The Church As a Training Community
As we have seen, Jesus often talked with individuals about their personal needs and he met frequently with small groups. Chief among these was the little band of disciples whom he prepared to “take over” after his ascension into heaven. It was during one of these times with the disciples that Jesus first mentioned the church.
In the years that followed it was this church of Jesus Christ which continued his ministry of teaching, evangelizing, ministering and training for living. These activities were not seen as the special responsibility of “superstar” church leaders; they were done by ordinary believers working, sharing and caring both for each other and for the non-believers outside of the body. If we read the book of Acts and the Epistles it becomes apparent that the church was not only an evangelizing, teaching, discipline community, it was also a training for living community.
With recent years, we have come to see the value of therapeutic groups in which group members help each other by providing support, challenge, guidance and encouragement that might not be possible otherwise.
Such therapeutic groups need not be limited to counselees meeting with each other and with a trained counselor. Families, study groups, trusted friends, professional colleagues, employee groups and other little bands of people often provide the help that is needed both in times of crisis and as individuals face the daily challenge of living. Local bodies of believers can bring support to the members, healing to troubled individuals, and guidance as people make decisions and move toward maturity.
Can Lifestyle Training Help?
Was the Bible really written as a textbook on how to have the Best “Quality of Life“? It deals with loneliness, discouragement, marriage problems, grief, parent-child relations, anger, fear and a host of other lifestyle situations. As the Word of God, it has great and lasting relevance to the Christian leader/trainer’s work and the needs of the people he ministers to, but it does not claim to be and neither is it meant to be God’s sole revelation about people-helping. In medicine, teaching and other “people-centered” helping fields, mankind has been permitted to learn much about God’s creation through science and academic study. Discovered truth must always be consistent with, and tested against, the norm of revealed biblical truth.
The answer involves our finding a guide/trainer – some person or persons who are committed followers of Jesus Christ, familiar with the theology of his/her faith, trained in lifestyle training and effective as a leader/trainer. Of crucial importance iis that the leader/trainer must be committed to the inspiration and authority of the Bible and as the written Word of God with which all valid Christian leadership and Lifestyle training must agree.
Human beings are far too complicated to always be changed even through the intervention of the most skilled Christian leader/trainer. All trainers have failures, sometimes because of the trainer’s inability or error; more often because the trainee cannot or will not change. But improvement is more likely when the Christian Leader/trainer has some understanding of lifestyle challenges and some knowledge of how to intervene. The following lessons have been written to help with this understanding and we hope they will provide some of the needed knowledge.