Life Together Resources [General Category] Articles and Bible Studies from Life Together. en-us Resurrection Lutheran Supporting Mission to Peru Wed, 12 Oct 16 00:00:00 -0600 Wooster Ohio house church, Resurrection Lutheran, supported a team from One Hope Church this last summer (2016) and their mission to Peru.  With the low overhead of doing house church, Resurrection has been able to give away many thousands of dollars over the years in support of both local and global missions.  

The Great Rescue Tue, 10 Aug 10 00:00:00 -0600 On April 14, 1912, shortly before midnight, the RMS Titanic struck an iceberg, sinking early on April 15, two hours and forty minutes later.  The sinking resulted in the deaths of 1,517 of the 2,223 people on board.  It was a tragedy of epic proportions.  And yet the tragedy is only made worse by the knowledge that many of these deaths could have been averted.  Many of the lifeboats launched from the Titanic were less than half full.  One lifeboat meant to hold 40 people had only 12 on board.  Another meant to hold 65 had 28.

This tragedy reminds me of a story Jesus once told.  In Luke 14:16-24 the Master tells of a feast held by a man.  But many of this man’s invited guests did not come to his dinner.  His tables were half full.  Even after bringing in the poor, crippled, blind and lame, still there was more room.  So the man commanded his servants to go out and compel anyone they could find to come in.  Elsewhere Jesus speaks of his primary mission – to seek and save the lost.  2000 years ago Jesus launched the greatest rescue mission in history.  The world is sinking.  By the death and resurrection of Jesus a secure means of rescue has been established.  The Great Rescuer has launched his church which is to go out amidst the wreckage and pull people from the freezing waters and into the safety of His church.  Every church is like a lifeboat engaging in the mission of Jesus to seek and to save men and women drowning in their sin.  And yet the tragedy of the human race is only made worse by the knowledge that many of our churches are anchored half full a safe distance from the wreckage.

A little over three years ago the LEM began the construction of some new lifeboats called Life Together Churches.  This last fall we launched our first Life Together Church and shortly thereafter saw three completely unchurched families come to faith in Christ.  One woman in our new church after the first couple of months told me, “I’ve learned more about God in the last two months than in the whole rest of my life combined.”  Another had tears in her eyes the first week she was with us as she experienced the presence of Jesus.  It’s been a joy to share the gospel with these families each week and to see them come to a living faith.  When we started, some of these folks had never prayed out loud before, had never sung songs together in a group, didn’t know the difference between the Old and New Testaments, didn’t know what the chapters and verse numbers meant.  But they were hungry from God.  They knew they were drowning and God pulled them from the freezing water and into Himself.  This has been a work that God has done and our family has been privileged to witness it. 

These families are not unique.  The number of unchurched in our nation has grown to a staggering number.  Millions are drowning in the freezing waters of their sin and separation from God.  But many of these folks are not hardened against the Lord.  They will respond positively to the gospel in the context of a loving Christian community.  However, many of them have a negative impression of the institutional church and would not step foot into an established congregation for various reasons.  For these folks the church must instead come to them.  And that’s what Life Together Churches are.  Its churches being launched right in the neighborhoods where people live and work and play. 

Life Together Churches come in three forms:  simple church, cell church and house church.  Simple church is church at its most basic level.  It may be a gathering in a coffee shop, on the beach, or in a home.  It is, by definition, simple.  It focuses on people, rather than programs and structure.  Cell church can be seen as multiple simple churches linked together to form a hierarchy of support and accountability.  Usually a pastor oversees the cell groups and leads a monthly large group gathering.  A house church is more autonomous than a cell church though it is often networked organically with other nearby house churches for occasional large group gatherings and other shared ministries. 

These Life Together Churches can be rapidly started and supported without trained pastoral leadership because of a well-designed set of offerings that provide all the required resources and services. The offerings leverage Internet technologies to create a network of churches that work together in mutual support.  To aid in moving this forward, the LEM has entered into a strategic partnership with the Word Alone Network (now called Word Alone Ministries) and we are launching Life Together Churches together as a joint venture.  Word Alone has contact with many emerging small worshipping communities lacking pastoral leadership due to recent events within the larger church.  Life Together Churches is helping some of these groups to formalize into missional congregations networked with other house churches and cell churches in our Life Together network.  Life Together Churches is not another new denomination, but rather is a network and resource for emerging cell churches and house churches.  As we launch and/or service these new churches we aid them in linking up with appropriate denominational affiliations in step with the membership base and leadership of each emerging simple church.

To help launch a new Life Together Church we first offer a startup workshopThis is a face-to-face, day long workshop to help local leaders and participants get their Life Together Church started quickly and effectively.  We then offer them ongoing pastoral care and leadership coaching through weekly interactive video sessions to support their learning and development.  A basic worship plan is designed and published each week to support worship in small group worship settings.  This plan can be adjusted or replaced as needed by local Life Together Church leaders at their discretion.  The Life Together network provides website, social networking facilities, and a monthly email newsletter to help local groups gain a sense of the greater community of Life Together Churches.  We’re also developing adult educational materials as well as a new innovative confirmation program called DSTNY to aid in the discipleship of young and old.  Periodic retreats and an annual conference will round out our program offerings to support this new paradigm of church planting.

We’ve run into many folks who are excited and intrigued by this new model of ministry and who would like to explore this unique way of doing church.  To aid such groups in evaluating whether this model is for them we’ve developed a program called Starting Our Life Together.  This is a series of worship plans and group activities designed to take a new congregation through its first 120 days.  The content focuses on rediscovering the nature of church life in the New Testament.  This timeframe is often used as a trial period for the group, ending in an evaluation about whether to continue.

If you would like more information about how you can start a Life Together Church in your area (or join an existing one), please contact us!

The Friendship and the Fear Wed, 21 Apr 10 00:00:00 -0600 Recording artist Matt Redman's 1997 album was entitled The Friendship and the Fear. The phrase is a profound one and contains within it one of the keys to living the Christian life.

The concept of friendship with God is central to us as believers. In 1 John 3:1 we read, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” Jesus said to his disciples, “I have called you friends, for everything I learned from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15). And Paul prays, “…that love may be the ground into which you sink your roots and on which you have your foundation” (Eph. 3:17). Growing in our knowledge of God’s passionate love for us is foundational to the Christian life.

But what about the fear of the Lord? Paul writes in Phil. 2:12 that we are to “…work out our salvation with fear and trembling.” And Peter writes, “If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one's work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth” (1 Peter 1:17). The fear of the Lord is not just an Old Testament concept—it’s a New Testament one, too. And it was a mark of the early church which “…grew in numbers, living in the fear of the Lord” (Acts 9:31).

Both the love of God and the fear of the Lord must be embraced by the Christian. I’ve found that the more I’m immersed in a deep sense of God’s love for me, the more I’m inclined toward obedience. And the more I walk in obedience and fear, the greater my joy. Jesus articulates this truth in John 15:9-11: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love… I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”

Holding the friendship and the fear in a healthy balance and allowing them to work together is key to joyful Christian living.

Living For the One Thu, 29 Jan 09 00:00:00 -0700 With the New Year holiday just behind us, we are still in a season where it is common for people to spend a little time reflecting on the year that was, with all its joys and sorrows, as well as looking to the year that lies ahead. It is a time where many establish goals, review their priorities and maybe even make a few New Years resolutions.

Like many of you I have a variety of responsibilities and pressures that I face on a weekly, even daily, basis and I often long for a simpler, less complicated existence. I’d like to know that in the many tasks and events that come my way I’m accomplishing those things that are important to God—those things that are a reflection of His will for my life.

In Luke 15:1-7 the Lord Jesus reminds us of a guiding principle that can bring new simplicity to our Christian walk and keep us focused on what really matters to God. In the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin and the prodigal son, Jesus declares that every person, regardless of who they are or what they have done, is so important to Him that He searches for them until He finds them. And when He finds them there is rejoicing and celebration in all of heaven.

The heart of God is to see every person living in covenant relationship with Himself, and He has commissioned us as His church to the task of making disciples. It is imperative that we not only embrace this commission to make disciples, but that we also recognize the extreme value of every individual. Only then will we be willing to move beyond “the reasonable” and embrace a “whatever it takes” mindset.

After his ordination in 1969, author and Pastor Phillip Johnson received a call to serve one large church and ten smaller churches on the northern coast of Newfoundland, Canada. On the first day of his new circuit ministry, Johnson learned that in order to get to the smallest of the churches, he would have to travel 40 miles by snowmobile to a tiny village. When Johnson arrived, only one person was there for worship—a fisherman who had traveled about 20 miles to get there.

Initially Pastor Johnson thought he’d just say a prayer and call it a day. But then he realized that together, he and the fisherman had already logged 60 miles of travel and had 60 more miles to return home. With that in mind, he decided to conduct the whole service as if there were a hundreds of worshipers in attendance. They did it all: the hymns, the readings, the prayers, the sermon, the Lord's Supper, and the benediction.

It was during the sermon that Pastor Johnson wondered why he had even bothered. The fisherman never looked up. But when Johnson greeted him at the door and thanked him for coming, Johnson received a pleasant surprise. “Reverend,” the fisherman said, “I’ve been thinking about becoming a Christian for over 30 years. And today's the day!" (Lee A. Dean, Plainwell, Michigan).

Who is the one person God is calling you to reach out to in 2009? He or she might be a notorious sinner, indifferent, even hostile to the gospel message of Christ, but through prayer and sacrificial acts of love, even the most hardened hearts can find their way back to God. Let this be the year of our living for the one!

After the But Tue, 27 Jan 09 00:00:00 -0700 Leah is one of the most unappreciated heroines in the Bible. Her husband Jacob never intended to marry her—he was tricked into it by her scheming father. Jacob wanted Leah's sister, Rachel, and he married her just one week later.

Leah is a great example of coming to terms with God in the midst of our struggles. For years she tried to get Jacob to love her. That was the focus of her life, and she named her first three children accordingly (see Genesis 29:31-35).

 But then something changed. After eight long years in a loveless marriage, her fourth son, Judah, was born and she said, “This time I will praise the Lord” (Genesis 29:35). No longer is Leah fixated on what she lacks in her life. She isn't trying to get Jacob to change anymore. Instead, her focus is on the Lord and his love and favor for her. Her troubles have led her to a place where she looks to God to meet her needs, and can receive his love and mercy with joy and thankfulness. I'm sure Leah still struggled—her situation probably never changed very much. But she came to the point where the dominant thing in her life was not her struggle or unfilled needs, but God's awesome love for her.

I call this “living after the but.” For years Leah's attitude was, “I know God loves me, but my husband doesn't.” Then, at some point she changed what she put after the “but.” Her attitude became, “I know my husband doesn't love me, but God does.”

Whatever it is that we put after the “but” is what holds the most power in our lives. God is inviting you to put Him after the but. “I know economic times are tough, but God is my provider.” I know I keep failing and sinning, but God forgives me.” “I know my marriage is in shambles, but God can heal me and my marriage.” Reality may or may not change for us, but when the dominant thing in life becomes God and His amazing love for us, then regardless of what is happening on the outside, we can remain strong and at peace within. Follow Leah's example. Put God after the but.