What are Grace Groups? They are Christian identity groups, i.e. groups of believers who grow together as they learn more of their identity in Christ through grace bible studies.
Let me explain. There are many different kinds of discipleship courses on offer. These can be divided into three categories:
a) Independent Focus Discipleship. For the first few years of my ministry I tried to disciple people by getting them to do a whole bunch of works. I thought my job was to inform them of their Christian responsibilities ‘ the rules!
Like the Pharisees, I laid heavy burdens on their backs but never lifted a finger to help them. Then I wondered why people never changed! Some Christian small groups operate like this. To introduce new Christians to a whole lot of works is to start them off on the wrong foot. It is to send them back into the energy of the flesh. The Christian life can never be sustained by human effort. Yet, so many discipleship courses are programs of ‘do-ing’.
b) Co-dependent Focus Discipleship. When you hear the term ‘making disciples’ what springs to mind? Maybe (if you’re old enough!) you get flashbacks of the heavy shepherding movement that was prominent 2 or 3 decades ago when, for some, the desire to disciple became an urge to control.
Even today, some follow-up programs are more like artificial life-support systems. You get the feeling that if the leader doesn’t check-up, follow up, give assignments, etc., then nothing is going to happen. These programs quickly turn into monsters of co-dependency.
c) Christ-dependent Focus Discipleship. When Jesus commissioned His followers to make disciples He didn’t have either of these two methods in mind. He taught His disciples to abide in Him as a branch abides in a vine. The consequence would be that they would know the flow of His life in them, resulting in well-being and fruitfulness. That’s what happens in grace groups.
Hebrews 13:9 says, ‘It is good that the heart be established in grace.’ Grace is what makes Christianity unique.
* Works are what we attempt to do for God. But grace is what He does for us, in us and through us.
* Works confine us to the limited resources of the flesh. Grace brings us into the realm of divine ability.
* Through works I constantly have to put forth effort. Grace is God’s ability in the place of my inability.
If those in our small groups fail to make the grace connection they will end up seeing Christianity as just another religion, i.e. a works trip.
The greatest priority when building into the lives of others is to teach the riches of God’s grace to us in Christ and then demonstrate how to access that grace moment by moment, day by day.
This can be done through grace bible studies. Christian identity groups have this focus. Helping others establish their hearts in the grace of God is to help them make the transition:
From independence (living out of their own resources), and Co-dependency (living from the resources of others, such as leaders) To Christ-dependency (living by divine resources).
This is the goal of grace groups.
When we started the first of our Christian identity groups we thought it would be a one-off thing. But then, before we completed the ten sessions we had a number of people signed up for the next one. And, before we had finished this one, once again, we had another group ready to go. This pattern kept repeating and continues to this day. Not only this, but we have often had several running at the same time.
Recently, our young adults elected to do a series of grace bible studies based on our grace groups course, This Is The Life. Now, they are going through it for the second time. Also, not only do we get people from other churches attending a grace group, other churches are now using our material to run their own grace bible studies.
There is something amazing about grace. God’s people come alive when they discover the grace of God. Ask the Lord whether He wants you to start Christian identity groups where you are.