Group Hosts engaged in the process of disciple making, must see themselves as spiritual anthropologists. They must be observing the people in their group with a prayerful disposition in order to be a catalyst for others’ faith to flourish. Consider the wisdom offered to shepherds in Proverbs 27:23 (NIV), “Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds.” We can better know and care for the inward condition of our people if we can understand the varying degrees of abundant life in Christ. This sharpened discernment can empower us to minister to each individual in our group with greater accuracy and impact.
In 1 John 2:12-14 we discover a kingdom pathway for disciples…
12 I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven you for His name’s sake. 13 I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I have written to you, children, because you know the Father. 14 I have written to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the Word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one (NASB).
As you read this passage, are you able to assess where people in your group are at along this kingdom pathway? Do you know how to guide them in a direction that releases an increase of Christ-centered development in their life?
To answer these questions and expand your ability to cultivate spiritual maturity in others, let’s look at the Three Dimensions of Flourishing Faith:
1. Children – Verses 12 and 13 tell us that “children” have theirs sins forgiven and they “know the Father.” When new believers first confess Jesus Christ as their Savior they become children of God because their sins are forgiven under the shed blood of Jesus. They are no longer abandoned, spiritual orphans on their own. They are now adopted, through Christ, and have a new Heavenly Father.
Children cannot survive by themselves. They are vulnerable, immature and carry little to no responsibility in the household. They need others who are stronger than them to provide assistance until they can demonstrate self-care.
If someone in your group hasn’t made a defining decision to follow Jesus as Lord and Messiah, they are not yet “children” of God. If someone in your group has recently become a Christian, they need to be well-connected to the family of God, experience the love of their Father through others and learn about the waters of baptism.
2. Young Men – Verses 13 and 14 describe “young men” as filled with the Living Word of God, strong and overcoming the evil one. The New Living Translation describes this dimension as those “who are young in the faith.”
People who are young in the faith are those who are walking in the freedom of Christ. They have hidden the Word of God in their heart and it is dwelling richly in and through their lives (Psalm 119:11, Col. 3:16). Their emotions are rooted and established in His love (Eph 3:17). They also are given responsibilities in the household to contribute to and support the family.
If a person in your group is not a brand, new Christian but they are still struggling with sin and strongholds and/or they are not knowledgeable in God’s Word, they are not yet “young in the faith.” They need to grow in knowing the truth because the truth will make them free (John 8:32). They need to encounter God’s Presence in a way that will release healing and liberty on the inside. They should be encouraged to develop the habits of daily prayer and scripture reading, group Bible study and accountability. If there is a Freedom Encounter event that will help them breakthrough their bondages, they should be next in line to attend. They should also be encouraged to begin to serve in the household of God with their time, talents and treasure.
3. Fathers – Verses 12 and 14 emphasize that fathers know Him who has been from the beginning. The NLT uses the phrase “you who are mature in the faith.” While children and those who are young in faith know God as well, there is a greater perspective that fathers are attributed with. Knowing Him who is from the beginning is knowing God in a deeper dimension than others. Fathers (or those who are mature in the faith) have a walk with God that is “deep” or has depth.
The Greek word for Father is the word “pater” (think paternal) for nearest ancestor or both parents. This is important because a spiritual father is one who has great responsibility in the household. More specifically though, a young man becomes a father when he has reproduced spiritual children. Thus, being strong in the Word, living in freedom from sin and having a deep walk with Jesus should result in a contagious life that attracts new followers of Christ who are seeking His kingdom.
Spiritual fathering happens through evangelism and discipleship. This requires more than just teaching a class with students. Consider the words of the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 4:15, “For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers.”
Do you have people in your group that have a vision and mission to reproduce spiritual children? Is becoming a spiritual father or mother seen as being “deep” or walking in maturity? How can you encourage your people in your group to reach out to unbelievers and share the Gospel? Have you shared vision with healthy disciples in your group to host their own circle of community for others to grow in?
Using John’s three dimensions as a tool or reference can guide your group towards a flourishing faith. Flourishing faith in a disciple is a faith that continues to expand, excite and extend to new levels of potential and ministry to others.
Are people in your group experiencing a flourishing faith?
Please share your comments, questions or thoughts below…