we see groups primarily as a discipleship strategy. Discipleship is taking people from where they are and helping them get where King Jesus wants them, increasingly submitting all of life to his good and gracious rule so that Jesus becomes central in everything. The goal of these groups is multiplication. Jesus commanded us to make disciples and teach them to observe everything Jesus commanded, part of which was to make disciples (Matt. 28:18-20). So, we want to make disciples who make disciples.
Why Life Group’s?
Three main reasons: Jesus, community, and mission. First, Jesus. It is all about him. We are not just a social club and not merely a mission group but the blood-bought people of Jesus, sent on mission to spread his glory. We have been gripped by Jesus, who calls us into community and sends us out on mission. We want to see people come to know Jesus and go deeper with Jesus.
Second, community. We tend to think in individual terms as Westerners, but the purpose of the cross and resurrection was to create a people on mission, not just a bunch of isolated individuals. Think about the 50-something “one another’s” in the New Testament. We are called to love one another, outdo one another in honor, confess our sins to one another, bear one another’s burdens, serve one another, be kind to one another, encourage one another, be hospitable to one another, and on and on. They are everywhere in Scripture! Obviously, we cannot obey most of these commands on Sunday mornings. God had more in mind for his bride, the church, when He sent His Son to die for her than merely an hour on Sundays. To be faithful to Jesus and his body, we must have smaller contexts in which to do life together. For New Testament community, we must value circles and not just rows. On Sunday morning, the person next to you may have just lost a job or a spouse and tragically, you would never know it.
Read the description of the first Christians in Acts 2:42-47:
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.“
The early church was devoted to Scripture, to sharing life together, to eating together all the time, and to praying. They were on mission together in the everyday stuff of life. And they were devoted to these things. They had to say no to what is ultimately trivial in order to say yes to that which is ultimate. They were committed to intentionally Christian relationships.
Third, mission. This is often missing, even though it is our primary calling. In Acts 1, Jesus tells his disciples, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Witnessing to the truth of Jesus is not just something we do on occasion. It is who we are. It is our identity. We are witnesses. True community comes from being on mission together. We don’t have Acts 2 community without Acts 1 mission. The reason groups get static and stale is due to lack of mission. Think about it. Have you ever been on a mission trip? Don’t you go deep with that group? You go deep in community when you are on mission together. Mission is fundamental to who we are as Christians. This is because God is a missionary God. He is the sending God. He sends the Son and the Son sends the Spirit and the Spirit sends the church. If you are a Christian, you are an everyday informal missionary. You are all in full time ministry (Eph 4:11-13). God funds some of his missionaries through Dell, construction companies, hospitals, and schools. He funds his ambassadors through numerous means. We want you to see yourself as part of the mission of God and be all in on this. We want you to see Dripping Springs as the mission field God has called you to and groups as the engine for community and mission locally.
What is the Church?
One of the reasons we do not value Life Groups as we ought is because our view of the church is off. I am convinced that most of us operate as if the church is a building. The church is not a what, but a who, contrary to the way we speak. We speak of “going to church,” but this is biblically wrong. The church is not a building; the church is not an event; the church is not an institution with a mortgage. The church is the forgiven people of God sent on mission together for the glory of Christ. One of my favorite definitions of the church is “God’s family of missionary servants sent to make disciples who make disciples.”
When it comes to effective mission, we have to get this right. Most missiologists agree that 60% of people in the Southern United States will not take us up on an invitation to a Sunday service. If that is right, how will we reach Dripping Springs for Jesus? Through the people of God. Through the master’s plan: disciples who make disciples in the everyday stuff of life.
Life Group leadership at the Ridge is a frontline, top-level leadership role. We want our best folks leading life groups. We are looking for people who lead self, lead others, and mobilize.
A person who leads self is someone who first and foremost loves Jesus and loves people. They walk with the Lord. They are constantly turning from sin to the Lord. They understand the gospel. They love the Word and are growing in their understanding of it. They desire to help others grow. They will be committed to the Ridge as well, as members who attend training events, connect with their coach when contacted, and reads resources when given them. We want folks to take ownership as a Life Group leader.
To lead others is to care for the people in your group. Pray for them regularly. Connect with them frequently. This role is more than the f-word: facilitator. You are a shepherd to this group. We do not expect the leader to do everything though! Delegate according to gifts. Identify and empower the body of Christ. Appoint others to lead point on things like social events, service projects, meals, childcare, etc.
A mobilizer is one who grows the group. One who is constant looking outward. Find local service opportunities. A leader will be expected to identify and empower an apprentice. An apprentice is the person or couple who will be the leader of the next group when the current group multiplies. Success is multiplication. Success is an outward focus. The leader as mobilizer will have to constantly cast vision and push against becoming ingrown. Again, true community will not happen if we are not on mission together.
That’s it. Lead self, lead others, and mobilize. If you are intimidated, don’t be. You have the Spirit of God. You have the Word of God. You will have support from pastors and coaches, always an email or call away. God wants you off the sidelines and in the game. Those who never make mistakes never make anything. We ought to fear inactivity more than we fear mistakes. Step out and take a risk for the kingdom. You will grow in the process. Even if the group isn’t a success, failure is an opportunity to begin again intelligently. God has always used ordinary people who are available to Him. This is work that matters. “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Cor 15:58).
Elements of a Life Group
The five main elements of a Life Group are prayer, study, play, serve, and multiply.
With prayer, we want to be praying God-centered prayers. Prayer time can easily become a time for organ recitals: Lord, please heal Bertha’s bladder, Helen’s hip, and John’s joint pain. Have you ever noticed that such prayers are almost completely absent in the prayers of the first Christians? Take a look at the content of the prayers in Philippians 1:9-11 or Colossians 1:9-12, for example. We also want you to be praying weekly for those the group members know that do not follow Jesus. As with everything, an outward focus!
We will also study the Word together. We grow by the Word (John 17, 1 Pet 2.2). Most groups will go deeper into the text from the sermon. This will cause you to pay closer attention to the sermon and dig deeper into the Text. The leader always grows more than those they are leading! For book and DVD study options, we have a list of several gospel-centered resources.
We also want your group to play from time to time. Have fun, throw parties, go eat, etc. Find what sociologists call “3rd places” to frequent. Those local places that are not work and not home. They are neutral and natural places to hang out. Be intentional when you do so. Invite people in. Increasingly today, people want to belong before they believe.
Life Groups will also serve others. Maybe you start with a goal of your group demonstrating the good news of Jesus once a semester. Jesus Himself did not come to be served, but to serve (Mark 10:45). One of our main places to serve initially will be the middle school we will be meeting in. Seek to be a blessing to the neighborhood the group meets in.
Finally, we want groups to multiply. This is the win. This is how we will reach Drip. At the Ridge, you will hear 2 Timothy 2:2 often. Therein lies the 2/2/2 principle. It reads, “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.” There are four generation in one verse: Paul – Timothy – reliable people – others. This must be our heartbeat. Our lifeblood. We must always be thinking about growing and multiplying. A good goal is to seek to multiply your group every 18-24 months. Mention it often. Invite others in. Find an apprentice. And go! Healthy groups are growing groups. Success is succession. A win is new people coming. So, from the beginning, have all praying and planning about growing and starting new groups. Create a movement! Dripping is ripe.