Life Groups at Austin Ridge in Drip

 The mission of Life Groups at the Ridge is “to connect people in community, to invest in their spiritual growth, encourage them to serve others, and multiply disciple-makers.”

For us, it is both a connection strategy as well as a discipleship strategy. We do want to find places for newcomers to connect, closing the back door, so to speak. But we see groups primarily as a discipleship strategy. Discipleship is taking people from where they are and helping them get where King Jesus wants them, increasingly submitting all of life to his good and gracious rule so that Jesus becomes central in everything. The goal of these groups is multiplication. Jesus commanded us to make disciples and teach them to observe everything Jesus commanded, part of which was to make disciples (Matt. 28:18-20). So, we want to make disciples who make disciples.

Why Life Group’s?

Three main reasons: Jesus, community, and mission. First, Jesus. It is all about him. We are not just a social club and not merely a mission group but the blood-bought people of Jesus, sent on mission to spread his glory. We have been gripped by Jesus, who calls us into community and sends us out on mission. We want to see people come to know Jesus and go deeper with Jesus.

Second, community. We tend to think in individual terms as Westerners, but the purpose of the cross and resurrection was to create a people on mission, not just a bunch of isolated individuals. Think about the 50-something “one another’s” in the New Testament. We are called to love one another, outdo one another in honor, confess our sins to one another, bear one another’s burdens, serve one another, be kind to one another, encourage one another, be hospitable to one another, and on and on. They are everywhere in Scripture! Obviously, we cannot obey most of these commands on Sunday mornings. God had more in mind for his bride, the church, when He sent His Son to die for her than merely an hour on Sundays. To be faithful to Jesus and his body, we must have smaller contexts in which to do life together. For New Testament community, we must value circles and not just rows. On Sunday morning, the person next to you may have just lost a job or a spouse and tragically, you would never know it.

Read the description of the first Christians in Acts 2:42-47:

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.“

The early church was devoted to Scripture, to sharing life together, to eating together all the time, and to praying. They were on mission together in the everyday stuff of life. And they were devoted to these things. They had to say no to what is ultimately trivial in order to say yes to that which is ultimate. They were committed to intentionally Christian relationships.

Third, mission. This is often missing, even though it is our primary calling. In Acts 1, Jesus tells his disciples, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Witnessing to the truth of Jesus is not just something we do on occasion. It is who we are. It is our identity. We are witnesses. True community comes from being on mission together. We don’t have Acts 2 community without Acts 1 mission. The reason groups get static and stale is due to lack of mission. Think about it. Have you ever been on a mission trip? Don’t you go deep with that group? You go deep in community when you are on mission together. Mission is fundamental to who we are as Christians. This is because God is a missionary God. He is the sending God. He sends the Son and the Son sends the Spirit and the Spirit sends the church. If you are a Christian, you are an everyday informal missionary. You are all in full time ministry (Eph 4:11-13). God funds some of his missionaries through Dell, construction companies, hospitals, and schools. He funds his ambassadors through numerous means. We want you to see yourself as part of the mission of God and be all in on this. We want you to see Dripping Springs as the mission field God has called you to and groups as the engine for community and mission locally.

What is the Church?

One of the reasons we do not value Life Groups as we ought is because our view of the church is off. I am convinced that most of us operate as if the church is a building. The church is not a what, but a who, contrary to the way we speak. We speak of “going to church,” but this is biblically wrong. The church is not a building; the church is not an event; the church is not an institution with a mortgage. The church is the forgiven people of God sent on mission together for the glory of Christ. One of my favorite definitions of the church is “God’s family of missionary servants sent to make disciples who make disciples.”

When it comes to effective mission, we have to get this right. Most missiologists agree that 60% of people in the Southern United States will not take us up on an invitation to a Sunday service. If that is right, how will we reach Dripping Springs for Jesus? Through the people of God. Through the master’s plan: disciples who make disciples in the everyday stuff of life.


Life Group leadership at the Ridge is a frontline, top-level leadership role. We want our best folks leading life groups. We are looking for people who lead self, lead others, and mobilize.

A person who leads self is someone who first and foremost loves Jesus and loves people. They walk with the Lord. They are constantly turning from sin to the Lord. They understand the gospel. They love the Word and are growing in their understanding of it. They desire to help others grow. They will be committed to the Ridge as well, as members who attend training events, connect with their coach when contacted, and reads resources when given them. We want folks to take ownership as a Life Group leader.

To lead others is to care for the people in your group. Pray for them regularly. Connect with them frequently. This role is more than the f-word: facilitator. You are a shepherd to this group. We do not expect the leader to do everything though! Delegate according to gifts. Identify and empower the body of Christ. Appoint others to lead point on things like social events, service projects, meals, childcare, etc.

A mobilizer is one who grows the group. One who is constant looking outward. Find local service opportunities. A leader will be expected to identify and empower an apprentice. An apprentice is the person or couple who will be the leader of the next group when the current group multiplies. Success is multiplication. Success is an outward focus. The leader as mobilizer will have to constantly cast vision and push against becoming ingrown. Again, true community will not happen if we are not on mission together.

That’s it. Lead self, lead others, and mobilize. If you are intimidated, don’t be. You have the Spirit of God. You have the Word of God. You will have support from pastors and coaches, always an email or call away. God wants you off the sidelines and in the game. Those who never make mistakes never make anything. We ought to fear inactivity more than we fear mistakes. Step out and take a risk for the kingdom. You will grow in the process. Even if the group isn’t a success, failure is an opportunity to begin again intelligently. God has always used ordinary people who are available to Him. This is work that matters. “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Cor 15:58).

Elements of a Life Group

The five main elements of a Life Group are prayer, study, play, serve, and multiply.

With prayer, we want to be praying God-centered prayers. Prayer time can easily become a time for organ recitals: Lord, please heal Bertha’s bladder, Helen’s hip, and John’s joint pain. Have you ever noticed that such prayers are almost completely absent in the prayers of the first Christians? Take a look at the content of the prayers in Philippians 1:9-11 or Colossians 1:9-12, for example. We also want you to be praying weekly for those the group members know that do not follow Jesus. As with everything, an outward focus!

We will also study the Word together. We grow by the Word (John 17, 1 Pet 2.2). Most groups will go deeper into the text from the sermon. This will cause you to pay closer attention to the sermon and dig deeper into the Text. The leader always grows more than those they are leading! For book and DVD study options, we have a list of several gospel-centered resources.

We also want your group to play from time to time. Have fun, throw parties, go eat, etc. Find what sociologists call “3rd places” to frequent. Those local places that are not work and not home. They are neutral and natural places to hang out. Be intentional when you do so. Invite people in. Increasingly today, people want to belong before they believe.

Life Groups will also serve others. Maybe you start with a goal of your group demonstrating the good news of Jesus once a semester. Jesus Himself did not come to be served, but to serve (Mark 10:45). One of our main places to serve initially will be the middle school we will be meeting in. Seek to be a blessing to the neighborhood the group meets in.

Finally, we want groups to multiply. This is the win. This is how we will reach Drip. At the Ridge, you will hear 2 Timothy 2:2 often. Therein lies the 2/2/2 principle. It reads, “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.” There are four generation in one verse: Paul – Timothy – reliable people – others. This must be our heartbeat. Our lifeblood. We must always be thinking about growing and multiplying. A good goal is to seek to multiply your group every 18-24 months. Mention it often. Invite others in. Find an apprentice. And go! Healthy groups are growing groups. Success is succession. A win is new people coming. So, from the beginning, have all praying and planning about growing and starting new groups. Create a movement! Dripping is ripe.

Trinitarian Missiology

‘As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ Just as the church is called to love
in ways that mirror the eternal relationships of love that Father, Son and Spirit have
shared from all eternity, so the missionary nature of the church derives ultimately
from the missionary nature of God’s own life. . . .

As I have indicated more than once in the foregoing argument, the fundamental
difference between asserting that God has a mission and asserting that God is
missionary is that in the former case the mission may be incidental, disconnected
from who God is; in the latter case, mission is one of the perfections as God, as
adequate a description of who he is as love, omnipotence or eternity. To return to
the slogans this article was written to explore, a missionary church might worship
a God who has a mission, but it is conceivable that such a God could be worshipped
by a non-missionary church; if God is properly described as ‘missionary’, however,
he can only be worshipped by a missionary church. A church that refuses the call to
mission is failing to be the church God calls it to be just as fundamentally as a church
that refuses the call to be loving. Just as purposeful, cruciform, self-sacrificial
sending is intrinsic to God’s own life, being sent in a cruciform, purposeful and self-sacrificial way must be intrinsic to the church being the church.

This might be expressed in credal language. Baptist accounts of what it means
for the church to be ‘apostolic’ have sometimes suggested that continuity in the
apostolic mission is a part of this, alongside (or instead of ) more Catholic accounts
of continuity in the apostolic institution and more Reformed accounts of continuity
in the apostolic doctrine. Exegeting what the Fathers of Nicea and Constantinople
meant in their declarations of faith is a specialist art in which I am not schooled, but
credal interpretation tends, in any case, to proceed through theological argument of
what should be meant, rather than historical argument as to what was meant. An
argument that mission was a mark of the church, without which it is not being what
by grace the triune God has made it, could easily be made, therefore.

--From Stephen R. Holmes, Trinitarian Missiology: Towards a Theology of God as Missionary

You Are a Missionary

You are a missionary. I know what you are thinking, “Not me. I live in the states!” So goes the typical conception of Christians in North America. We are not missionaries, but we know we are supposed to pray for and support them. Now, I don’t mean to denigrate those Christians who have left North America to preach the gospel to other nations. Obviously that is needed and extremely important! Local churches should prioritize financial and prayerful support for foreign missionaries.

What I am concerned with is that those Christians who stay home fill as if they have done their part by praying for sending a check. Not the case. If we simply define missionary as one who is sent by God to tell the gospel to others, then we are all missionaries. A missionary is a person sent to promote the Christian faith. That’s all of us.

Every single Christian is mandated to make disciples. A disciple is one who makes disciples (Matt 28:18-20). Disciple-making is not optional for New Testament Christians.  Every single Christian has been sent. This may strange at first, but think about it. You do believe in the biblical teaching that God is meticulously sovereign, don’t you? “We may throw the dice, but the Lord determines how they fall” (NLT).

Christian, you are not in your city by accident. Before your grandpa’s grandpa had his first job, the Lord knew that you would be working where you are working right now. You live in the neighborhood that you do by divine decree. Acts 17:26 reads, “From one man he created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall, and he determined their boundaries.” That includes your location. You are there because God has put you there. Are you representing his rule well there? Do you neighbors know about him?

Every one of us are sent ambassadors (2 Cor 5:18-21). If America ever was a “Christian nation,” it certainly isn’t now. It is the new mission field. Ask the Lord to grant you his eyes. Are you serious about the Lordship of Christ? How are you seeking to serve your neighbors and gain a hearing for the gospel? Do you know their names? Are you intentional in your workplace? Do you view your co-workers as those who will one day face God in judgment if they do not turn to Christ?

You are a missionary. If you have neglected this aspect of your calling and identity, join me in pursing gospel intentionality all the time in all aspects of life.

“As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” (John 20:21)

Endorsements for "The Best Kept Secret of Christian Mission"

I recently posted a list of my top 20 books, and one of them was John Dickon's recent book, The Best Kept Secret of Christian Mission. This is probably the most helpful book on evangelism I have read. In looking over it again the other day, I was struck by the endorsements. Here they are:

Whereas so many books on evangelism are filled with techniques and strategies, the first and most heartwarming thing to commend about this book is that it is biblical—excitingly, eye-openingly biblical from start to finish, moving backward and forward within the Bible and between the Bible, and offering abundant “case studies” in today’s world. The book’s second great feature is that it is balanced—showing us in just how many ways the Bible speaks about what we can do to promote the gospel. Everything is there, from being bold to being beautiful (yes, even that is biblical), from doing good to doing worship. Here is a book that takes us beyond merely talking about the gospel (without ever leaving that behind) to really living it, and also makes sure that when we do talk about the gospel, we actually have in mind something that the gospel writers and the apostle Paul would recognize. Biblical, balanced, and—well, brilliant. — Christopher J.H. Wright, Author, The Mission of God and The Mission of God's People

This book has the potential to radically change for good your perspective on evangelism. It is required reading at Parkside. — Alistair Begg, Senior Minister, Parkside Church

This is as lively and sensible a book on evangelism as I have seen, especially valuable for bringing out the wide range of activities that need to be carried on in effective Christian witness in contemporary society. It encourages congregations to recognize the varied gifts of their members and to enable each one to be involved in evangelism, even though not all of them may be called to be evangelists in the narrower sense of the term. — Howard Marshall, Professor, University of Aberdeen

When I was asked to review this new book on evangelism, I didn’t know what to expect. But I soon discovered: this is a terrific book! Without compromising or reducing the gospel to pious platitudes, Dickson presents evangelism as the Christ-centered imperative of biblical faith. Theologically rich and practically helpful. — Timothy George, Editor, Christianity Today

John Dickson’s The Best Kept Secret of Christian Mission was not only a great stimulus to my own thinking about evangelism but also proved a real help to our congregation at St. Ebbe’s, Oxford, as we thought through how we could best fulfill our role as Christ’s witnesses. It’s a wonderful mix of thoughtful reflection on the Bible and down-to-earth practical application. — Vaughan Roberts, President, The Proclamation Trust UK

Even—or perhaps especially—if you do not consider yourself to be a gifted evangelist, John Dickson will encourage you from Scripture with many varied ways to promote the gospel of Jesus Christ. — Collin Hansen, Author, Young, Restless, Reformed:A Journalist's Journey with the New Calvinists

John Dickson shows that taking seriously the church’s message, worship, and ecclesiology, along with the biblical call for Christians to impact the social and cultural world around them, does not negate the mandate and high calling of evangelism. In fact, to be ambassadors for the gospel of the kingdom is at the heart of what it means to be a Christian and to change the world. This is a message that needs to be heard. — Jim Belcher, Author, Deep Church

John Dickson has given us a biblically rich and powerfully written book on evangelism. His views are deeply embedded in Scripture and well-rounded. He does not fall into formulas, but encourages us toward a lifestyle of living and speaking the gospel in our culture today. I recommend this book to those whose passion for evangelism has flagged as well as for those who are actively sharing Christ with their friends and neighbors. — Tremper Longman III, Professor, Robert H. Gundry Professor of Biblical Studies, Westmont College

Any twenty-first-century Christian who has felt the dread of proselytizing people into the faith should read John Dickson’s empathetic, confessional treatise on Christian mission. He combines the mind of a scholar with the heart of a pastor to talk to us as fellow Christians about the compelling wonder of Christ for the twenty-first-century world. — David Livermore, Executive Director, Global Learning Center, Grand Rapids MI

Some years ago John Dickson ran an excellent evangelism training course in our local church. The course material—now available in this book—is biblical, liberating, and practical. I commend it as a stimulating resource for congregations and church leadership teams. — Christopher Ash, Director, Cornhill Training Course , London

A biblical, practical, warm, and encouraging book that does exactly what it sets out to do: equip us as the Christian community to promote the gospel. This should become a standard text on the subject. —Michael Frost, Director, Centre for Evangelism and Global Mission, Morling College, Sydney

Having read Dr. Dickson’s published doctoral thesis, I am delighted that he has now produced this highly readable book for all church members in the biblical art of mission today. The style is down-to-earth and lively. I warmly recommend it. — Donald Robinson, Principal of Moore Theological College, Sydney

Here is a compelling case for the involvement of all believers in promoting the gospel, not based on hype or overwrought exegesis but on a profound understanding of Scripture and illustrated with contemporary and moving human experience. A must-read. — Robert Forsyth, Bishop of South Sydney, Anglican Church of Australia

I warmly recommend this book. I have learned from reading it, and I have no doubt that others will as well. It challenged me, encouraged me, and often inspired me. And at my age that’s quite an achievement! — Alister McGrath, President, Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics

In The Best Kept Secret of Christian Mission, John Dickson winsomely demonstrates how each of us can be part of the greatest story ever: God’s mission to our hurting world. He insightfully observes that proclaiming the gospel is not only about witnessing to the reality of God’s worth and uniqueness with our lips but with our very lives—through such everyday but life-transforming acts as prayer, faithfulness, compassion, and worship … I wholeheartedly commend John’s book to you and know you will be richer for his insights. — Ravi Zacharias

“John Dickson presents a bigger picture of evangelism than most of us are used to. We should, he insists, recognise worship, love, prayer, and generosity as all part of “gospel” work. Still more refreshing is the heart of the book: a treatment of Jesus and the Kingdom of God—the message of the four Gospels—as the centre of “the gospel.” God’s good news is about the entire new creation, and ourselves caught up into it; it is not just a mechanism for getting individuals into heaven. Dickson explains the whole picture with so many real-life stories that one cannot fail to be drawn in to the excitement of this many-sided gospel work. Here is a book offering fresh energy for the whole task of the whole people of God.” — N. T. Wright, Bishop of Durham

Dickson offers a thoroughly biblical account of evangelism, informed and enlivened by stories from his own experience. For many who are weary of what often goes by the name evangelism, this book will be a most refreshing and inspiring experience. — Richard Bauckham, Senior Scholar, Ridley Hall, Cambridge

Missional Holiness

"The Christian who learns generosity, kindness or humility as a way of life begins to be noticed. Her friends and neighbours quietly begin to wonder why she seems different, striking, at peace. Some are offended and angered by what they assume is some kind of spirtual superiority; some are drawn to ask the question of why she is like this. The result is the glory of God and the savltaion of people. If such virtue is absent, the non-Christian wonders what all the fuss is about. If Christians don't live in any discernibly different way from all the others, then why should he believe what they say? But if they do live differently,then it challeges, provkes and intrigues. Christian virtue is, at the end of the day, a missionary imperative."

-Graham Tomlin, Spiritual Fitness, 104.

Missional Ecclesiology

"A proper, biblical ecclesiology looks at everything the church is and does in relation to the mission of God in the world. The church does not exist for itself, but for participation in God's mission of reconciliation. 'Mission' is not just an activity carried out by special people in faraway places. Mission is the character of the church in whatever context it exists."

--Lois Barrett in Treasure in Clay Jars, IX

Bible and Mission

The temporal movement of the biblical narrative runs all the way from creation to the eschatological future. It runs from the old to the new, constantly reconstructing the past in memory and constructing the future in expectation. Within this movement mission is movement into the new future of God. It is the movement of the people of God whose identity is found in the narrative of the past but also in their being turned by that narrative towards the coming of God's kingdom in the future."

--Richard Bauckham, Bible and Mission, 13.

The Life of God's Missional People

"In short, as God's covenant people, Christians are meant to be
  • a people who are light to the world by their good lives (1 Pet)
  • a people who are learning obedience and teaching it to the nations (Mt)
  • a people who love one another in order to show who they belong to (Jn)

It would be heard to find a more concise articulation of the integration of Christian ethics and Christian mission."

--Christopher Wright, The Mission of God, 392.

Bill Hybels Repents?

Bill Hybels is more or less the father of the seeker-sensitive church model, that has been adopted by thousands and thousands of churches. His church, Willow Creek in Chicago, is one of the largest and most influential churches in the nation. They recently did some research to see the fruit of their method and found out that a consumerist methodology (church as vendor of religious goods for you) is not producing genuine disciples. Crazy thought huh? I do appreciate the humility demonstrated by the Willow Creek folks. In his own words:

Some of the stuff that we have put millions of dollars into thinking it would really help our people grow and develop spiritually, when the data actually came back it wasn’t helping people that much. Other things that we didn’t put that much money into and didn’t put much staff against is stuff our people are crying out for.

We made a mistake. What we should have done when people crossed the line of faith and become Christians, we should have started telling people and teaching people that they have to take responsibility to become ‘self feeders.’ We should have gotten people, taught people, how to read their bible between service, how to do the spiritual practices much more aggressively on their own.

Read the article here, or watch Hybels talk about it here.

Rob Bell in the Ville

On Nov. 29th, Louisville will welcome Rob Bell on his 'the gods aren't angry tour: Part anthropology, part history, part deconstruction - this is new material that Rob hasn't taught before, exploring how humans invented religion to make themselves feel better.' Tickets are $15. I am very curious to hear what he has to say, and just might drop the cash to go see him. Rebukes are welcome.

Emergent Arrogance

I am all for seeing the kingdom expanded, and for a missional ecclesiology, but I am not for the emergent church. Many times they claim to be more humble than traditional Christianity, but when you are unclear about the things that God has made clear, you have become the epitome of arrogance in the guise of false humility. Doug Pagitt is a key leader in the emergent movement, right beside McLaren. I am not a huge fan of Way of the Master, or this interviewer in particular, but this interview shows Pagitt's ambiguity. Or listen to the main clip here. The scariest part is when Pagitt says that God will interact in judgment with all people in the same way. The context was concerning a Muslim. Granted, the interviewer did a poor job understanding him, but to make that kind of statement is dangerous. Christ has already brought those who have trusted through the judgment. Judgment for followers in Jesus Christ will be completely different than judgment for those who disobey the gospel.

(HT: Reformissionary)

Forthcoming Driscoll Books

Mark Driscoll posts a short reflection on the summer, and God's good gifts. At the end he writes:

Overall, the summer has been good. I also got in a ton of writing this past week and am on pace to publish seven books with Crossway in 2008.
I am looking forward to seeing what he has written. I know he has written a book on the atonement (Death By Love, I think) and am guessing something on church leadership (male elders), and gender issues (complementarian). I am sure they will all be enjoyable and helpful reads.

The Drama of Scripture

"This restoration of the creation will be comprehensive: the whole of human life in the context of the whole creation will be restored. Too often our view of the future has emphasized solely the salvation of the individual person apart from the full creational and relational context in which human beings live their lives. Often the whole of the biblical story seems to revolve around 'me.' Yet the vision of Revelation, indeed, tho whole story of the Bible, leads us to look forward in hope to a creation restored to wholeness. Every facet of it is to be brought back to what God has intended for it. And within that glorious fullness and perfect wholeness, there is a place for us. Redemption is cosmic in its scope." (212)
From "The Drama of Scripture" by Goheen and Bartholomew. Short review here.