Care Manuals for reaching out to the hurting

 

Capture

Do you have anyone in your life that suffers from depression? Or maybe someone who can’t seem to stop worrying about daily life? God wants to reach these people through you!  In an effort to continue providing you with tools you can use, Jason has put together a few manuals that break down some of the more prominent issues that we see in counseling.

Have a look at the following links for help with each of these topics:
We hope that you will find these manuals helpful and of course we encourage you to let us know if there is anything else that we could clarify for you.
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How to use the SOS and Care Plan Tools

Lifesaver

Starting May 20th, all LIFE Group leaders will begin trying to use the SOS and Care Plan Tools.  Please read below for support on how to implement these tools.  [NOTE: These tools come from Garrett Higbee and his ministry at Harvest Bible Chapel – http://biblicalsoulcare.org/uncommoncommunity

What Are We Doing Again?: An Overview of the Soul Care Process

As LIFE Group leaders, we have been learning how to disciple and care for our people through the use of some key “soul care” tools.  Dr. Garrett Higbee uses a helpful acronym – C.A.R.E. – to remind us of this process of soul care.  We first seek to relationally Connect with our people more deeply and to connect them more tightly together as a group.  We learned how to use the GPS and Covenant Tools to open a dialogue with our  LIFE Group about becoming a community of committed, vulnerable friends focused on helping each other grow in the grace and truth of Christ.  Next we seek to Assess the condition of their hearts knowing that their struggles have arisen due to the condition of their hearts before God.  We learned how to use the Heart Tree diagram and the Heart Revealing Questions in order to dig deeper into the reasons for why they do what they do.

Once we have established a connected relationship of trust and assessed some of the key issues of the heart by the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God, we are able to now Respond to these issues with truth and grace so our brother or sister in Christ can heal and grow as a disciple.  In order to do this, we learned another soul care tool called the CPR (Counselor’s Practical Response) Tool.  Now we are ready to learn how to continually Encourage our people through the resources of the Church.

What Is the Purpose of the SOS and Care Plan Tools?

In the process of assessing and responding to the heart issues of the brothers and sisters you lead in your LIFE Group, you will want to know the severity of their struggle and the best resources to use in the church based on that severity level.  Most issues can and should be handled in the normal Christian life experience of walking alongside fellow believers.  However, sometimes things are so severe that more assistance is needed than what can be provided in your LIFE Group.

The SOS and Care Plan tools give you a clear way to determine the severity level and the next steps for finding help in the church.

How to Use the SOS Tool

SOS stands for “Severity,” “Ownership,” and “Support.”

Severity.  As you assess the person’s circumstances, you first want to determine the severity level.  Some issues might be at the “wisdom level” (for example, spouses struggling to agree on a tough decision).  Others are at the “moderate conflict” level (fro example, spouses yelling at each other and throwing out the “D” word).  Some might be at the “crisis” level (for example, spouses hitting each other; cheating on each other, etc.).  At the top of the SOS chart, there is a number assigned to each level.  If a person does not neatly fit in one of the categories, but is somewhere in between, you can see the numbers as a scale from 1-10.  For example, a “3” might be between the “wisdom” and “moderate conflict” severity levels.  Write down the number you determine suitable for the person you are helping.

Ownership.  Next, you want to determine the degree of ownership this person has regarding their sin or any sinful responses to the suffering they are facing.  Some people might be at the “repentant” level where they are humbly willing to acknowledge their contributions to the problems they face and confess that before God and others.  Some may be at the “seeing sin” level where they acknowledge they have a problem but they have not yet humbled themselves to the point they are ready to confess it to God and others.  Others may be at the “blameshifting” level where they refuse to acknowledge or confess their sin and blame others and God for their issues.  At the top of the SOS chart, find the appropriate number assigned to their ownership level and write it down.

Support.  Finally, you want to determine the the amount of support this person has from other people, especially Christians.  Some people are at the “close to family” level where they have deep, vulnerable relationships that they can be honest with and receive soul care.  Some are at the “some family support” level where they have few vulnerable friendships and are moderately open with their struggles in their LIFE Group.  Others are at the “estranged from family” level where they have no close friendships and are not open in their LIFE Group or are not even involved in one.  At the top of the SOS chart, find the appropriate number assigned to their ownership level and write it down.

Scoring and Next Steps.  Total up all three numbers.  This is the person’s “SOS Score.”  A number from 3-9 can usually be handled in your LIFE Group with some special soul care attention given to them by you as their group leader(s).  We still encourage you to seek wisdom and support from Pastor Jason and other Stonebridge Biblical Counseling (BC) team members.  A number from 10-21 usually requires you to immediately seek out wisdom from Pastor Jason and the BC Team.  It may be necessary for the person to receive formal biblical counseling from the BC Team.  We still ask you to stay engaged with this person in your normal LIFE Group environment.  We may have you or someone else in your group become an Advocate for the person in the counseling time.  A number from 22-30 usually requires that you immediately pass the person over to the Pastoral team and Elders.  The Church leadership will usually require that the person receives biblical counseling.  We may still need you or someone in your LIFE Group to be an Advocate for them.

The “Care Plan Tool” will give some more clarity about how to use the resources of Stonebridge Church to minister to your LIFE Group members at various stages of struggle.

How to Use the Care Plan Tool

This tool helps you as a LIFE Group leader know how to handle the variety of struggles that will inevitably come up as you lead your people.  You will notice that some of the terms used on this diagram are not used by Stonebridge Church.  For our purposes, here are some points of clarification:  1.)  We do not currently have “Flock Leaders.”  These are leaders who oversee several other LIFE Group leaders.  This may be a desired future for us, however.  2.)  We do not have a “Family Pastor.”  Pastor Jason, as the “Adult Ministries Pastor,” would function in a similar role as the “Family Pastor.”  3.)  We call members of our biblical counseling team “BC Counselors” not “BSC Counselors.”

The diagram can be understood in the following way.  When a person’s SOS Score is lower and they have a lower severity level and higher ownership and support levels, they can usually be ministered to in the normal environment of the LIFE Group.  As the person’s SOS Score goes up along with their severity level, and their ownership and support levels go down, the person will need additional help.  As a LIFE Group leader, you will need to consult with Pastor Jason (or someday, you may first consult with a lay “flock leader” or “LIFE Group Mentor.”)  As the SOS and severity levels keep going up and the ownership and support levels keep going down, you will need to get the person involved in formal biblical counseling and possibly even a direct referral to the pastoral and elder teams.

THE END…

We’ve come to the end of our Soul Care training…but this is not the end of your ongoing work of soul care ministry.  We hope that this training has encouraged you to “excel still more” as a LIFE Group shepherd.  Your people need you to Connect with them, Assess their heart struggles, Respond to them with truth and grace solutions from Scripture, and Encourage them to keep allowing God to transform them through the resources of His Word, Spirit and Church!

Thank you for being willing to be used by God for such an important work (Hebrews 6:10-12)!

 

How to Use the LIFE Group Soul Care Tool: CPR

Starting April 1st, all LIFE Group leaders will begin trying to use the CPR Tool.  Please read below for support on how to implement this tool.  [NOTE: This tool comes from Garrett Higbee and his ministry at Harvest Bible Chapel – http://biblicalsoulcare.org/uncommoncommunity]

vital-signs41

What Are We Doing Again?: An Overview of the Soul Care Process

As LIFE Group leaders, we have been learning how to disciple and care for our people through the use of some key “soul care” tools.  Dr. Garrett Higbee uses a helpful acronym – C.A.R.E. – to remind us of this process of soul care.  We first seek to relationally Connect with our people more deeply and to connect them more tightly together as a group.  We learned how to use the GPS and Covenant Tools to open a dialogue with our  LIFE Group about becoming a community of committed, vulnerable friends focused on helping each other grow in the grace and truth of Christ.  Next we seek to Assess the condition of their hearts knowing that their struggles have arisen due to the condition of their hearts before God.  We learned how to use the Heart Tree diagram and the Heart Revealing Questions in order to dig deeper into the reasons for why they do what they do.

Once we have established a connected relationship of trust and assessed some of the key issues of the heart by the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God, we are able to now Respond to these issues with truth and grace so our brother or sister in Christ can heal and grow as a disciple.  In order to do this, we will learn another soul care tool called the CPR (Counselor’s Practical Response) Tool.  Later, we will learn how to continually Encourage our people through the resources of the Church.

What Is the Purpose of the CPR Tool?

When we discussed how to use the Heart Tree and HRQ Tools, we used the example of Joe and Sally, a couple in your group who is having marital problems.  So far, you were able to spend some quality “personal ministry” time with Sally and your assessment of her heart helped to make sense of her anger toward Joe.  You learned that most of her happiness and her sense of self-worth was dependent upon how the primary man in her life responded to her.  It happened with her father, her ex-husband, and now with Joe.  If that man gave her enough attention and affection, her emotional equilibrium seemed to be in balance.  But when he did not, she would start to veer out of control and often gave way to anger.  She would constantly be frustrated with him, nagging and losing her temper with him in a vain attempt to control his responses toward her.  She felt if she could just get him to show attention and affection again, all would be well with her soul.

We want to first empathize with Sally as we begin to engage in the “response” process.  We must remember that we all encounter suffering and then sin because of it.  We just experience these things in different ways.  Biblical counseling author and professor, Bob Kellemen, explains how we should carefully help our hurting and erring friend so we don’t run too quickly toward “sin confrontation” when we respond to their heart issues.  We must first offer our spiritual friend healing – helping them understand “it’s normal to hurt.”  Then we must offer them sustaining – helping them know “it’s possible to hope.”  When we engage with their pain at these levels, we will better be able to graciously speak the truth in love when we offer them the ministry of reconciliation through Christ – helping them understand “it’s horrible to sin, but wonderful to be forgiven.”

The CPR Tool will help us choose the appropriate response to guide Sally toward this reconciliation based on her unique heart issues.

Background Information to Properly Understand the CPR Tool

The psychological world hasn’t always done a good job of prescribing remedies for human problems.  They do not typically point to Christ and His Word as the ultimate solution.  We believe this is a tragic error and causes even more problems for the struggling soul.  However, just because they haven’t done a good job of prescribing truly healing remedies for the soul doesn’t mean they haven’t done a good job of describing the problems of the soul.

The psychological world has separated out most human problems into two large categories: behavior disorders and mood disorders.  They have divided these into further sub-categories.  The behavior disorders have two types: disruptive disorders (things like “oppositional defiance”) and impulsive disorders (“addictions”, etc.).  The mood disorders also have two types: depressive disorders (including “major depression,” “bi-polar,” etc.) and anxious disorders (“generalized anxiety,” “panic attacks,” “PTSD,” etc.).

What is interesting about all these categories is that Scripture had already established these categories thousands of years earlier, just with different descriptive names.  There truly is nothing new under the sun.

Garrett Higbee, in his article Let Me Draw You a Picture, demonstrates with much Scriptural support how God defines human problems and how these definitions overlap with the current psychological labels.  Scripture breaks down all human problems into two main areas of sin: Pride and Unbelief.  Pride corresponds with “behavior disorders” and unbelief corresponds with “mood disorders”.  This correlation becomes even clearer when looking at the sub-category definitions.  It could be said that the Bible breaks pride down into anger and foolishness.  Anger corresponds with the world’s sub-category of “disruptive disorders.”  Foolishness corresponds with “impulsive disorders.”  Unbelief seems to be broken down into despair and fear in Scripture.  Despair corresponds with the world’s sub-category of “depressive disorders.”  Fear corresponds with “anxious disorders.”

Every problem you encounter with your people in your LIFE Group has a category that helps define its nature.  If we use the world’s labels to define it, we will not be able to show how the Bible is truly relevant and powerful to help your friend change and grow.  But when we go back to describing a human problem with the original biblical label, it allows us to prescribe the biblical solution.

stethoscope
How to Use the CPR Tool

First Step: Applying Biblical Labels.  Let’s think about Sally again.  She clearly is displaying some anger.  Her problems are probably not severe enough to be formally diagnosed by a modern psychologist with a disorder fitting under the “disruptive” category, but they would likely say her behavior against Joe fits in that general area.  We would offer a biblical explanation.  Sally is displaying anger.  That anger is stemming from some pride that is preventing her from humbly repenting of her own sin.  In lieu of seeing her own issues because of her pride, she is blame-shifting and growing more and more agitated with Joe.  This same downward cycle of pride, anger and blame-shifting likely led to the demise of her first marriage (this would possibly be an area for you to explore with non-offensive, open-ended data gathering questions).

The secular model of psychology might also camp out on its categorization of Sally’s angry behavior and miss the even deeper issue of her heart: her fear.  You discovered through your assessment that Sally is afraid of losing the attention and affection of the primary man in her life.  The Bible would further qualify this fear as the “Fear of Man.”  Fear of Man is simply putting more stock in what others think of you than what God thinks.  Man’s view of us is notoriously fickle.  If our happiness, peace of mind, emotional equilibrium or reason for living is wrapped up in what others think, we will find ourselves on an out-of-control roller coaster.  It is terrifying and dangerous.  “Fearing people is a dangerous trap, but trusting the Lord means safety” (Proverbs 29:25).  In Sally’s case, it made her turn toward trying to manipulate and control Joe in an effort to get him to give her the attention and affection she craved.  When he failed to comply, she resorted to anger.  Perhaps she thought this kind of strong-handed “punishment” might get him to finally comply with her wishes?

If the secular world had seen this, they might have labeled her as having an “anxious mood disorder.”  We would say she is displaying fear of man.  That fear is stemming from some unbelief in her heart that is preventing her from trusting God regardless of the circumstances of her marriage.  In lieu of trusting both God’s view of her and His control over her life, she is trusting in her own control of how she feels Joe should view her.  Because she really does not have this kind of control, the terror of her crumbling world has tempted her to behaviors of nagging, sarcasm and anger toward Joe.

Next Step: Determine Your Game Plan for Confronting the Sin.  At this point, you have determined that Sally seems to be struggling with Anger and Fear, which flow from Pride and Unbelief, respectively.  The CPR Tool helps you more accurately describe her sin as it relates to her posture before God.  In the case of her anger, she is seeking to control instead of letting God control.  In the case of her fear, she is distrusting God.

Now you are in a position to gently confront her issues of control and distrust so she can find the healing power of forgiveness in Christ.  First Thessalonians 5:14 gives us some good guidelines for how to confront our brothers and sisters when they are struggling with sin.  It helps us remember that every person is different and needs to be ministered to in different ways.  “We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with all men.”

Someone whose predominant struggle is anger/control or foolishness/lust usually behaves in an “unruly” fashion.  Perhaps a more firm “admonishing” style of confrontation is needed.  Someone whose predominant struggle is despair/doubt or fear/distrust usually behaves in a “fainthearted” or “weak” manner.  A softer “encouraging” and “helping” style of confrontation is more appropriate.  Of course, regardless of the person or their type of struggle with sin, we need to be patient with all of them.  We must remember that we are all sinners who have been given free grace and forgiveness through Christ!  “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).

Look at the CPR Tool to get some specific suggestions on how to confront Sally’s sin issues in the spirit of First Thessalonians 5:14.  Sally is struggling with anger/control and fear/distrust.  You may feel that her predominant struggle is not anger but rather fear.  This will change your approach a little.  When you look at the tool you will see that confronting distrust starts with comfort, whereas confronting anger starts with a firm, but private confrontation (don’t confront publicly as this brings shame and provokes further anger).  As you continue to confront her distrust, you will challenge the unbelief you see in her after you have encouraged her with prayer.  Gently help her see how this unbelief in God concerning Joe has led to the other struggles she is facing.  Finally, encourage faith in her.  Show how her unrest could give way to deep rest if she repents of her distrust and puts her trust back in God.  Read passages like Matthew 11:28-29 with her.

If her predominant sin is control, you will want to confront her privately by encouraging her to surrender her control over to God.  Help her learn how to repent of her anger and control and experience the healing power of the gospel of God’s grace in Christ.  Read passages like 1 John 1:9 with her.  Help her establish some boundaries so she does not feed her flesh or tempt herself into sinning in anger (Romans 13:14).  Perhaps make a covenant with her committing her to call you whenever she feels hurt because Joe didn’t listen to her like she hoped he would.  This may give you an opportunity to help her renew her mind (Romans 12:2) in real time by helping her learn how to take her thoughts captive for Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).  Maybe you can help Sally get more involved with you and some of the other ladies in your group so that she doesn’t put her whole focus on Joe.  She needs to spend time with other Christian women and not just Joe, especially if those relationships are focused on helping one another accept the gospel of our acceptance in Christ.  These relationships focused on developing biblical thinking will help her put on the “whole armor of God” so that when she is tempted to fear Joe’s view of her or get angry at him, she will be able to stand firm (Ephesians 6:13).

If you have others in your LIFE Group who struggle with other core heart issues like foolishness/lust or doubt/despair, the CPR Tool lists helpful steps to know how to patiently confront these sins as well.

As a LIFE Group leader, you are called to shepherd your people.  If you are faithful to Connect deeply with your people, Assess their heart issues, and Respond to their sin struggles with the grace and truth of Jesus Christ found in His Word, God will be faithful to transform hearts and produce good fruit in your group.  Angry people will grow more surrendered to Christ.  Foolish people will grow more satisfied in Christ.  Despairing people will grow more hopeful in Christ.  Fearful people will grow more trusting of Christ.  And God will be faithful to reward you for your labor of love: “Shepherd the flock of God that is among you…and when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory” (1 Peter 5:2, 4).

Your Assignment

Begin using the CPR Tool (along with the previous GPS, Covenant, and Heart Tree tools) over the next 6 weeks to develop this skill of responding with grace and truth.  Eventually, you will have the skill to know how to properly Encourage someone by discerning the severity of their struggle and what level of resources you should direct them to within the church, but this will come in a later learning assignment starting May 11th.

How to Use the LIFE Group Soul Care Tool #3: Heart Tree Diagram

From February 16th until March 29th, all LIFE Group leaders will begin trying to use the Tree Diagram.  Please read below for support on how to implement the Heart Tree Tool.  [NOTE: This tool comes from Garrett Higbee and his ministry at Harvest Bible Chapel – http://biblicalsoulcare.org/uncommoncommunity]

harvest tree heart diagram

What Is the Purpose of the Heart Tree Diagram?

Once you have used the GPS and Covenant Tools to open a dialogue with your LIFE Group about becoming a community of committed, vulnerable friends focused on helping each other grow in the grace and truth of Christ, you have the green light to learn some key biblical soul care tools together.  The first tool is the Heart Tree diagram.

Imagine you have a couple, Joe and Sally, who are experiencing martial conflict.  You have begun to observe a coldness between them at group time.  Perhaps Sally makes comments that are growing more and more sarcastic toward Joe.  Maybe Joe’s non-verbal communication demonstrates an obvious annoyance with Sally.  How do you handle this?  If your group has begun to desire a vulnerable community of change, Joe and Sally will likely allow you into their life to help them.  But what do you say?  How do you help them?

Our default in giving advice is to offer practical tools to change the circumstances of someone’s problems.  For example, if Sally is upset with Joe not listening to her, you might offer Joe some tips on listening skills.  If Sally tends to struggle staying within the budget and frustrating Joe, you might show Sally how to use a cash system instead of spending on credit.  These are good skills to learn, and Joe and Sally must learn them, but they aren’t sufficient to heal their marriage.  They won’t bring about lasting, life-transforming change.  In fact, any change they do bring might be shallow and short-lived.  Counsel that only offers practical skills is often like a New Year’s resolution.  It may change our circumstances for a season, but because it doesn’t truly transform the person, the circumstances eventually go back to normal.  Joe and Sally need the kind of radical life transformation God specializes in:  heart change.

The Heart Tree tool will help you go deeper with the Joes and Sallys in your group.  It will help you be a good counselor who can guide those you lead to understand not just how to change what they do, but why they do what they do and how to be changed by God at the level of their heart (James 4:1-10).  “The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out” (Proverbs 20:5).  Anyone who has the Word of God, the Spirit of God and love for God and others can and must do this work.  The Heart Tree Diagram is a great tool to help get you started.

How to Use the Heart Tree Diagram

Just as a tree produces either good fruit or bad fruit based on the health of its root system, we produce good or bad thoughts, emotions, speech and behavior based on the health of our heart’s beliefs and desires (Matthew 12:33-35; Jeremiah 17:7-10).  The Heart Tree diagram helps you look at the current circumstances a group member is facing and how they are responding (a.k.a. “Fruits”) so you can begin to discern the motives and desires (a.k.a. “Roots”) that are causing the production of those fruits (Mark 7:21-23).

First Steps.  So let’s think about Joe and Sally again in light of this Heart Tree tool.  You observe some of their not-so-good fruit in group and you ask if you can get together with them for a one-on-one meeting.  You remind them of everyone’s desire in the group to be vulnerable friends who want to humbly help each other grow.  You remind them of your mutual commitment to the group covenant to keep each other accountable for God’s glory and each other’s good.  Then you explain how you have noticed some of the ways they have been communicating with each other in group and that you just wanted to see how they were doing.  You don’t need to say more than that.  Let the Holy Spirit work.  He’ll lead you to one of three outcomes: 1.) you either misinterpreted your observations and they simply had a normal marital struggle and are doing just fine – you can rejoice; 2.) they aren’t doing well but say they are just fine because they aren’t ready to open up yet – you can pray; or 3.) they aren’t doing well and they open up with you about it – you have an opportunity to use your soul care tools, like the Heart Tree, to help them.

tree heart farmer

Data Gathering.  Once a struggling group member opens up with you, you want to understand them and their problems as well as you can.  The right side of the Heart Tree diagram helps you do this by asking them questions about three key timeframes in their life story.

Current Situation:  First, you want to learn more about their current situation.  What are the problems they are facing right now?  How are they responding?  The HRQ Tool will give you guidance on the best heart revealing questions to ask.

Early Adulthood:  Second, after you are beginning to sense some desires and responses that seem dominant, you want to learn about any similar struggles they have had in their early adulthood years (approximately 19-25 years).  How did they respond then?  What themes or patterns of response appear repetitive over time?

Shaping Influences: Finally, you want to discern any shaping influences in their early life (0-18 years) that may have instilled strong desires and motives that drive them to act the way they do.  What did their parents value?  Did they experience significant suffering that might have been a catalytic shaper of their fears and desires?  For even more help in guiding your people to understand their deepest desires and motivations, check out David Powlison’s excellent X-Ray Questions of the heart.  Just asking a few of these questions will bring new and life-changing insights to those you are trying to help

Assessment.  As you get these pieces of their life story, you can begin to make sense of the left side of the Heart Tree diagram (the “Responses & Motives” column).  Understanding their current situation will help you have a better knowledge of the actual fruit that is coming out of them.  Knowing their early adulthood patterns of life will confirm that the current fruit responses you are seeing have been dominant themes or patterns of behavior throughout their life.  As you understand their early shaping influences, you will eventually begin to see the deep heart desires that motivate them to respond in the way that they do.

Let’s use Sally again as way to illustrate this data gathering process.  In her present situation, she often displays the bad fruit of anger at Joe because he doesn’t seem to listen to her.  You find out that she had the same responses in her previous marriage and even in some dating relationships prior to that.  You are beginning to see that although it is true that Joe needs to learn some listening skills, Sally has some patterns of response that are so deep she would probably still struggle with anger even if it were possible for Joe to become a perfect listener!  As you learn more about her early life and shaping influences you find out that she had a father who always gave her anything she wanted and would even pay attention to her more than he did his wife.

Perhaps Sally’s sense of self-worth is determined by the level of attention she gets from the primary man in her life? You may begin to wonder if her identity is based more on Man’s approval than Christ’s. It could be that the lack of attention from the primary man in her life threatens her sense of emotional equilibrium. This sense of being unable to control her environment in a way that makes her happy could be making her angry. And Joe naturally becomes the target of that anger. Sally is not a greater or lesser sinner than Joe, you or anyone else. Your growing knowledge of her simply confirms that she is a messy sinner like all the rest of us, just in different ways. Gradually you will be able to respond to her with the wisdom of God’s Word in humility, compassion, and grace.

Soul Care is a Process

This depth of understanding Sally will not come from one meeting.  As her LIFE Group leader, your calling is to get to know her and Joe over time so you can properly care for their souls.  As you use the Heart Tree tool, the Holy Spirit will help you gradually proceed from initial Fruit Observation to accurate Root Identification.  He loves Joe and Sally.  He desires to use you to help them guard their hearts from the attacks of the Enemy so they can produce good fruit for God’s glory.  “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (Proverbs 4:23).

Using the tools of soul care, you will begin to know your people so well that you will be able to assess the condition of their hearts and help them understand why they do what they do (Proverbs 27:23).

Your assignment:  to begin using the Heart Tree tool (along with the previous GPS and Covenant tools) over the next 6 weeks to develop this skill of heart assessment.  Eventually, you will have the skill to know how to biblically respond to the problematic motives and desires in the hearts of your people, but this will come in a later learning assignment starting March 30th.

How Might Christ Impact You for His Mission Through Don Richardson and The Peace Child?

peace-child-richardson1

Stonebridge Church will have a unique opportunity this Sunday to hear from Don Richardson, the well-known missionary and author of The Peace Child.  I want to tell you how his story deeply impacted me.  I hope this will encourage you to read the story too.  But I really hope you will come to church this Sunday to hear from its author.  I pray it will change your eternal perspective and propel you further into the work of God’s Kingdom!

I have been told by many mentors over the years to make a habit of reading Christian biographies, especially those of missionaries. Regrettably, I haven’t been very good at heeding their advice. The rare occasion that I did was when I was required to read the story of Jim Elliot in order to participate in a college play about his story called the “Bridge of Blood.” Ironically, I was cast as Jim in the play. The spiritual journey God took me on as I navigated through Jim’s diaries and his wife Elizabeth’s famous books (primarily Through Gates of Splendor), brought me to deeper convictions and passions about Christ and His mission than I had previously known. Jim instantly became a hero to me for giving me greater perception to see through the fog of daily, distracted life (both in the world and the Church) and into the clearing where my Lord beckoned me and my fellow Christians to come and die…and live.

For some reason, I have not read any missionary biographies since that time. Perhaps the convicting call of Matthew 28 frightened me and I wanted no more reminders of how my life constantly ebbs and flows with each wave of passionate faith receding into an equally powerful current of fear. Perhaps God, knowing my frail constitution and the individualized treatment needed to bring greater spiritual power to my weak knees and feeble arms, graciously measured out the precise amount of medicine and timed its delivery in such a way as to not overwhelm my spiritual system. Whatever the reason, the story of Jim, Elizabeth and their comrades has often buoyed my faith throughout the last two decades, even if it has not brought me to act with the same bold faith as these brave missionaries.

Now with my reading of The Peace Child, I am finding myself being brought back to the same incredible and ineffable feelings the story of Jim Elliot awakened within me as a college student. Again, the choice to read this book was not exactly my own. Don Richardson, the author and missionary in the story, has providentially been slated to speak at my church this Sunday. In addition, I may also have the opportunity to dine with him on Saturday night. I wasn’t required to read The Peace Child by the elders, but I felt like I should, given the magnitude of this opportunity to hear from such a celebrated missionary.

So I picked it up. And as I rapidly consumed it, its message consumed me. As I was not exactly sure what was happening inside of me after first being exposed to the Bridge of Blood story, I am also unaware of what is transpiring in my soul after this first exposure to The Peace Child story. My only articulate thought is I cannot remain unchanged. I will either move forward with more faith to follow Christ on mission to bring His life and light to mankind, however and wherever that plays out, or I will retract into greater fear. If the former, I may be considered foolish, and the earthly consequences may be dire. If the latter, I may maintain a well-manicured and commendable religious existence, but the eternal consequences will be dreadful.

I would hope my personal, visceral reaction to The Peace Child would give you a clear sense of just how highly I recommend this book to you. I pray that it changes my will and actions as much as it is clearly provoking a change in my affections. I hope God may use it in your life as well to either bring you to faith in Jesus Christ or to a greater resolve to speak the name of Christ to others who have not yet heard.

Counseling Comfort to the Poor in Spirit and Correction to the Rich in Spirit

Pharase-Publican-300-1024x742The Pharisee and the Tax Collector

But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6)

In counseling, or in life in general, we encounter two types of people: those aware they are broken and those who think they are not.  I was reading Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis and was encouraged by his thinking on this subject.  Perhaps it is a good way to interact with those we formally or informally counsel.  It allows us to both counsel comfort to the poor in spirit and correction to the “rich” in spirit.

The “rich in spirit” might be a “good-natured” person…perhaps more amiable, stable and well-liked than others, but does that “wealth of personality” still allow them to humbly recognize their poverty in comparison to the Perfect Personality? Only those who are poor in spirit will receive the Kingdom. It is easier for those who struggle with more “damaged” constitutions – upon whom the fallen world has fallen more severely – to see their desperate need for help from God. The rich in spirit don’t want a handout. The healthy don’t want a visit from their Doctor. How blessed it is to be poor and sick!

I just love this wisdom from C.S. Lewis:

If you have sound nerves and intelligence and health and popularity and a good upbringing, you are likely to be quite satisfied with your character as it is…often people who have all these natural kinds of goodness cannot be brought to recognize their need for Christ at all until, one day, the natural goodness lets them down and their self-satisfaction is shattered. In other words, it is hard for those who are “rich” in this sense to enter the Kingdom…it is very different for the nasty people – the little, low, timid, warped, thin-blooded, lonely people, or the passionate, sensual, unbalanced people. If they make any attempt at goodness at all, they learn, in double quick time, that they need help. It is Christ or nothing for them. It is taking up the cross and following – or else despair. They are the lost sheep; He came specially to find them.

If you are a nice person – if virtue comes easily to you – beware! Much is expected from those to whom much is given. If you mistake for your own merits what are really God’s gifts to you through nature, and if you are contented with simply being nice, you are still a rebel: and all those gifts will only make your fall more terrible, your corruption more complicated, your bad example more disastrous. The Devil was an archangel once; his natural gifts were as far above yours as yours are above those of a chimpanzee.

But if you are a poor creature – poisoned by a wretched upbringing in some house full of vulgar jealousies and senseless quarrels – saddled, by no choice of your own, with some loathsome sexual perversion – nagged day in and day out by an inferiority complex that makes you snap at your best friends – do not despair. God knows all about it. You are one of the poor whom He blessed. He knows what a wretched machine you are trying to drive. Keep on. Do what you can. One day (perhaps in another world, but perhaps far sooner than that) He will fling it on the scrap-heap and give you a new one. And then you may astonish us all – not least yourself: for you have learned your driving in a hard school. (Some of the last will be first and some of the first will be last.)

We must help the poor and the “rich” see just how blessed it is to be poor and needy.  Such hope-filled humility will allow them to run to the embrace of their Father, the redemption of their Savior, and the comfort of their Counselor!

How to Use the LIFE Group Soul Care Tool #1: GPS

Tools-heart

HOW TO USE THE GPS TOOL

From January 5th until February 15th all LIFE Group leaders will begin trying to use the GPS Tool (and the Group Covenant tool).  Please read below for support on how to implement the GPS Tool.  [NOTE: This tool comes from Garrett Higbee and his ministry at Harvest Bible Chapel – http://biblicalsoulcare.org/uncommoncommunity]

GPS = GROUP’S POSITION SPIRITUALLY

LIFE GROUP GOALto provide a community where disciplemaking disciples are made.  Remember, at Stonebridge we desire to walk alongside each person we meet as they take their next step toward Jesus.  We do this in LIFE Groups by using the Word of God to care for and influence that person in our group for the mission of Christ.  But this care and influence that leads a person to become a disciple who makes other disciples only happens in a community of other Christians.  Community is crucial to becoming a true disciple.  How so?

  • We learn how to love God by learning how to keep His commands, most of which involve loving, serving and forgiving our fellow Christians.
  • We are helped in the fight to resist sin, stay in God’s Word, pray and submit to the Lordship of Christ by the encouragement of our brothers and sisters.
  • We are transformed through the renewing of our minds that comes from personal Bible study, but it also comes from the biblical counsel, prayer, encouragement and exhortation of the Body of Christ.
  • We are propelled forward to complete Christ’s mission of disciplemaking through the motivation of other believers.

Again, we cannot grow as a disciple without being in community.  But community is not just a place for friends to gather to “snack and yack,” as one pastor from Kentucky puts it.  🙂  This will not produce true disciples.  Community that produces true disciples must be spiritually maturing.  The members must be seeking to go deeper with God together.  It must also be relationally vulnerable.  The members must be willing to humble themselves before God and before each other.  They must be willing to share their hearts and struggles and confess their sins to each other so they can pray for each other and be healed.  And they must love each other enough to offer a safe and restorative place to share and confess so vulnerably.  This is the kind of community that we desire LIFE Groups to offer.  This is why we are learning how to do “soul care” through the exercise of the various tools like the GPS tool.  We want to provide a community where disciplemaking disciples are made.

GPS TOOL PURPOSE:  the GPS provides you and your group members a systematic way to clearly communicate about and assess the spiritual maturity and vulnerability of your LIFE Group.

GPS EXPLANATION:  be sure to look at the GPS Tool while reading this explanation.

Vertical Axis:  this highlights 6 key components of a LIFE Group.  The goal of the GPS tool is to help your group think about the level of spiritual maturity and vulnerability your group currently has in each of these 6 key areas.

  1. Prayer – how you pray for each other inside and outside the group time
  2. Communication – what you talk about in your group and how you talk about it
  3. Connection – how often you get together and the level of desire to do so
  4. Commitment – consistency of group attendance and degree of accountability to each other
  5. Teaching Time – participation amount and depth of discussions; type of discussion on spectrum from information download to mutual ministry applications as a group
  6. Mutual Ministry – level and depth of sharing struggles and confessing sins; level and depth of immediate and ongoing response to these revelations and confessions

NOTE: you may find that there are other components you would like to assess with your group that are not on this list.  Some suggestions might be: 1.) Accountability and 2.) Confidentiality.

Horizontal Axisthis highlights the 4 stages of growing group maturity and relational depth.

Superficial – this is the ”forming” stage of your group.  In the first few months of a new group there will be a time of superficiality.  The 6 key components of a LIFE Group (above) will manifest themselves in immature and shallow ways.  The GPS Tool grid gives examples on how this might look.  If your group is still here and you have been meeting for more than a few months, something has gone wrong.

Authentic – this is the “norming and storming” stage.  Usually in the 6 month to 1 year age of a group the leader will have helped the members begin to “test” the health of the group.  They will begin to “storm” or march deeper toward relational intimacy.  With the helpful guidance of a Group Covenant, the group will begin to find some “normative” behaviors that give consistency to the group experience.  This is a good step, but you do not want to stay here!  They must go deeper if you want to make true disciples!  EXAMPLE of Authentic: instead of asking for prayer for a sick relative, a member will feel comfortable to say without much detail yet, “We are struggling.  Please pray for us.”

Transparent – this is the “performing maturely” stage.  Usually in the 9 months to 2 year age of a group the leader will have helped the members begin to mature in how to behave as a community of Christians.  They will “perform” (in the best sense of the word) the commands to love God and each other in a mature way by the grace of Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit.  They will begin being “real with God” and “real with each other.”  They will stop hiding real issues but clearly name their struggles in order to be encouraged by their brothers and sisters and to encourage them.  EXAMPLE of Transparent: instead of simply saying “We are struggling,” they will add more intimate detail.  They may say, “We are struggling with our marriage.  Please pray for us.”

Vulnerable – this is the “transforming culture” stage.  Usually after 1 or more years, the group leader will have helped the members become radically vulnerable.  At this point of discipleship, members are willing to risk looking weak or stupid so that other people may be drawn into the beautiful life of the community of Christ.  Their goal is not simply to be helped themselves, but to help others become disciples.  They want to transform culture by being willing to be naked and unashamed in showing others how the Gospel redeems our sins and struggles.  EXAMPLE of Vulnerable:  They may say, “We are struggling with our marriage.  I have failed to love my wife and have been fighting against the temptation to look at porn.  Please pray that I will take radical action to cut this sin out of my life.  Please come alongside me as my brothers to encourage me in this fight.  Sisters, please come alongside of my wife to encourage her to look to Jesus, her forever faithful husband.  Please pray that God would heal me and our marriage.”

GPS IMPLEMENTATION STEPS:

Watch two LIFE Group Leaders share how they implemented the GPS and Group Covenant Tools

MEETING #1 – At your next group meeting read together Acts 2:42-47.  Have a discussion.  Ask questions like: “What was encouraging to you about how the believers were interacting?”  ”What does true community look like to you?”  ”Have you ever experienced true community like this in church before?  If so, share about it.”  Close your meeting by asking your LIFE Group to reflect on the following question and bring prayerful answers to discuss at the next meeting: “What do you desire to get out of this group?”

MEETING #2 – Write down all the responses people give to that question.  Tell your group that you will send out the list of answers via email to the whole group.  Ask your group members to read and pray over that list.  Ask them to think of Bible verses that relate to those answers.  Ask them to highlight the answers that seemed the most important goals of group life.

MEETING # 3 – Discuss the Bible verses and begin to form a consensus on what are the most important things to get out of group life.  I guarantee two of the key themes will be about deeper relationships and greater spiritual growth.  After this discussion, tell your group that as their leader, you want to help lead them toward true community.  Explain to them that Stonebridge has given you a tool that will help your group clearly and systematically assess where they are currently at in terms of being a true, biblical community.  Hand out copies of the GPS Tool and give a brief explanation of it (see explanation above).   Based on where they think the group is now, ask them to take a week to prayerfully rate each of the 6 group components (vertical axis) from 1 to 10 using the relational vulnerability scale at the bottom of the tool.

MEETING # 4 – Discuss everyone’s ratings.  Be sure to write everything down for your records.  You may want to email these out to everyone as well.  Ask the group what areas look like they need the most work?  Ask them what some achievable goals could be in those areas.  Ask them what potential challenges exist that may make achieving these goals difficult.  Ask them what some specific and measurable steps could be taken to overcoming these challenges and achieving these goals.  Make sure to write these down and email them out.  Have the group pray over them and bring any additional thoughts to the next meeting.

MEETING # 5 – Have everyone share any additional thoughts about goals, challenges and steps to achieving the goals.  Ask them: “What is the best way to help each other stay focused on achieving these goals?”  At some point, suggest the idea of a group Covenant.  Explain to them that a covenant is not a hoop to jump through.  Instead, a covenant gives a group a tangible way to represent their agreed upon values and community practices.  Help them understand that if there are no agreed upon goals for change and no agreed upon commitment to achieving those goals, nothing will improve.  True community will elude them.  Also, help them see that a covenant provides a less awkward way to keep each other accountable.  With a covenant you aren’t stuck saying to someone “out of the blue”, “how come you keep missing group?”  Instead, you can say, “Hey, Joe, do you remember our group covenant?  I’ve missed you the last couple of meetings.  Is everything ok?”  Let the covenant be the “bad cop” instead of the individual members of the group.  Ask them to spend the week praying about the idea of a covenant.  Give them a copy of the Covenant Tool as a springboard for their own thinking.  Your group may choose to use this covenant or they may come up with one that better suits the needs of your group.

MEETING # 6 – Discuss everyone’s thoughts about a covenant.  Spend the group time developing a rough draft of a covenant.  Email out the draft and ask everyone to pray over it and come back to finalize the covenant at the next meeting.

MEETING # 7 – Finalize the covenant.  Agree to use this covenant as a way to help each other achieve the goal of true, biblical community.  Pray together and ask God to bless this effort.