Why do we do that?—OPEN LIFE GROUPS
In this mini series, we are considering why we do certain things at Table Rock the way we do. For this post, Andrew Knight is answering the question, “why do we do Open Life groups?”
Open Life—a means to share, care, prayer, bear
Openness is a critical characteristic of Christian living. As the Proverbs say, “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire, and breaks out against all sound judgment” (Proverbs 18:1). We are convinced that a commitment to a steady diet of hard conversations within the body of Christ is a necessary rhythm of healthy and holy Christian living. And none is perhaps harder than transparent and honest conversations about how we are really doing, thinking, or feeling. This brings us to our next question in our blog series, “Why do we do Open Life groups?”
Open Life groups at Table Rock aim to bring the body of Christ together to benefit from and be trained in the Christian discipline of talking transparently. At least once a month, small same-gendered groups gather around our valley in homes, coffee shops, or parks to listen and love one another through the joys and sorrows associated with being a faithful follower of Jesus. In this way, we open our lives in depth with each other.
But these groups are not only an end. They are a means. As believers open up their inner lives in the group, the hope is that their time together outside the group opens up to foster real friendship and discipleship. As depth of life can be shared inside the group, a breadth of life-on-life experiences can become more regular outside the group. Hence, open lives should foster more life-on-life and vice versa.
The above explains our goals for Open Life groups (open lives and life-on-life), but what ingredients are key to producing an Open Life culture that fosters authenticity, open lives, and more shared life-on-life experiences among the body of Christ? We can think of at least four critical elements: share, care, prayer, and bear.
Open Life group members must commit to opening up our inner lives with others verbally. Conversations of sickness, sin, and sorrow are coupled with joys, praises, or even the admission of the mundane regular routines of our daily lives. Our shame and successes, pity and pride, repentance and resistance are all topics that get others below our surface-level small-talk so they may encourage us and keep us from being hardened by the deceitfulness of sin (Hebrews 3:3). What do we share? Here is a small list of questions to get you started:
How are you feeling in this season? Why?
What lie do you find yourself fighting? Why?
Do you feel close or distant from God? Why or why not?
What sin(s) are you facing and aware of? What has been your response?
How is the health of your family/social relationships?
How has work either been life-taking or life-giving?
As Open Life members we strive to empathize with one another and understand all that’s been shared by another group member. If God so loves his church, we should also mimic and model that love to one another. As Paul reminds us, “rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15). We desire to love and care for one another, to be heard in our responses, and felt in our tone and faces. We want to share their excitement and share in their sorrow. An expression of care can be shown by simply saying, “I’m sorry,” or simply validating their pain by saying, “That is hard.” A tear, a smile, a touch, hug, or simply “I care about you,” goes a long way. Either way, when we care for one another, we want our brother or sister to know we love them and that their God loves them infinitely more. Consider the following ways to care for someone:
Showing interest by asking a follow-up question for clarity and better understanding their perspective.
Responding verbally to them and empathizing with their situation.
Reminding them of God’s love for them and nearness to them and any of the promises that are theirs in the cross.
Prayer is the most natural and necessary reaction of the body of Christ for one another. The New Testament is replete with examples of the body of Christ together calling on its heavenly Father to open the treasury of Heaven to pour forth grace in our time of need for our brothers and sisters (Hebrews 4:16). During Open Life group, we open our lives before one another, but prayer is an intentional step of opening up our lives before our heavenly Father who wants us to “Ask [so that we] will receive, that [our] joy may be made full” (John 16:24). May prayer be our constant reflex of response when we consider all that’s been shared. How can we pray?
Pray for them, not to them (i.e. not give them a sermon disguised as prayer).
If you are unsure how to pray, ask them how you should pray for them.
Open the Bible and pray a specific scripture that speaks to their situation.
Pray the promises of God in Jesus’ name, which are true no matter what the situation.
As members of the body of Christ, we are called to shoulder and bear one another’s burdens. The Apostle Paul reminds us, “Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). Bearing with one another is emotional and practical and often results in praying and pursuing an Open Life member outside of the group meeting. We must check in with each other, follow-up, pray for each other, have each other over, and ask more intentional questions. If we are not pursuing one another outside of the group to talk, pray, study the Bible, and hold one another accountable, then bearing will be very difficult. Consider how to bear one another’s burdens:
Ask, “How can I be a good friend to you in this season?”
Ask, “When could we connect again to talk and catch-up?”
May God be gracious to us as we seek to share openly, care visibly, pray specifically, and bear practically. May what sometimes feel like hard conversations, reap holy, happy, and healthy Christian lives among the body at Table Rock church.