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To transform a life it takes a group

By: Steve Mills

The first function of Life Transformation Groups removes barriers to redemption. The second function removes blocks to growth, and the third invites individuals to open themselves to God’s transforming power and grace through spiritual disciplines and a life of gift-oriented service.

Is it possible that in the church today there is an overemphasis on leadership? Could all the focus on leadership be creating a cultlike imbalance? Is our obsession with leadership in reality only a noble appearing facade for the self-serving individualism of our culture?

In his book, Leader to Leader, Warren Bennis wrote:

"Personal leadership is one of the most studied topics in American life. Indeed, I have devoted a big chunk of my professional life to better understanding its workings. Far less studied–and perhaps more important–is group leadership. The disparity of interest in those two realms of leadership is logical, given the strong individualist bent of American culture. But the more I look at the history of business, government, the arts, and the sciences, the clearer it is that few great accomplishments are ever the work of a single individual.

"Our mythology refuses to catch up with our reality. And so we cling to the myth of the Lone Ranger, the romantic idea that great things are usually accomplished by a larger-than-life individual working alone. Despite the evidence to the contrary–including the fact that Michelangelo worked with a group of 16 to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel–we still tend to think of achievement in terms of the Great Man or the Great Woman, instead of the Great Group." (Chapter 31 in Leader to Leader; Online Preview)

Groups – youth groups, children’s groups, men’s and women’s groups, Sunday school classes – are a fundamental part of any church. Groups are critical in the spiritual development of believers and Christian leaders.

But just having groups does not mean that a church is developing fully devoted followers of Christ. Groups may meet for years and accomplish little of eternal value in the lives of the participants or in reaching the lost.

Groups that transform lives are healthy. Life Transformation Groups (LTG) by their very nature naturally reproduce spiritual fruit in the lives of the members and in the advancement of Christ’s kingdom.

Every group in the church should be a Life Transformation Group: Sunday school classes, home groups, greeter group, ushers, men’s groups, the janitors, and the group that meets to work on the church. Some might ask, "How can the janitors or the ushers or the greeters become a Life Transformation Group? They are just doing a task."

A large church in Billings, Montana, has grown to over 4,000 in attendance in the last few years. Recently, a colleague and I stopped by the church on a Monday afternoon. We introduced ourselves to a man working there and asked if someone could tell us a little about the church. He said that he would be glad to but needed to give some instructions to several teenage boys who were working with him. He then gave us a tour throughout which he shared with enthusiasm what God was doing in the church.

Before we left he said, "We have only four full-time custodians for this large facility. We hire teenage boys who come from single-parent homes. We consider it our ministry to be positive role models for them and help them learn how to work."

This group of four custodians, along with their teenage apprentices, was a Life Transformation Group. They didn’t spend their whole time studying the Bible but were living out biblical faith, thus nurturing those boys to become fully devoted followers of Christ, facilitating life-changing encounters with Christ, and ministering to their needs. This is possible for every group in the church.

Let’s look at what makes Life Transformation Groups tick. Some characteristics are common to all.

They have a shared and compelling dream.

At the very heart of the group is the compelling sense of a God-given mission. They believe they can make a difference and change the world. This shared dream builds unity, camaraderie, resourcefulness, and energy.

They are guided by core values.

Life Transformation Groups have deeply held core values that dominate, drive, and guide their lives and activities. They act in congruence with these core values. These core values keep the group stable, guarding them from compromising with fads and trends, yet giving them the drive to adapt and change without compromise. One church in Washington state claims as a core value, "We will seek to reach the unchurched, not the churched." This conviction determines the kind of ministries they provide and to whom and how they promote their ministries.

They define spiritual maturity as obedience.

When Jesus began His earthly ministry, the religious leaders were defining spirituality as faithfulness to the Law. The more frequently one practiced the Law, the more spiritual he was.

Life Transformation Groups define spirituality as obedience to Christ. The objective is to grow into a life of obedience to the purposes of Christ expressed in both personal and corporate ways.

Their members pay a personal price.

Commitment is not a bad word. In fact, commitment is essential to membership. People seldom rise higher than the level at which they were recruited into the group. Therefore, a group that requires little or no commitment discovers that members soon become passive, complacent, and uninvolved.

Developing people is based on commitment. Members pay a personal price with their time, priorities, and resources, but they are rewarded by seeing the greater cause, the group, become a reality. This in turn motivates them to pay an even greater price.

They know they have a real enemy.

Life Transformation Groups are conscious and discerning of the spiritual enemy of our lives and souls. This is not a mystical or fabricated awareness. It is a real understanding that we "wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers" (Ephesians 6:12). They fight the good fight through faith and obedience, love and forgiveness.

They produce and reproduce.

Members know they are trying to produce fully devoted followers of Christ. If this is not happening, they seek to find answers and new approaches. In other words, they know that they are not meeting just as a social club or therapy group. They are meeting to transform lives who in turn reproduce spiritual fruit through their lives and by reaching and discipling others.

These groups perceive themselves as successful only when they are reproducing.

These groups know how to bring out the best in people.

Like successful coaches, these groups are able to place the right people in the right positions at the right time. They intentionally identify, nurture, place, and coach people to maximum potential. They see the group as a team with each member faithfully and conscientiously filling his or her position on the team at a given point in time.

They don’t try to appeal to everyone.

Life Transformation Groups are clear about the values and vision. They know what they are trying to achieve and don’t have room for those who are unwilling to live out the demanding standards and objectives of the group. Their example is Jesus who knew that not everyone would be willing to be part of the group. He didn’t exclude people. He was simply very clear about His mission and values.

They don’t make methods sacred.

They know there is nothing sacred about a certain approach or method. Through their willingness to experiment through trial and error, they often discover increased effectiveness in ministry.

They are always seeking to improve.

Because they fully understand what they are trying to accomplish – reproducing disciples, leaders, and groups – they continually seek to improve. The primary question is, "How can we do better tomorrow than we did today." They believe they can be more effective, no matter what they have accomplished already.

Simply put, Life Transformation Groups provide the climate for true spiritual formation in the lives of individuals and the church as a whole, so "we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit" (2 Corinthians 3:18, NIV).


Bennis, Warren, Leader to Leader, (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, Inc., 1997)

Collins, James C. and Jerry I. Porras, Built to Last (New York: HarperCollins, 1994)

Schwarz, Christian, Natural Church Development (Carol Stream, Illinois: Emmelsbull, Germany C& P Publishing and Church Smart Resources, 1998)

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