This morning, I'm blogging from a hospital waiting room. I'm happy to report that my 78 year old father just had bladder and prostate surgery and came through it just fine. The doctor came out with color pictures showing the work they did with laparoscopic laser surgery. He'll be out and home tomorrow.
After they wheeled him into surgery, my mom, a pastor friend and his wife, and I went down to the cafeteria for some breakfast. As we ate our overpriced-yet-sumptuous powdered eggs and turkey sausage breakfast, the pastor friend told us about a 14 year old mainland Chinese girl who came to Christ shortly after she immigrated to the USA. His comment was powerful: "She didn't change from the outside-in as is the case with so many who make a profession of faith. She was radically transformed into a new creature from the inside-out!" What a great way to explain how she was changed by her introduction and life with Christ.
As I consider the kind of life-change I want to see in those who come to Christ as a result of the small groups in my care, I want inside-out life transformation that doesn't fade away or degrade into rote religious activity (going to Sunday services, showing up for small group, and basically becoming part of the establishment). Some might say that there are two kinds of conversion experiences... big, bold and rapid, and small, incremental change over a much longer period of time. One might even argue that the bold and rapid approach fades too quickly, favoring a slower transformation.
Regardless of the length of time it takes to see visible signs of transformation due to personality type, emotional health, or willingness to change, the process must be from the inside-out and not the outside-in!
For the last few weeks I've been blogging about discipleship, but dad's surgical procedure and the pastor's comment have me chewing on a new aspect of helping new believers just after conversion with deliverance. While this term has been used in a far more pentecostal, "scare the demons out of a person with Holy Ghost power" it not a bad term if defined properly.
When a person first comes to Christ, they may confess a number of sins, which is an excellent practice. Heck, I'm still confessing them myself after 38 years of walking with Christ! However, what most believers from a traditional church background never come to understand is the difference between a fruit sin and a root sin. One can confess fruit sins all day long and he or she will continue to sin in that area. Now if one digs deep to expose the root of a sinful action or attitude and allows Christ to remove it and bring healing to that area of their heart and mind, it bears no more fruit.
Both my wife and I have been through Living Waters, a program from Desert Streams Ministry. It's an intensive, six-month process of examining mother and father wounds, narcissism, etc. Basically, it helps a believer examine and process through their relational and sexual brokenness, bringing each issue to the cross for Christ to deal with and heal (theophostic ministry).
While this intensive program was life changing for both of us, few commit to moving through it because it is so time intensive. Three hours a Sunday for half a year plus a couple of hours of homework per week is just too much for most to imagine moving through. Of course, if you see the depth of your brokenness, it's a lot easier to commit, eh?
This is why I believe it's so important for churches to have a freedom weekend once a quarter for new believers and incoming small group members from other churches or the congregation. They need to see that becoming a new creature is something they allow Christ to do from the inside out. There are a bunch of good materials for this, but far too few churches with small group ministries employ them as a first step for small group membership.
Of course, I do not believe one weekend event is enough, but it raises a permanent flag within the hearts of those who move through it and see they have far more healing to experience. This in turn would create a sense of urgency to go through something much more intense such as a Living Waters program.
Oh what heartache this would save if every incoming small group member, recently saved or brought to Christ as a child, had the opportunity to find freedom from satanic strongholds! If your new small group member assimilation process does not include deliverance, you better get it integrated sooner than later... or you won't have much of a small group ministry.
When the doctor came out to see us and tell us dad's surgery and to show us the before-and-after pictures, he said he used a laser to blast away at the nodules that were causing blockage in dad's bladder. That's just what believers in our small groups need... the time and place and permission for Christ to do a work deep within us to blast away at the strongholds that keep us from walking free of hurt, guilt, and sin!