As I continue to think through our current passage of Scripture from our study through Hebrews I can’t help but attain even stronger convictions concerning the necessity of every believer to be a part of a small community in addition to a weekly large-group worship gathering. Again, the author’s warning in this and other passages in Hebrews are to be taken seriously. They are to be met with a desire by every believer to strive in every way possible to take constant inventory of how the Gospel is being manifested in his/her life. After all, it is ‘good works’ that serve as a pointer to the reality of true salvation in the life of a believer. Good works do not and cannot save, but they are evidence of a life that has been transformed by the Gospel through the Holy Spirit. In other words, a saved life will be a changed life. There will be tangible evidence of true salvation.
Simply put, these warnings should motivate us to action. Our response should include a striving to rearrange our lives around the pursuit of growing in godliness. The more opportunities in my life to accomplish good works, the more assurance I could then derive from the manifestation of those works. The more accountability I place in my life, the more difficult it will be to ever fall away or grow in apathy. See how it works? In thinking about these things, I have been reminded of the incredible benefit of being a part of a Life Group here at Westwood. Actually, here are 5 reasons, based on our present study in Hebrews, as to why you should be an active and consistent participant in a Life Group…
1. A Life Group provides constant evaluation. Now, I realize that this is something that we are not naturally excited about! But, in light of the warnings in Hebrews, shouldn’t we desire it? Please understand, I am not advocating a kind of program that breeds judgment. However, there is a certain level of evaluation, both self-imposed as well as group-imposed, that takes place when we seize the opportunity to be a part of a long-term, consistent, intimate and transparent community of believers. I understand that this word evaluation can be an intimidating word, and can very easily be misunderstood. Bear with me, though. It is further explained in the next two reasons.
2. A Life Group provides deeper accountability. Simply attending a weekly large-group worship gathering does not provide the type of accountability we need as believers. Participating in a Life Group helps me become the focus of a much smaller group of people, which in turn makes it more difficult for me to ever move to the fringe or fall away altogether. This takes humility. It is always hard to be exhorted by a brother or sister. But, it is worth it. I appreciate few things more than a brother that loves me enough to bring me some grace-filled rebuke when I need it. I also have been greatly blessed by a brother who received my hard words well. A smaller community will provide the level of accountability we all need as followers of Christ, while making it much more difficult to fall away.
3. A Life Group provides encouragement & affirmation. This is the positive side of the equation. One of the most wonderful ways we can gain assurance of our salvation in Christ is through the encouragement and affirmation spoken into our lives by others. Of course, this will happen more frequently as we do life together in smaller communities than if we are content to attend large-groups worship gatherings once a week. As my life is watched by the members of my Life Group, they are able to affirm me as the Holy Spirit uses me in my context for His glory. By the way, if you are currently involved in a Life Group, make sure that you are intentional about affirming the members of your group as you see them growing and serving!
4. A Life Group provides an incubator for growth. The preaching of the Word is powerful; and, here at Westwood, I am thankful for the high level of esteem that is placed on the preaching of the Word. However, discipleship growth demands more than just the hearing of the Word preached. Practical growth happens within the context of a group of believers seeking to apply the Word together to their everyday lives. Conversations spark growth through digging deeper into the Word together. As intimacy grows, members of Life Groups struggle together and invest in each others’ lives, stimulating growth both individually and as a group.
5. A Life Group provides opportunity for produce. By produce I mean spiritual fruit, of course. Doing life with a small group of people affords me the opportunity to both serve each of the members of the group, as well as serve my community and world with the members of my group. If good works breeds assurance, I want to maximize opportunities in my life for good works to take place. In my Life Group, I have a handful of people that I watch closely, intentionally looking for ways to serve them and bear with them. Understanding the greater mission of God, I cleave with my group as we share the same mission that is completely foreign to the outside world. After all, I [should] have more in common with my small group of brothers and sisters in Christ than with anyone else. This is because of the redemption and mission we share in Christ.