Monday, August 3, 2015

Life Transformation Groups

As I have already explained in my article, The Difference Between a Disciple and a Believer, becoming a disciple of Christ is not simply a matter of claiming to be a believer. Nor is it simply saying you're a Christian or going to Church each week. Neither is it primarily an academic process.  Academics is more intellectual. It's all about getting head knowledge. Head knowledge can be dangerous.  Paul said, "Knowledge puffs up while love builds up." (1 Cor 8:1, NIV).  Becoming a disciple is a matter of the heart that requires loving God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and loving your neighbor as yourself -- the two greatest commandments. It doesn't happen in a vacuum while remaining entirely secluded all by yourself all the time, although solitude is also very beneficial. Jesus spent time in solitude and so did His apostles, so we need to make private time alone with God a regular part of our lives. However, in addition to that, we need contact with others.

The Lord said that where two or three are gathered in His name, He is there in our midst. "For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them." (Mt 18:20, NIV).  That's why I advise disciples to meet in groups of two or three on a regular basis. The men meet with men and the women with women. There are no mixed-gender groups. They meet once per week together for about an hour for the purpose of discipleship.  This approach has been called a Life Transformation Group (LTG).

This follows the same approach that Jesus used in making disciples. He met with the multitudes and preaches to them. He fed the masses, healed them, and delivered those who were bound by satan. But He did not necessarily make disciples of the masses. His work of making disciples was done primarily with the Twelve, and it happened over a period of three and a half years. It did not happen in a classroom, using textbooks and charts. It happened as they walked with the Lord daily, talked with Him, prayed with Him, watched Him operate, and listened to Him teach. At the end of three and a half years, He only had eleven of the original Twelve disciples remaining, but they turned the world upside down with the gospel after His resurrection from the dead and ascension to heaven, once He poured out His Spirit upon them.

There were other disciples besides the Twelve. He had wider circles through which He made disciples, such as the seventy-two.  They may have been part of the one hundred and twenty who gathered in the upper room to obediently wait for the Baptism with the Holy Spirit after His ascension. But He spent most of His time with the Twelve during His earthly ministry, especially with Peter, James, and John, and that is an example for us how to make disciples. It's not going to happen by listening to a pastor preach messages once per week on Sundays, although that may help. It's going to happen on a constant basis, as you daily walk with the Lord.

Criteria for LTG Membership
It's easy to start an LTG. All you have to do is find another person of your gender who 1) has a hunger for more of God in his or her life, and 2) who is willing to submit to the LTG process. Those are the only two requirements to be in an LTG. And to start an LTG, you don't need to have any Bible training or even be a leader. That's because you are not going to lead the group, and you are not going to teach the Bible. So what are you going to do then?

There are two basic things you do in an LTG -- breathing and reproducing -- which are essential to sustaining life of all living, breathing creatures on earth. I am using those natural functions figuratively to illustrate the spiritual process.

Breathing
The two-fold process of breathing involves inhaling and exhaling. Let me explain how these apply to the LTG.

Inhaling
When we inhale, we take in fresh, oxygen-rich air, which we need to live. We could say the same thing happens in the spirit. A disciple must inhale spiritually. We want to inhale the fresh, breath that God has exhaled. And the Scripture says that "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." (2 Tim 3:16-17, NIV).

So in an LTG, we inhale or read lots of Scripture. The members of the LTG agree on a Bible passage to read each week that totals between twenty-five and thirty chapters. So for example, you could read the gospel of Matthew one week, which is twenty-eight chapters. Another week, you could read several of Paul's epistles, totaling twenty-five to thirty chapters.Or you could read one of Paul's epistles like Galatians, five times for a total of thirty chapters. But everyone in the LTG must read the same passage each week.

Exhaling
When we exhale, we breath out air that our bodies has used, which contains waste material in the form of carbon dioxide gas. It's been expended, and we can no longer make use of it. Our bodies must exhale or else we would die. It's not enough to simply inhale and hold our breath. So in the spirit, exhaling is equally essential. We need to rid ourselves of those things that would be harmful if we hold onto them. That means we confess our sins to one another. James wrote: "Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." (Jam 5:16, NIV).

So in an LTG, you confess your sins to each other. That's one reason why it is gender specific, because we don't want the men confessing their sins to women, and vice versa, since that is not appropriate.  And the members of the LTG must agree to keep strictly confidential what they say to each other. It is not to be repeated outside the group.

Reproducing
Everything God made on earth with seed within itself reproduces after its own kind. Seed-bearing plants do this, and so do animals, as well as humans. If humans stopped reproducing, they would become extinct. There are some nationalities that are going in that direction, because their death rate exceeds the birth rate. So this is essential.

When we reproduce spiritually, as disciples, we are making other disciples of people. This is in obedience to the Lord's command. He said, "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Mt 28:19-20, NIV).

Our reproduction as disciples begins by praying for the lost people we know in our circles of influence (family, work, neighbors, etc). So each member of the LTG shares the names of two or three people he or she knows that are not saved. And all the members of the LTG agree to pray throughout the week for those people by name.

The members of the LTG should also actively be a testimony for the glory of Jesus Christ each week by their words and actions. This will include share your faith in Christ with others each week. The best way to do this is to do so as you go through each day.  But it would be even better if you could also set aside a certain amount of time each week especially for personal evangelism.

Once there are three members in an LTG, if a fourth person wishes to join, that would indicate it is time for the group to multiply by becoming two separate groups of two members each. An LTG may not have more than two or three members.

Accountability Questions
When the group meets each week, they open in prayer, and then they each take turns asking five questions of each other. So one person can be the first to answer all the questions, and then the next person can do so, and then the third, if there is a third person.

1. How have you been a testimony this week for the glory of God with your words and actions?

You answer this by telling what you did to testify for Jesus to others in your circle of influence throughout the past week.

2. How have you responded to the prompting of the Holy Spirit?

You answer this by telling how you have followed the leading of the Holy Spirit in things both great and small throughout the past week.

3. How have you experienced God in your life this week?

You answer this by specifically sharing any instance by which you experienced God in your life personally, such as in prayer, worship, an answer to prayer, God speaking to you through the Bible, etc.

4. Do you have any sin that you need to confess?

You may either answer yes or no. If you answer yes, then you should confidentially confess your sin to the other member(s) of the LTG.  It is assumed you have already repented to God, confessed to Him, and received His forgiveness. This is not time to condemn or criticize each other, but to commit to pray for one another in the area confessed, so that healing may occur.

5. How did you do with your Bible reading this week?

You answer by telling whether you finished the agreed upon passage of Scripture. If any member of the LTG has not finished the reading, then everyone in the LTG must once again read the same passage the following week, even if they personally finished the reading during the past week. This is not to make anyone feel condemned, but to get the LTG members reading lots of Scripture each week.

Irreducible Core of the Church
As I have already alluded to, the two greatest commandments are loving God with all your being and loving your neighbor as yourself. These Greatest Commandments, along with the Great Commission to go and make disciples, form the irreducible core of the Church. In other words, these are the three core aspects that must be present in every true, living church. You can strip away many other superficial things from the church, such as public buildings and paid staff, and still have these essential core elements. But without the irreducible core, the church is no longer viable, even if it is fully recognized by the public as a valid church. The irreducible core is a way of life that follows in the footsteps of Jesus. Wherever two or three disciples are gathered in Jesus' name, fulfilling the irreducible core, an embryonic form of the Church is present.

The Life Transformation Group is not intended to replace involvement in a local expression of the Body of Christ, where one exists. However, it does embody the irreducible core, so it is a biblical, Christ-honoring way of life. It can supplement the services of a local church (e.g. Sunday school, home group meetings, etc.), or it can be used as a key component of any church planting approach.

Effectiveness
I first began using this approach to making disciples in 2006, and over the past decade I have found it to be very effective. It is a repeatable process that can be implemented anywhere in the world in fulfillment of the Greatest Commandments and the Great Commission. The Lord has commanded us to make disciples, and this approach facilitates multiplication of disciples the way Jesus did. May the Lord help you as you adopt this way of life for His glory, so that you may achieve maximum fruitfulness wherever you may be in His vineyard.

Continue reading How to Start an LTG.

Attribution: Scriptures taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV®, unless otherwise noted. I want to thank Tom Johnston and Mike Chong Perkinson of the Praxis Center for Church Development, for teaching me about Life Transformation Groups by Neil Cole © 2000. For more information about Life Transformations Groups and other strategic resources visit Church Multiplication Associates (CMA). By the way, CMA has LTG cards containing the explanation of an LTG and the five questions, which you can order from them online. I recommend getting the blue cards with the five questions, rather than the red ones. Photo of butterfly courtesy of Fir0002/Flagstaffotos.

Author's Note: If you would like to become a disciple who makes disciples, please prayerfully consider enrolling in Doulos Training School, our international, distance education ministry. I also recommend reading How to Start an LTG, The Difference Between a Disciple and a Believer, The Cost of Discipleship, and Multiplication. You are invited to visit the Home page of this blog, and also access my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master." 

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"
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Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org. Partner with us online by giving to DMI.

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