When we started King’s People a few years ago, we identified a working motto: “Discovering the way of powerful living in Jesus Christ.”
Our conviction was that, when we truly practiced church as “family on mission,” we would grow as disciples and “be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light” (Col 1:11-12).
That conviction remains the same. Authentic, biblical churches create powerful people (Eph 4:1-16). We believe that when we do the hard work of making church a spiritual family founded on love – with mutual, covenantal relationships; collective participation in the Spirit; cooperative responsibility; honor; and focused mission – then we become powerful people. We become increasingly influential followers of Jesus: disciple-making, world-changing, light-shining, church-planting witnesses of Him.
In view of that, I identify five vital connections that make us powerful people. These are relationships of various levels of intimacy. They are heart-to-heart connections with people providentially escorted into our lives. They nourish our souls, and give us opportunity to nourish their souls. Such relationships cause the Holy Spirit to circulate freely in our own souls, as well as our faith community.
If any of these connections is missing, unhealthy, or unbalanced, it compromises our personal growth and influence. And when they are not in proper symmetry with one another, our spiritual equilibrium is disturbed.
For example, if I am taking great care to keep my closest male accountability relationships intact, and I am consistently befriending unbelieving work colleagues (which is all great), but I am not consistently spending time with the Lord, then I am very out of balance. I am doing well with certain connections, but not my most important connection. My own soul is off-kilter and my influence is weakened.
Or if I am spending hours per day with the Lord, but merely attending a church assembly once per week without cultivating spiritual family, my spiritual health is compromised. Yes, connecting with God is absolutely the most important connection we have. That is the first great commandment. But He designed us for the second commandment also. If we neglect the latter, certain areas of our souls will still go undeveloped. The first command is just that: the first. But the second is like it. We are still incomplete without the active presence of community.
So here are the five vital connections that, when cultivated in proper balance with one another, serve to make us whole people in Christ. In fact, I see the intentional, assertive development of these five relationships as the practical essence of KP’s value system. This is what we are all about. Put yet another way, if we are not seeking to flourish in each of these areas, we are missing the point of this apostolic work.
Life is community. God created the human heart to connect with other hearts – or it dies. And our first and most essential heart-to-heart connection is with God Himself. Community with the Trinity establishes and inspires all other relationships (1 John 4:19).
We are children who need intimate connection with our Father God, Abba. We are members of a corporate bride who long for our Bridegroom God, Jesus. We are temples designed to house and experience the tangible, present God, the Holy Spirit. So we ought to fulfill these life-defining connections as our most important aspect of community – the foundation to life itself.
Spend time with God everyday. Connect with Him through adoring worship and deep meditation. Pour out your heart to Him, and listen to His voice. Love Him by beholding His beauty and obeying His commands. Read and muse over His Word as daily bread.
Make it your main goal in life to get to know the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. “Increase in the knowledge of God” (Col 1:10). That is our first and most important connection. It makes us powerful people.
By “family,” I refer to two sets of people simultaneously. (Forgive me for getting two-for-one on this point.) First, I refer to our natural family. Secular America is undergoing a famine of healthy families – both in the church and outside of it. We must restore God’s order to our families (Eph 5:25-6:4), connect with our families, and make Christ central to our families.
I recommend that you spend quality time with your spouse and children everyday (to whatever degree that applies). I also recommend that you spend focused, Christ-centered devotional time with your family a few times per week. If you have little children, these times do not need to be long or complicated. But they should be Christ-centered, leaving them with a sense of God’s presence in our homes over the long haul. Our lives become compromised if we do not connect at home.
Second, we should be part of a house church. A “house church” is a fellowship of spiritual family that meets in a home. House churches should re-define how our religious culture has defined “church.” God never meant church to be a weekly conference. Church is a spiritual family, a covenant community who love one another and take care of one another with honor (1 Cor 12-13). So we do not practice “house church” because that’s just what we do. We practice house church because we believe it is the most biblical expression of God’s intention for “church.”
But it is not the fact that we meet in a home that makes us a house church. Rather, the connections with a diverse group of Jesus-followers makes us a church. We can have living room religion as much as cathedral religion. Church is created by connections, not by locations. God simply did not design His people to assemble as a conference and listen to a preacher and a band. Those experiences may be legitimate and beneficial up to a point, but they do not constitute the body of Christ.
Church is a spiritual family who together constitute a body in which the Spirit of God dwells and manifests. And that spiritual family takes care of one another – in the spirit of covenant and teamwork for mission – throughout the week, month, and year.
God designed us for spiritual family. Spiritual life and discipleship must be characterized by together seeking God, sharing the Spirit (spiritual gifts), sharing meals (Lord’s Supper), sharing life (resources, emotional strength, friendships), sharing prayer, sharing mission, and sharing the journey with one another (natural, healthy accountability).
According to Scripture, when we experience the Spirit among spiritual family members, it keeps us strong amid temptation; builds the church in every way God intends; and gives us hope, purpose, and a sense of destiny (Heb 3:13; 1 Cor 12-15).
God designed us to belong to a diverse group of people that is, as one author put it, “large enough to dare but small enough to care.” We need a group to which we relate, and to whom we are responsible. That is the way it is. Something really lacks in our spiritual lives if we do not connect with a spiritual family. We cannot ignore this dimension of God’s Kingdom, nor can we try to connect with spiritual family in a casual way. To recognize our need for spiritual family, and then to cultivate it, requires sacrifice and work. It forces us into carrying our crosses in ways we cannot accomplish in our privatized little worlds (even if we pray for long periods everyday).
Just remember. Living “church” this way will not always be easy, nor will it always satisfy our cravings for instant spiritual gratifcation. But it will always be rewarding.
Commit to a house church. Connect with your spiritual family. Spend time together. Develop relationships. Help one another. Pray for one another. Pray with one another. Do mission together. Go through the tough times together. Join forces through the trials and triumphs of life. Do the hard work of dealing with one another’s issues with grace and commitment. Dare to develop Christ’s character amid the realities of life together (Acts 2:42; 1 Cor 12-14).
We must be aware of our own hearts in order to be powerful. That may sound self-absorbed, but it really is not. Selfishness places personal desires above others. But humble and healthy self-awareness seeks to improve areas of weakness in order to serve others more effectively.
Paul told Timothy to “pay close attention to yourself and your teaching,” (1 Tim 4:6), and he told the Ephesians to “watch carefully how you walk” (Eph 5:15). Jesus told His disciples several times to “watch over themselves” against certain problems like failing to pay attention to His teaching (Luke 8:18); hypocrisy (12:1); relating wrongly to others (17:3); or getting weighed down in the last days (21:34). He held His disciples responsible for habits developing in their own hearts.
Proverbs 4:23 says, “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.”
Be aware of the fruit your heart is producing areas like:
- Time consumption
In our western context, so full of distractions and luxuries, we tend to ignore the important things about our hearts and pamper the superficial things. Don’t do that. Be a mindful, sober follower of Jesus. Let the main focus of your heart be on Him (Psa 27:4, 8; 1 Pet 3:15), and then watch over the life-flow that proceeds out of your heart. Do not assume that, just because you spend time in prayer or your “heart is in the right place,” your whole life is automatically centered on Jesus. It’s not that simple. We must steward several areas of our lives at the same time.
Pay attention to yourself in the Holy Spirit, and be open to God’s correction and healing grace. Be an integrated person by staying connected to your own heart. If we disconnect from our own hearts in Christ, we will disintegrate.
Even though we are ultimately responsible for stewarding our own hearts, we still need help and encouragement. For this we have our natural and spiritual families. But we need another level of spiritual connection to maximize personal discipleship – a greater challenge that takes house church to a deeper level. This is where our comrades come in.
Comrades should be a small group of people of the same gender. I would recommend at least two, but no more than four. These are trusted brothers or sisters with whom we can candidly share issues of the heart that we cannot naturally share in a larger, more diverse house church.
These close friends would meet with some frequency – maybe once every week or two weeks for an hour or an hour and a half. They should seek the Lord for a plan depending on their needs or desires. Perhaps they can read through a certain book of the Bible or a discipleship resource that speaks to an area in which they want to grow. After discussing that week’s reading, they can spend the second half of the meeting applying its contents to one another through prayer, prophecy, and exhortation.
This group would help one another walk out biblical truth in the context of real life situations. Comrades would pray for one another, lovingly hold one another accountable, encourage one another, and even keep up with one another during the week.
Our comrade connection specifically helps us with our heart connection.
But also note that this group of comrades is not meant to replace our spouses, nor our parents if we are young and still live at home. Rather, they provide a safe, unique zone of friendship for support, accountability, and encouragement that supplements these others.
These are people with whom our lives intersect in the world. They are work colleagues, neighbors, fellow students, fellow parents of students, acquaintances from other social circles, family members, or people we meet in the marketplace of life who do not know the Lord.
These are people God providentially connects with us. He is already at work in them, and has called us to be their friends in order to show them His love. Sometimes these connections consist of momentary encounters that plant a seed for the gospel. Other times they are actual friendships. In either case, God wants us to connect with people who need Him because we care about them as human beings.
He does not want us merely to “witness” to them (though sometimes that’s all we can do); He wants us to love them as the relational context of our witness. Often these relationships get opened through the Spirit’s supernatural activity. These precious people may experience a healing, answered prayer, or word of knowledge through you. But the foundation and sustenance of the relationship is love.
Pray for these opportunities! Seize them (Col 4:5; Eph 5:15-16)! Search for these friendships (Matt 10:11). People need the gospel of the kingdom! Some of these relationships may be keys to leading others to the Lord also (such people are called “sons of peace”). We cannot forget that people need the Lord. Jesus has called us to make disciples. Everything else serves this purpose. And friendship serves as the most effective context for discipleship.
When members of Christ’s body create strong relational grids out of the first four connections, they provide new disciples with a powerful Kingdom culture in which they may be immersed and discipled (1 Cor 12:13).
Connections are the key to life in the Kingdom. They are the sincere, healthy, loving relationships through which the mystery of Christ can spread and infect hearts with the increasing glory of eternal life.
Work hard to cultivate The Five Vital Connections for Powerful Living:
- God: connect with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit everyday and throughout the day through worship, prayer, and meditation.
- Family: connect with natural family everyday; connect with spiritual family – in gathering and outside of gathering – throughout the week for mutual discipleship, vision, strength, and growth.
- Heart: connect with your own heart; be aware in the Spirit of what your heart is producing in order to grow honestly with the help of God and comrades.
- Comrades: connect weekly with close friends of the same gender for encouragement, accountability, and growth.
- Friends: connect with people in the world around you to express God’s love and the gospel of Jesus Christ.