Resurgence roundup, 5/24/13
Fri May 24, 2013
The places grace empowers us
Thu May 23, 2013
by Justin Holcomb
‘Each next risk is the biggest one’: James MacDonald talks with Mark Driscoll
Wed May 22, 2013
by Mark Driscoll
Tue May 21, 2013
by Amanda Edmondson
From prison to ReTrain: Russell’s story
Mon May 20, 2013
You Can’t Download Redemption
How Do We Start Our Own Redemption Groups?
I’m often asked by churches: How do we get the book, workbook, and leader’s guide so we can start our own Redemption Groups? In our network of churches, many of us share a common set of assumptions about biblical counseling and how to help hurting and addicted people. That might lead one to think that it’s a straightforward process to get the relevant information and apply the ideas in a small group. Yet, experience has shown time and again that to take this approach—grab the info and go—is to skip something very important. Simply put: you can’t download Redemption.
Let's Clarify "Redemption"
To clarify some perhaps confusing terms, by “Redemption” I’m not referring to the redemption planned by God the Father, accomplished by Jesus Christ, and applied to believers by the Spirit—surely, no one believes you can download that. The Redemption I’m referring to here is a particular redemptive ministry model involving intense, gospel-centered “recovery” groups. As I consult with pastors who want to launch their own Redemption Group ministries, I have often sensed that many of us in church leadership are stuck in a discipleship rut; we hope to achieve transformation by transferring information. And when that doesn’t work, we look for another piece of information. Inevitably, we go insane, spinning in this cul-de-sac of trading one package of information for another, hoping for better results.
I have often sensed that many of us in church leadership are stuck in a discipleship rut; we hope to achieve transformation by transferring information.
Exploring Redemption—the book that forms the curricular foundation for Redemption Groups—and its accompanying tools is a fine place to start. You want to make sure the theology and counseling philosophy are biblically sound. But Redemption Groups are greater than the sum of these parts: Amazon can ship the parts, but can’t deliver the whole. That’s because Redemption Groups are not just a vehicle for transferring the information in the Redemption book, nor the doctrines of redemption, nor how-to techniques for walking free. They are a vehicle for enacting the Christian life, for practicing the crying out, comforting, encouraging, exhorting, admonishing, rebuking, confessing, pleading, praying, and bearing of burdens. That's supposed to be the stuff of everyday Christian community according to the New Testament.
Knowing Is More Than Thinking
Now, before you say “of course, we already know all about that”, consider this: We have heard about these practices and confessionally assented to them, but the actual doing is much more difficult and far too rare. We think we know; but as it turns out, knowing is more than thinking.
Lately, I’ve been provoked by James K.A. Smith, who emphasizes the role of Christian practices in shaping us. He refers to these as liturgies, not necessarily in the strict sense of how some Sunday morning church services are structured, but in the broader sense of “rituals of ultimate concern”. Here’s a helpful review of one of Smith’s books.
These practices—these liturgies—are not just done by us; they also do something to us. You see, we practice what we love, and we are changed in the process. We are often unaware that this is going on because most of the time we act on what we want and move toward what we love (not necessarily what we say we think or believe).
How Does This Play Out?
This is what happens when a Christian who knows it’s wrong, does it again, and again in the death cycle of addiction. His heart loves what he “knows” he should hate. Yet, he has practiced loving what should be hated until it has become second nature like riding a bike. He has loved what is corrupt and reaped corruption.
By God’s grace, all is not lost for God loves us first and his Spirit works in us to love him and others in response. That love flourishes, is transformed, and transforms us as it is practiced. In other words, we become what we worship, to borrow the title of G.K. Beale’s biblical theology of idolatry. Those whose loves are controlled by idols become like them; those whose loves are controlled by Jesus become like him.
The Redemption book echoes all of that, but Christian community is where it’s actually practiced. Redemption Groups are a particularly intense and shaping form of that community. They are a place for practicing redemption, which results in deep transformation. Admittedly, to be theologically precise, you can't really practice redemption any more than you can download Redemption. It’s what God does for us and we receive by faith. But if you would, please allow me this play on words for a moment to make my point.
Since what happens in a Redemption Group is caught more than taught, I strongly encourage churches who want to explore Redemption Groups for themselves to participate in a Redemption Group Immersion or find some other way to get a feel for what happens in a Redemption Group. It’s definitely not just about processing information. A number of churches have reported how eye-opening these experiences have been; this blog post tells one of those stories.
A Community on Fire
One last thing: because Redemption Groups are proven catalysts of gospel-centered culture change within churches, it’s essential that elder teams are unified around their desire to encourage this kind of change. Once the wildfire starts, it’s hard to put out—which is either a good thing or a bad thing, depending on whether you really want to have a community on fire.
For more on Redemption, check out the Re:lit book, Redemption, where Pastor Mike dives into the Exodus events and how the gospel is the centerpiece to counseling.