Two weeks ago, in part one of this three part series,I pointed out the importance of being a part of a Christian Life Group and made this point:Every Christian of all denominations would benefit from participating in a Christian Life Group! In part two, I provided the list of the essential elements necessary for asuccessfulgroup. Today’s subject may be new to most of you, even if you have been in a group for years. Today, I will uncover the essence of the three personality types that make up every group. They are:
- The Inhibitor
- The Unaware
- The Encourager
In a previous 4thdayletter called Recurring Sins,I pointed out that we all seem to struggle with recurring sins that work to separate us from God. I think most people find themselves confessing the same sins over and over. My question to you today is this: aside from God, or for Catholics the priest that you have confessed your sins to, does any oneof your close Christian friends know what your recurring sin is? Be honest, does anyone know about your primary struggle?
Our Christian Life Groups are not designed to be the place to confess our sins; however, they are the place where we discuss what God is revealing to us about us. As we grow in self-knowledge we can see areas of sin and weakness that we need to overcome. In the 4thdayletter Sin by Sin—-Brick by BrickI discussed that by keeping our struggles silent and in the dark they can wall us in. In MasqueradeI discussed how we have become experts in hiding our brokenness. Our brothers and sisters who meet with us weekly in our groups can be instrumental in helping us overcome our weaknesses.Now let’s now dig into the three personality types.
The Inhibitor:This is an interesting personality type. No one ever sets out to be the inhibitor. Being the inhibitor in the group is usually an accident. It is most frequently an off handed careless remark that keeps someone else in the group from opening up. Unfortunately, as I pointed out inGlass Houses, in most circumstances where there is no Christian influence, people tend to take delight in someone else’s struggles. Through Christian Life Groups, we try to do just the oppositeby lifting each other up and helpingwhenwe stumble.
I believe most of us would prefer to keep our brokenness a secret. I know that was the case for me. I was member of a couple of different Christian Life Groups over the past 25 years.For 23of those years,I keptsome of my personal struggles asecret. Because of pride and fear of embarrassmentI never felt safe enough to share my struggle. Let me explain why.
Many times I would come to my group meetings wanting to tell my friends about an area of brokenness in my life that was clouding my relationship with God. On the days I was planning onbringing up my struggles, during the small talk, someone in the group would make a joke or say something negative about someone else who was dealing with the very same issue I was. Then, because of my embarrassment, I would choose to remain silent that day and not bring it up. For yet another day I would remain walled in by shame. Those days turned into weeks, and weeks turned into years…23 years of silence in my group to be exact.
I want to make this point very clear- the men in my Christian Life Groups are some of my closest Christian friends.They never intentionally made a joke or said something to inhibit me in any way.When wemake a joke or speak with a level of righteous indignation towards another person not in the group, we can harm someone in our own group who struggles with the very same thingwe are making fun of.
Are you the Inhibitor in your group? What things are you saying off handedly that keep someone else in your group from bringing up their struggles? Maybe someone in your group struggles with greed, envy, gossiping, cheating on their taxes, maybe it is lust or an addiction to pornography. Maybe they have a temper issue with their spouse or children. Maybe they are involved in anadulterous affair. Be sure of one thing, everyone in your group is a sinner! Most sins cause shame and embarrassment. Are your off the cuff remarks or your demeaning remarks keeping someone in your group from opening up? Be careful of what you say.
Next we have The Unaware. This may be the easiest of the three personality types to explain.The Unaware personality type is not in tune to the needs of others. They do not saythings that would prevent someone else in the group from discussing their brokenness. I am not even trying to imply this personality is self-absorbed or self-centered. This personality type just simply misses the signs or words of others in the group who are struggling. They hear someone else in a group say something but this personality type misses the fact that the other person is truly struggling. It is not because they are disinterested or lazy; they just miss their friend’s signal that they are in fact struggling with something. Usually the Unaware filters the other persons problem through their own experiences and if their friend’s issue was not an issue for them personally, they can’t see how it could be a real issue for their friend either, consequently they take no action.Are you missing the signs that othersin your groupmay be struggling?
Finally, there is The Encourager. This personality type has their antennas up. They are quick to recognize when someone in the group might be holding back on something they really want to bring to discussion, but for whatever reason can’t. This personality type recognizes the necessity to reach out to the person in need and, in fact, they do just that. Let me give you an example.
Notlong ago, I was riding ina car for several hours with twofriends of minefrom my Christian Life Group. I asked them if they have things that they hold back and were unwilling to share in the group. They both indicated that they too had some areas of sin and brokenness thatthey held back from discussing. Now, one of my friends had his antennas up during this discussion. He detected that there was something bothering me. A few days after that car ride he sent me an email. He sent me this message: “Brian it appears that maybe you have something that is bothering you and that you need to discuss, if so I am here for you.” I ignored that email because I was still unsure it was safe to talk about. He sent a second email a few days later asking me if I had received the first one. I ignored it too. A week or so later he send a third one.
This third time I all but heard the cock crow. I thought of Peter’s denial, and I knew my friend was trying to be Christ to me, so I clearly knew I must respond to my friend’s invitation. I felt that God had placed him there. I emailed him back and agreed to meet. In our meeting,I told my friend about areas in my life that were impairing my relationship with God.He listened; he cared; and when our discussion was concluded, he said he really appreciated my willingness to be vulnerable, open and honest. He told me he had great respect for me. He told me he understood my inability to discuss it for all those years.The bottom line, my friend was Christ for me that day. He was non-judgmental and caring. His actions began my healing process.
This is how the Encourager can bring Christ to someone’s brokenness. Are you being an encourager for others? Unless you open the door and make it safe for someone to share, they may never do it, and they will remain walled in by sin and shame. It is up to you to take the first step.
Now my friends let me make the key point.At different times in our Christian Life Groups we are all three personality types. Take the time to study these three. Pray that God will show you how to avoid being an Inhibitor or an Unaware personality. Ask God to help you to become a more consistent Encourager! Perhaps as a group you could print off all three parts of this series on Christian Life Groups and discuss them.
Christian Life Groups are essential on our Christian journey. It is God, to whom we confess and seek forgiveness. When we are open about our struggles with others in our group,God can manifest Himself in our Christian friends and through these friendships rooted in Christ, we can find the grace and strength to break the chains of our recurring sinful habits.
How is your group doing? Has it become too mechanical? Does everyone in the group know how the others in the group are doing with their Communication, Illumination and Evangelization? Does everyone in the group know what the other members of the group are struggling with in their journey to sainthood? Make a commitment to improve your group today. Make sure your group provides a safe zone. It is not important that we open up to everyone in the group but it is vitally important that we open up to someone.
If you have a personal struggle that you just can’t seem to discuss with your group or anyone else, I am here for you. Feel free to email me by clicking here. Tell me what your struggle is so that I can pray for you. If you want, I am willing to talk and discuss this issue with you. I found great peace in getting my struggle out into the light of day. I know you will to.
Dear Heavenly Father thank you for the gift of Christian fellowship. Help us to always be in tune to the needs of others in our group and give us the strength and grace to be the Encourager to our friends. Help our groups to always be a safe zone in which to share. Amen!