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ldcommun1STARTING A LIFEdevelopment COMMUNITY

WHILE WE DO HAVE OUR STRUGGLES AND FIGHTS, THE FACT THAT
WE KEEP TRYING AND DO FIND GENUINE BELONGING AND COMMUNITY
IS EVIDENCE OF GOD'S INVOLVEMENT.

You've seen the challenge and excitement of being a missionary where you are. What if you had a whole church backing you?
What if different gifts could complement each other – if the hospitality people
made visitors welcome, if teachers taught intelligently and passionately, if others gave kind service and help and smooth administration.
The Bible shows this is God's dream for His church.

WHY COMMUNITY?

One of Christ's last prayers was for his disciples to have community:
'I pray…that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you sent me' (John 17:20-24).

Notice He is praying that they will be 'one' – in purpose, in friendship, in intimacy. He wants their unity to be spiritual, as deep as it gets.
And when you think who He is praying for – Thomas the brooding intellectual,
Peter the motor-mouth, aggressive John, Simon the former terrorist Zealot,
Matthew the sell-out tax collector – you realise He was asking for a miracle.
These people had to forgive each other and change their attitudes in a way that almost never happens. That is why he talks about this unity being a miracle that proves God is there – it couldn't happen through mere human means.

It's the same today. Churches shouldn't work! We have such differences in social class, race, education levels, interests and politics. Humanly, we shouldn't get on! While we do have our struggles and fights, the fact that we keep trying and do find genuine belonging and community is evidence of God's involvement. Obviously there are practical reasons for working together. But there is also powerful evidence for God: take a professional person to a church where they can meet street kids, and see them being cared for and included in that church, and you have something very impressive.
Postmodern people quietly go, 'Wow!'

ld communities 2THE GREAT WORK OF THE GOSPEL IS NOT TO CLOSE WITH LESS
MANIFESTATION OF THE POWER OF GOD THAN MARKED ITS OPENING.

In the early church, Christ's dream came true.
God's last-days church will be like this: 'The great work of the Gospel is not to close
with less manifestation of the power of God than marked its opening.'*
Let's look at four ways to use the attractiveness of community in outreach.
The first LD community is implemented within a small group,
the second is an LD center, the third is LD one-to-one, and the fourth is LD internet.

LD COMMUNITY 1:
LIFEdevelopment GROUP

So how would you involve friends to support each other's witness?
You'd choose real Christians, people who can give reasons for their faith and yet not
come on too heavy.
The aim is to form 'community' – that is, a network of friends
who genuinely care for each other. You'd need to involve the unchurched fully, not
as 'outsiders' or second-class members of the group.
You'll notice these skills outlined
in steps 1-3 (see Discipleship, page 1-8).

THE ADVANTAGES OF AN LD GROUP include the following:

1. Building Christian community
2. Encouraging Christians to use their gifts
3. Taking ministry to new places, not just the church building
4. Helping the church to grow – both in faith and in numbers

What does it take to be A GOOD LD GROUP LEADER?

1. Mature faith & prayer
2. Consistent Christian lifestyle
3. Gentleness
4. Hospitality
5. Strong vision, to keep the goal in everyone`s mind without getting side-tracked
6. Basic understanding of leadership, group dynamics, how to hold people together
7. Love of people
8. Communication skills – not just verbally, but emotionally fluent

ldcommun3Group values*

The values of a LIFEdevelopment group are crucial.
These express the rights and the responsibilities of every person who comes.

1. Affirmation
We must learn to value and appreciate each other, and to think positively.

2. Commitment
You belong, you matter, and so does everyone here.

3. Honesty
We must learn to speak the truth in love.

4. Openness
Intimacy takes time and trust, but we are aiming to be appropriately candid
with each other.

5. Confidentiality
What is said here, stays here.

6. Accountability
We won't let each other get away with self-deception.

7. Sensitivity
We'll try to understand people's feelings and stories.

8. Relevance
We're here to meet the needs and interests of all.

9. Relaxed atmosphere
This should be enjoyable.

10. Growth
We don't just want to keep this good thing to ourselves.

communities-4If you think you're like this, you're probably dreaming!
There was only ever One person this good – but we can aspire to follow Him.

HOW TO GET PEOPLE THERE

Ideas on connecting unchurched into your Adventist friends' network:

A LIFEdevelopment group is an informal gathering of 4 - 10 people, usually more unchurched than Christians. They can meet in homes or other venues weekly, monthly, for a limited time or occasionally, whenever suits. They might meet for sport and leisure activities as an excuse for a relaxed talk.

a) Magazines - LIFE.info, ESCAPE, CONNECT

Magazines are a fresh publication designed to connect with the thinking and interests of postmodern people.It may not actually appeal to you. One evangelist used to say, 'I don't eat worms – but I'll use them to catch fish.' This type of fishing for men requires spiritual maturity and unselfishness on the part of Christians. If I think the church exists primarily to serve me, I need a change of heart.

LIFE.info takes a 'thin end of the wedge' approach. It deals with life issues (and it doesn't plan an article on the Mark of the Beast any time soon) but Christian values are never far beneath the surface. It's for Adventists to share with unchurched friends who are not yet ready for solid topics. Think of it as milk for babies. (How vital is that!) Esape and Connect are edgy magazines dealing with the current issues realting to the battle between good and evil. It's available at low cost, and you could:

- Get permission to distribute five in local doctors' and dentists' waiting rooms. 

- Give a selected issue to a workmate after a conversation on that topic.

- Give copies to relatives, neighbours, classmates or work colleagues and ask for their opinion. This will start discussions.

- Sponsor a rack at the station. Ultimately, this can bring you contacts whose interest you know, and you may be able to connect them with a LIFEdevelopment Group. (If that`s geografically impossible, you might invite them to an internet forum to chat online - www.lifeconnect.info)

ldcommun5a

b) Community service

Helping others produces feel-good occasions. What better time to introduce non-Christian and Christian friends? This can break down prejudices on both sides and demonstrate 'belonging before believing'. In the past some Adventists have tended to want an Adventist version of everything. Even if there was a meals-on-wheels service in town, we had to start our own. Why not just get involved with existing community organisations whose values we share? Ultimately this may bring you contacts whose interests you know, and you may be able to connect them with a LIFEdevelopment Group.

c) Common ground

You attend a pre-natal class with a dozen other pregnant couples and singles. You exchange numbers and agree to keep in contact. Most people never do, but what if you could bring the group together? Send them cards when their children are born. Invite them to videos on values-based parenting. Bingo – you have an LD Group. You are sitting in a chiropractor's waiting room, joining a group of people complaining about their backs. Five minutes later you float the idea of getting together so as to motivate each other to keep up with your exercises. You get the phone numbers of everyone there. You could turn this into a LIFEdevelopment Group.

d) Internet Community

The Internet is one place where friendships are not geographic. They're totally interest-based. Two people are visiting the Kashmir Goat Breeding website or the Get Smart fan chat-room, and get chatting about their common interest…But often people will really open up online – perhaps because they have total anonymity. If you get into a spiritual chat with someone this way, you can hardly invite them to your local church.

But you could refer them to join the online community and explore life together with other people:

lifeconnect

If the interests grow, you might be able to invite him or her to the LIFEdevelopment group meetings.

communities-6LD COMMUNITY 2:

LIFEdevelopment CENTRE

A LIFEdevelopment Centre is even more attractive to searching people. Its aim is to offer community-friendly meetings and be a meeting point. It benefits from a larger investment of human effort and finance, and develops a reputation for quality so that both church and community people know you can feel proud to invite someone along. It may be in a church hall, community hall, or a rented room in a shopping centre, school, and college university. 

The key idea here is meeting people's felt needs, not providing what you think they need. Some churches have had success by writing up a questionnaire about what people are interested in. They then take it door-to-door or stand in a shopping centre interviewing local people until they have an idea of what might be popular. Café church model is very good example of a LIFEdevelopment Centre.


HOW TO CREATE SPECIAL EVENTS

Getting people to your LIFEdevelopment centre.

a) Pizza & People Nights

Simply invite friends and neighbours to your home to enjoy pizza - and an evening together. Plan to have some music that they will enjoy while you talk and eat. (The music does not have to be religious - and should provide a relaxed atmosphere.) As a part of the evening you could say, "I watched an interesting video the other day. It takes about 30 minutes. Would you like to see it?" (Choose a video from the LD 'Connect' resources. Make sure it presents a topic that will be of interest to your group - and suitable to the level of their current spiritual interest.) This could lead into a discussion of life and spirituality - but, don't preach or force a discussion.

ldcommunities7b) VIP Parties

Plan a party in the hall of your church or a community hall for one certain group of people – e.g. local emergency services workers; local high school students; retirees; business people on your block, etc. Invite a guest speaker to speak for 15 minutes on a topic that will interest and motivate them, perhaps discussing some values but not pushing Christianity. This will give you opportunities for invitations to later meetings, such as screenings of videos in the LD 'Connect' catalogue. You might want to have free promotional copies of LIFE.info magazines available at your party. This could be the beginning of your LIFEdevelopment Centre.

c) Tea & Talk

If you know people who make great food but need someone else to do the talking about spirituality, team up. This one can really work. What you do is this. Invite neighbours around for morning or afternoon tea, and explain that you are inviting other friends as well to discuss some life questions. Suggest they come every Monday morning for 3 weeks (you can always extend the time when people love it). After a few weeks of meetings you can invite your neighbours to join the programmes running in a LIFEdevelopment Centre.

d) Magazines - LIFE.info, ESCAPE, CONNECT

The magazines will open up many themes of current interest.
You could share it with your friends or drop it in to your neighbours. You just need to say, 'This is a new magazine I thought you'd enjoy. It's a gift.'
(Don't worry, the magazine is a high quality, relevant, non-preachy portrayal of
Christian values, and current issues.) Anyone who shows an interest could be invited to a LIFEdevelopment Group or Centre.

e) Resources

Please visit the 'five-level' section and the following websites:

tedmedia

essenceofworship

Important note: These groups are not just clever cover stories to push religion. They are genuinely trying to meet people's needs to connect, to belong, to develop themselves, to find their place, to understand life. Spirituality is a major part of this.


ld-communities-8 YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE COMPLEX AND BRILLIANT. JUST BE YOUOFFER YOURSELF AS A FRIEND AND COMPANION.

LD COMMUNITY 3:

LIFEdevelopment ONE-TO-ONE

Groups are great, but not everyone is comfortable in a big group. Centres are great too,but some people are hesitant to walk into an unfamiliar place. LD One-to-one is your alternative for reaching friends who can't or won't get involved otherwise.
LD One-to-one is a chance to share God's love in small simple ways:

- Share a deep conversation with a friend from work.
- Help a neighbour who is ill.
- Babysit a children who goes to your children's school.
- Offer a colleague a ride home.
- Invite acquaintances out for a sport day at the lake.
 
You don't have to be complex and brilliant. Just be you. Offer yourself as a friend and companion, and pray that God will give you a chance to live out His love before someoneelse. As your friendship deepen, steer the discussion to spiritual things. Listen to discover where the other person is in their life journey, and what things are important to them. Offer tidbits of what God has done in your life and how you see the world as a Christian.
Some of the suggestions for other LD Communities can be adapted for One-to-one activities. Try having a tea party-just you and a friend instead of a big group. Invite just one couple over for pizza, and leave off all the 'people' part. LD One-to-one is really just putting into action every principle in this book in a personal, non-group oriented setting. You may implement many of the activities listed under LD Groups and Centres, just in your home and without inviting a lot of other friends. Remember, every opportunity to reflect God's love and share His blessing is a bona fide chance to share your faith.

LD COMMUNITY 4:

LIFEdevelopment INTERNET - www.lifeconnect.info

The internet is one place where friendships are not geographic.
They're totally interest-based. Two people visit the Kashmir Goat Breeding website or the Get Smart fan chat room, and get chatting about their common interest...

ld-communities-9If you live and work on the internet, this witnessing venue may come easily to you. People who are shy or easily embarrassed will say things online that they'd never say in public. Often people will really open up online-perhaps because they have total anonymity.
If you get into a spiritual chat online this way, you can hardly invite them to your local church. Who knows where they live-they may be halfway around the globe!

But you can refer them to register at www.lifeconnect.info. Suggest that they keep in touch with you and make an appointment to come back and chat again. Find a way to keep the communication rolling. If the interest grows, you might be able to invite him or her to the LIFEdevelpoment Group meetings. Or find out for them what is going on in their region and get them connected with someone close by. Either way, whether you keep talking in your favourite chatroom or help them find local answers-you'll be turning the Internet into an LD ministry. 

LC website has the option of several different languages, and for each language a webpastor with the responslibility to maintain the site, develop the network, answer questions, send out materials and help anyone who needs help. 

 

To visit this social media, please, go to   lifeconnect

 

 

ld-communities-10NUTS AND BOLTS: WHERE DO WE START?
Read this manual and be fully informed about the process:

1. Pray.
For the spiritual motivation to do this, for genuine community and love among
believers, for God's leading in every detail, for your own growth and purity.

2. Read this book.

3. Attend the training session.
Don't just run off after reading this introduction and attempt a huge new programme. Attend LD training events, read widely on small group ministry, network with others who are attempting this.

4. Register with LIFEdevelopment
Why? So you can:

- access the latest resources
- network with other LIFEdevelopment Groups and Centres and learn from each other’s experiences
- have training opportunities
- keep yourself accountable so this idea doesn’t die in a back cupboard.
- Register with us at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 
Busy people need reminders and encouragement. 

5. Pick church people to support you.
Be humble enough to recruit those who are good at things you're not good at.
For example, some people are great teachers but poor organisers, others are great organisers but not gifted at hospitality. Team up! Work with your church's LIFEdevelopment coordinator.

6. Brainstorm a strategy that suits your local community.

7. Start at a manageable size.
Rather than open too many groups with inexperienced leaders, perhaps start one or two and have future leaders come along to be trained by watching.
Make your mistakes, learn from them and attempt bigger things next time.

8. Establish your LD group or centre.

9. Begin the journey of 5 levels.

10. Don't give up!

 

ldcommunities-11IF YOUR CHURCH IS NOT VERY VISITOR-FRIENDLY, THE NEXT QUESTION
MIGHT BE: ARE THE PEOPLE OPEN TO CHANGE?

'BE GOOD TO YOUR MOTHER': JOINING THE CHURCH FAMILY

It might be shocking to hear what seekers think about church. Research suggests
many have the following beliefs, which are their reasons for avoiding church:

- 'They don't care about me.'
- 'It will be the usual - boring, lifeless, predictable.'
- 'It's irrelevant to life in today's world.'
- 'It makes me feel guilty and ignorant.'
- 'Churches are always asking for money.'
- 'People are cold and unfriendly - or false, superficial and intrusive.'

Dangerous question: Could people think that about your church?
Even more dangerous question: Have you ever felt that way?
We're not asking so as to be critical or political, or as though worship were a mere entertainment event that could be rated; we're asking so as to be constructive and diagnostic. Check how your church rates on the following list:

What do seekers want from church?

1. Anonymity (not extroverted party games like 'Stand up if you're a visitor!!!')

2. Creativity, freshness, surprise

3. Relevance to life

4. Enjoyable music

5. Quality visuals, perhaps multi-media

6. Some humour – of course not a comedy club, but not people being pompous or
taking themselves too seriously

7. Casual feel rather than tight formality

8. Excellence, quality, (Is this important enough to you that you do your best?)

9. Sincerity, (Do you actually mean this?)

10. Acceptance as an equal. (No patronising, condescending, etc.)

ldcommunities-12How did you do? See any obvious growth areas?
Actually it would be better to ask a visitor about this rather than someone on the 'inside'.
One church actually did some creative market research. They recruited people from a shopping centre, paid them for their time, and asked them to sit through a Visitors' Day service and fill in an anonymous form about its various aspects. They were actually fairly pleased at the results.
Your answers to these tough questions will determine when (and, indeed, whether) you would invite your LD Group to church.

SHOULD WE BRING THE LD GROUP TO THE CHURCH?

The first principle might be - Don't rush!
Did that sound like heresy? Shouldn't everyone be in church?
Yes – if it's appropriate to their stage of development. But push church too early and you may find it's like giving cashews to a newborn baby. If church turns people off, it makes your job harder later.
(That's why individual converts are traditionally 'incubated' in a small group or
one-on-one bible study with their pastor for a year or so before baptism, and why the next year is crucial for their bonding with the church.)

If your church is not very visitor-friendly, the next question might be:
Are the people open to change? Some churches will be. It may be worth asking the board to have this discussion after reading a few good books. Unfortunately, other churches seem to value their traditions more than new people.

They would never admit that, but would say, 'When they're truly converted, they'll come to love our way of singing.' Maybe, but is church only for the truly converted or should it reach sinners? Traditions can stand in the way of evangelism. Eventually we will all face the question: do we want our old wineskins or God's new wine? (see Matthew 9:17) 

ld-communities13KNOW WHO YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE IS AND GO FOR THEM,
BECAUSE YOU CANNOT APPEAL TO EVERYONE.

HOW TO START A USER-FRIENDLY SERVICE

1. Specialise.
Know who your target audience is and go for them, because you cannot appeal to everyone. For instance, if you target university students you might also attract other groups, for instance young professionals, but you probably won't reach most 50-somethings or teenage mothers.

2. Don't try to target two groups at once.
For instance, if you try to reach seniors and teens with 50% organ music and 50% contemporary, then about 50% of your audience will be hating it at any given time. It's easier to start a whole new meeting than try to adapt a traditional one.

3. Be unselfish.
Don't do what you want, do what they want.

4. Minimise the bureaucracy involved.
Elect leaders and let them lead with minimal politics and committee meetings. You may need to get your pastor and church board on side first.

5. Don't expect it to pay for itself.
No firm makes money from advertising.

6. Expect criticism and fatigue.
Get together often for an encouraging chat (don't spend all the time complaining!) and pray often as a group and as individuals.
Sometimes go out just for fun and relaxation together.

END-GAMES FOR LD COMMUNITIES

In broad terms, you have a few possible strategies to bring your LD Community into church fellowship:

1. Do nothing and let it slowly die off. Not recommended!

2. Encourage your LD Group or LD Centre members to join your local Adventist church after completion of the LD process. This can work if your church is visitor-friendly. You would add a Sabbath morning meeting, select leadership, set up financial structures and seek conference recognition as a company.

communities-14End of the Story

Last week we invited our LIFEdevelopment Group to hear our pastor talk about a relationship topic at church. It seems like about a month since we first started the group, but it’s been nearly three years— amazing. We didn’t rush them to church. We discussed it with our pastor, and he agreed we should transition the group members gradually, because coming to church is a big psychological hurdle for many. But we sensed many of the group were ready, and that the church was ready. Church leaders had been asking me for months, ‘How can we support your new people?’, so I knew they’d be friendly and welcoming, and so would the members. The church really got behind the idea of putting on a special programme for visitors, so we knew the sermon wouldn’t be on the Mark of the Beast, Mrs Beetson wouldn’t be singing (I do love her, but not her contralto vibrato), and the prayer wouldn’t be a four-minute knee-breaker.

That day I watched church through the visitors’ eyes. The welcome was short and warm. The elder didn’t waffle. The singing, while not professional, was high quality, enthusiastic and real. The offering promotion was positive and attractive rather than pushy. The pastor’s sermon was spot on—relational, succinct, practical, with a Biblical message that really connected. (He even had snappy Powerpoint visuals, thanks to one of the teens.) He invited anyone with questions to join a seekers’ class with him.

Afterwards at the luncheon Tom and Anna were hosting the others from the group. Some of the long-term church members were a bit shy the first time, but they were all really excited to see new people. A few extroverts went out of their way to be hospitable, and even some introverts surprised me with their quiet friendliness. Three cheers for the church!

At our next group meeting, they were pretty positive about their church experience, especially seeing people they wouldn’t usually socialise with—a struggling single Mum and a high-flying lawyer in the same group. It exceeded their expectations of church (not that that’s hard!).


                                                                                                                        

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