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The Origin and Purpose of Lifekeys

Careforce Lifekeys was founded by Dr Allan Meyer and Helen Meyer during their 26 years of leadership at Careforce Church, Mt. Evelyn, Australia.  It comprises this Facilitator Training Program and a range of structured courses developed in their local church to address the need for restoration and discipleship.  These courses quickly proved to be effective in reaching the wider unchurched community as well.  When those who had benefited from a Lifekeys course invited friends, neighbours, family members and others to get help where they had found help themselves, people who had never considered going to a church for help in the past were able to “taste and see that the Lord is good.” Other churches in the city began to take note of what was happening at Mt. Evelyn, came to learn, and successfully began to apply the ministry in their own congregations.  As a result Careforce Lifekeys came to be embraced by thousands of churches from all denominations around Australia, New Zealand and other countries around the world.
 

When people come to Christ they bring with them the wounds and collateral damage of life in a broken world.  People need restoration and Jesus Christ expects his church to be a restoring community.  When the oil and wine of truth and amazing grace are genuinely applied to those wounds, and that damage is undone, people experience the goodness of God, his kingdom comes, and the hearts of people are made strong for life and service.  If the church does not function as a restoring community those wounds and that damage may remain unresolved, even after years of Christian life and church attendance.
 

God helped us become a restoring community.  We encountered many Christians who had struggled with unresolved life issues; some were courageously coping while waiting for a cure, some were stuck and deeply disillusioned with their faith life, others had withdrawn from church life altogether.  As we pioneered the Lifekeys ministry we saw many of these people restored to faith and function.  People who had given up hope discovered new life as they gained understanding into their issues, their faith was revived, and they were empowered to make changes that led to wholeness and freedom.  What we learned over those years we live to share.  Careforce Lifekeys exists to assist churches in their calling as restoring communities; places where God’s restoring character can be revealed in Christ.  We exist to help churches cultivate the essential elements of a restoring community and provide tools to assist in the work of restoring and reconciling a broken community to the love and grace of God.


As we learned how to function better as a restoring community we found connections with our community we had never had before.  Lifekeys became an effective bridge into the community.  Many who had previously no connection with a life of faith participated in a program, encountered Christ, found a saving relationship with him and became part of the life of the church.  The potential for the church to touch the local community by meeting people at the point in their lives where they KNOW they need help remains one of the greatest untapped evangelistic tools available to the church today.


The Facilitator Training program has been designed to equip leaders to effectively facilitate the small group process for any of the Careforce Lifekeys programs.  However the skills and insights imparted through this training program makes it suitable for equipping small group leaders for any purpose.  People involved in Pastoral Care, Connect Group leaders, leaders involved in Alpha programs, leaders involved in discipleship or any kind of Home Group or Bible Study group will be enhanced in their capacity to lead effectively.

 

THEOLOGICAL FOUNDATIONS


THE CENTRAL MINISTRY OF CHRIST IS RESTORATION:

When Jesus Christ chose Isaiah 61 to explain the purpose of his ministry (Luke 4:16-21) he established his job description as that of Restoration.  The foundation of our restoration is the forgiveness of sins, but the saving work of Jesus Christ goes beyond the forgiveness of our sins. 

“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favour, …”  Is 61:1-2 (ESV)

 

 

·         Bringing “good news to the poor” involves the informing of our thinking to allow for the renewing of our minds.

·         To “bind up the broken-hearted” involves the healing of emotional damage.

·         To “proclaim liberty to the captives” and the “opening of the prison to those who are bound” involves new steps of obedience and life opportunity.

 

The ministry of Jesus is intended to have such profound restorative impact in the lives of broken people that they can be described in this way:

 

·          “… that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified.”  Is 61:3 (ESV)

 

The glory of God is a human being fully restored.  God thinks the greatest advertisement to His character is a broken human life restored to the place that could be described as an “oak of righteousness.”

 

Jesus Christ, the head of the church, embraced this as his job description.  The church is his body.  Since this is the job description of the head – it has become the job description of his body.  Careforce Lifekeys is committed to encouraging churches to embrace their calling and learn to function with increasing effectiveness as places of restoration in Jesus name.

 

THE ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS FOR RESTORATION:

 

Isaiah 61 not only reveals God’s passion for restoration, it also reveals the necessary elements involved in the process of restoration.  For restoration to be effected the necessary elements must be present.

 

(a) The Presence and Power of the Spirit:

 

“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me …”

 

Human beings are more than physics and chemistry.  Human beings are a miracle of clay and spirit.  Restoration is more than giving people better advice and encouraging them to try harder in the future.  Restoration involves the reconciliation of a human being to the heart and life of God – a life empowered by his Spirit.

 

The work of the Spirit in restoration is profound.  Jesus did not begin his ministry until the Spirit of God had been poured out on him without measure at the baptism of John.  Christ then poured out that Spirit on his body at Pentecost in Acts 2.

 

The work of the Spirit in restoration involves the miracle of conversion or the “new birth”.  “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.”  (John 3:6.  The work of the Spirit in restoration also includes the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, deliverance, the power of spiritual warfare, developing the fruit of the Spirit, a growing devotional life, nurturing the presence of God, putting on the armour of God, inner healing, forgiveness and transformation – are all the outcome of the presence and power of the Spirit.

 

The church is a temple made of living stones, a place for the dwelling of the Spirit.  To bring a person into the orbit of a Spirit-filled people is to give them an environment conducive to their own personal encounter with the Spirit. 

It is part of what makes engaging in restorative ministry so evangelistic – people come into the orbit of the presence and power of the Spirit and with that presence comes an amazing opportunity for encounter.

 

The presence and power of the Spirit is essential for the ultimate restoration of any human heart – and the church is the dwelling place of the Spirit.

Have confidence in your church as the Body of Christ, the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit.  This is the first essential element in restoration.

 

(b) The Cognitive impact of the Word of God:

 

“… the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; …”

 

Throughout the Bible the Spirit and the Word work together.  Restoration requires more than a Spirit-filled environment. We are spiritual beings, but additionally we are also cognitive beings.

 

Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.  Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  John 8:31-32.

 

The parable of the sower – the first parable of the Kingdom of God – highlights the primacy of hearing, embracing and holding on to the Word of God.  Truth is like DNA – it has the power to unpack in a human heart and produce the very life it contains.  For restoration to be effected in people’s lives it requires more than sitting in a group sharing mutual ignorance, regardless of how much empathy a person might find in that environment.  Truth must be told; it must be laid out carefully and completely for transformation to be a possibility. 

 

Jesus summarized the good news in these words:  “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is has come near.”  Mat 4:17.

 

The word for REPENT, is the word metanoia.  It means, “to turn the mind”.  You used to think one thing – but your thoughts are not His thoughts.  Turn your mind – your thinking – and embrace a new thought and the life that goes with it.  For this reason the Lifekeys courses are built around a teaching process in which truth is unpacked in every session before the group discussion takes place.  When people hear truth and allow it to impact their thinking the Kingdom of Heaven draws near.  All things are possible when the Kingdom of Heaven draws near.

 

Often the missing element in a struggling life is a lack of understanding. 

The Bible says in Ephesians 4:18 we are “…alienated from the life of God through ignorance.”  Ignorance helps nobody.  Into the Spirit-filled atmosphere words need to be spoken; words that illuminate, explain, give insight, and shine a light on the changes that must be made for life to flourish.

 

For this cause it is important to construct a curriculum that addresses issues in depth and detail.  Sometimes marriages never improve for lack of understanding and insight.  Survivors of abuse struggle without the insight to the challenges they must face to be well.  A person can attend a church for many years and yet never hear a specific and detailed exposition that addresses an area of need – so the struggle goes on without resolution.  But let the truth be unpacked in detail and suddenly change and healing become possible. 

 

Every Careforce Lifekeys course is a curriculum devoted to unpacking truth and insight in an area of common human struggle – expose a person the to the truth and the truth can set them free.

 

(c) An Emotionally Safe and Nurturing Environment:

 

“ … he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, …”

 

For restoration to be effected we need the presence and power of the Spirit, the breaking open of the Word, and an environment that appreciates the importance of addressing the emotions.

 

It is not enough to provide a download of truth in a Spiritual environment.  Restoration requires more than an educational experience – it requires an environment of safety, kindness, and nurture – the truth in love; an environment that brings restoration to emotions as well.

 

This is not always easy for Christians to do.  There is a tension between truth and grace and without deliberate care we tend to polarise around one or the other.  Grace, unconditional love, acceptance and forgiveness are often seen as incompatible with truth – truth seems to be so narrow, legalistic and demanding.  When we have strong views on what is right or wrong it is easy for us to quickly become judgmental, harsh and condemning.  By contrast, Jesus was able to hold his crystal clear insight to right and wrong in tension with amazing grace for the failures and struggles of broken people.  This is a skill that needs to be learned.

 

In Session 1 we will unfold in greater detail, the concept of The Arena of Healing.  Essential elements in The Arena of Healing are attitudes such as humility and emotional honesty.  People will not quickly tell the truth about their struggles in an atmosphere of judgmentalism.  The restorative environment must understand the role of the emotions and how to work with them.

 

The Word must be allowed to hold a higher place in the restorative process than emotions, but emotions cannot be ignored.  The old “FACT leads to FAITH leads to FEELINGS” is a valuable insight at one level, but it is not the end of the discussion when dealing with emotions and the process of restoration.  “Blessed are those who mourn …” is also a vital insight in the restoration of wounded lives.

 

In reading Isaiah 61 it is impressive how much the ministry of restoration deals with the restoring of wounded emotions.  It includes:

 

“ … he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, …”  v 1

“ … to comfort all who mourn; …”  v 2

“ … to grant to those who mourn in Zion – “  v 3

“ … the oil of gladness instead of mourning, …”  v 3

“ … the garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair; …” v 3

“ … instead of their shame … a double portion, …” v 7

“ … instead of disgrace they will rejoice in their inheritance … “  v 7

“ … and everlasting joy will be theirs.”   V 7

 

There is a degree of skill and training required to ensure that in a truth-filled environment the tone and behaviours involved in nurturing emotions is maintained.  Some of the skills and behaviours necessary are underlined by the elements of a healthy church environment the apostle Paul references in his letter to the Thessalonians, which will be introduced below.

 

(d) Clear Behavioural Direction:

 

The importance of spelling out clear behavioural direction is underlined by the practice of the apostle Paul in the New Testament.  The general pattern of his letters to individuals and churches is to lay out doctrinal truth followed by clearly defined behaviours that are consistent with truth; behaviours that apply and reinforce the truth he has unfolded.  Without application truth has a tendency to escape us.

 

For example, when Peter was imprisoned (Acts 12) he was awakened by an angel who gave him instructions:  “Get up quickly”.  “Dress yourself and put on your sandals.”  “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.”

 

 Had Peter not done what he was told to do he would have stayed in that prison and died.  Chains fell off and doors opened – but there were steps that had to be taken for Peter to be free.  Jesus has come to open prison doors and declare liberty to people who have been bound – but if they don’t take steps - if they don’t act appropriately - they will never leave the prison they have been living in.  Christianity is not behavioural modification – but without appropriate and consistent behavioural responses freedom will be a hollow and elusive platitude.

 

The restoration process includes helping people see what to do tomorrow morning.  It matters that we help people take appropriate steps and continue in those steps until liberty is their lifestyle.

 

 

EQUIPPING THE BODY OF CHRIST IS THE KEY

 

The genius of the New Testament church is the willingness of God to include every member in its ministry.  The key to the church functioning as a restoring community is not to get the Pastor to work harder.  It was never intended by Jesus that the work of restoration would be confined to a few highly qualified specialists.  He began his ministry of restoration by personally demonstrating the power of the Kingdom of God in ways that drew crowds, but quickly delegated his ministry to ordinary people like fishermen and tax collectors.

 

One of the most important roles that full time ministers are called to is that of equipping ordinary people to behave as the body of Christ and involve themselves in some way in the processes of healing and restoration. 

 

It was intended by Christ that this would be one of the key growth factors in his church.
 

“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up …”  Ephesians 4:11-12

 

Those works of service can take many forms.  We discovered in the growth of our local church that very ordinary people can play an extraordinary role in the restoration of others if they are given appropriate training, given appropriate support and provided appropriate tools to work with.

 

Careforce Lifekeys is dedicated to assisting any church to engage in the equipping of ordinary people in such away as to allow them to become effective participants in the restoration process.

 

This training program is a tool to equip ordinary people to play a role in the restoration of others.  You cannot delegate a responsibility without appropriate training and provision of appropriate tools to work with.

 

 

WHAT ARE THE OUTCOMES?

 

When leaders equip their people well and help them engage in meaningful restorative ministry the outcomes are profound. 

 

People develop leadership skills, particularly in the small group setting, that they would otherwise never have acquired.  As they grow in leadership confidence and skills they frequently become leaders in other areas of ministry.  As people grow in their leadership skills the larger taskforce available for ministry profoundly increases the effectiveness of the church.

 

 As ordinary people learn to function effectively in the restoration process the church as a whole experiences a rising tide of health in every area of life.  People not only get help, they have an experience of discipleship – both as leaders and followers – that they have never had before.

 

As ordinary people develop leadership skills and become confident that they are capable of giving effective help using the tools that have been put in their hands, pastoral care in the congregation and community can be undertaken in ways that were not possible previously. 

 

The overflow of this equipping is the extending of the life of Jesus to people outside the congregation – real evangelism takes place as the restoring ministry of the church touches wounded people – people that otherwise may never have connected with church life.

 

 

WE ARE SURROUNDED BY NEED

 

It was the restoring and healing ministry of Jesus that captured the attention of multitudes and drew them to listen to his broader teaching about the Kingdom of God.  Pain gets people’s attention.  We live in communities surrounded by pain.  Go down any street around your church.  Knock on any 10 doors and discover what is happening under that roof.  By the time you have knocked on 10 doors you will have encountered chemical dependency,  (alcohol, drugs, pain relievers), sexual abuse, sexual addiction, marriage breakdown, divorce, parenting problems, family dysfunction, grief, eating disorders, shame, guilt, self-hatred, co-dependency, insecurity, depression – the list could go on. 

 

Take a closer look at the church you are involved in and you will find everything on that list right there as well – even amongst those who love God and want to be followers of Jesus.  We are surrounded by pain.  For example:  when we looked closely at our own church of 500 believers, we could identify 72 female survivors of sexual abuse sitting amongst us every week.  None of them had ever had any help in the restoration of their lives.  They were quietly and courageously coping, but restoration is not coping – it is health and healing.

 

Then God touched the heart of one our women leaders.  She developed a course designed to help survivors of sexual abuse.  It opened a door of hope for those women and healing began to flow.  As they found grace and health they told their friends and a stream of women from the community made their way into our orbit, and as they did they encountered the greatest healer in the world – Jesus. 

 

C. S. Lewis had this to say about the role of pain in our lives:

 

“Pain insists on being attended to.  God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains.  It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

 

The church that learns to function as an effective restoring and healing community will discover that those behavioural, emotional and relational challenges at the root of the pain people are experiencing are vital connection points with their lives.  Other forms of evangelism and ministry may never touch or reach them.

 

If you are willing to embark on a journey as a restoring community doors will open into your local community that will not open any other way.

 

 

TWO PATHWAYS TO RESTORATION

 

The apostle Paul is an example of one pathway to restoration – the Power Encounter.  It was a radical power encounter on the road to Damascus that changed his life rapidly and forever.  Knocked off his horse by an encounter with Jesus, blinded for three days until a miracle of healing caused scales to fall from his eyes, he was baptised and immediately became a radical preacher of Christ.   He never faltered in his dedication to Christ till the day he died.  He was changed by a power encounter followed by a life of obedience and faith.

 

How wonderful if we could arrange a similar encounter for everyone.  However, the reality is that not everyone experiences a power encounter like that.  For most people their encounters with God are far less dramatic.  Power encounters of that magnitude are relatively rare.  Most of what God does in our lives is not accomplished by a dramatic encounter like Paul’s, but rather through a day-by-day process called discipleship.

 

Careforce Lifekeys is a deliberate and focused experience of discipleship for anyone hungry for change.

 

Paul is a biblical example of the impact of a power encounter.  Onesimus is a biblical example of a second pathway to restoration:  the power of process.

 

Onesimus was a runaway slave connected to a leader of the church at Colossae called Philemon.  Onesimus was his name, but it is also a Greek word meaning “useful” or “profitable”.  He ran away from his situation in Colossae and made his way to Rome where he found Paul in prison.  Paul would later write to Philemon about Onesimus, and in a play on his name reveal the power of process in his life:

 

“ … I appeal to you for my own spiritual child, Osesimus (meaning profitable), whom I have begotten (in the faith) while a captive in these chains.  Once he was unprofitable to you, but now he is indeed profitable to you as well as to me.”  Philemon v 10-11 (AMP)

 

He had a name that meant “useful” but in reality he was useless.  Something changed for Onesimus.  He had a discipleship encounter with Paul through the bars of a cell.   “Useless” encountered the grace of God and was transformed into “Useful”.  When the church fulfils her role as a restoring community people who see themselves as “Useless”, struggling and in pain but desiring change, discover that by the life of Christ they, too, can become “Useful.”

 

 

THE ENVIRONMENT OF RESTORATION

 

As mentioned, the parable of the sower (Mark 4, Matthew 13) provides us with the starting point for the restoration process – the truth of God’s word.  The mysterious work of the Kingdom of God begins with the sowing of truth, the power of truth being expressed in the words of Jesus:

 

“You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free”.   John 8:32 

 

Telling the truth, exposing lies, helping people become aware of the dynamics at work in their pain or struggle are vital first steps in the healing process.  Every effective ministry aimed at restoration is founded on a teaching process that unmasks the nature of the struggle and empowers the individual with insights to address defective and unhelpful thinking.  A teaching process must be embraced as part of the discipleship process.

 

For this reason all Lifekeys programs are built around a teaching process followed by a small group experience in which the teaching can be explored and examined in personal application and detail.  Facilitators will experience this process even in the training.

 

Just as with the sowing of any seed – the environment in which the seed is sown is important.  While the seed is the key, the environment in which the seed is sown matters too.  Where restoration is the goal it is important that this vital element of teaching be undertaken in an appropriate environment.  The apostle Paul gave us an overview of the insights to effective ministry in 1 Thessalonians 5:11-23.

 

A more extensive exposition of this passage, entitled Elements of a Healthy Church Environment is available from www.careforcelifekeys.org

 

The manner in which truth is delivered and the environment in which truth is shared is as important as the truth itself.  Paul speaks of at least 17 elements of a healthy environment in those verses.  Let’s consider just three of the vital elements needed in a church that restores.

 

In 1 Thessalonians 5:14 Paul says:  “And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.”  (ESV).

 

Consider the first element of verse 14:  “admonish the idle”.

 

The word translated as idle is the Greek word ataktos

 

The word ataktos has a breadth of meaning, including that of “idle, lazy” but includes the idea of “not in proper order”, “undisciplined impulse”, and also conveys the thought of “an irresponsible manner”.  All of us would probably need to confess that at some time in our life some area of our life has been “out of order”.

 

Into this situation Paul speaks.  Paul reminds us in the final sentence of verse 14:  “Be patient with all”.  Righteous indignation in response to irresponsible behaviour can easily result in a damaging attempt to correct struggling people in terms that condemn, judge and exclude, but provide no help for a different outcome. The apostle Paul has a remedy for such people.  They are not to be ignored, black listed, yelled at, excommunicated, or publicly shamed.   They need to be “admonished”.   What does that mean?  How would that be done? 

 

The word translated as “admonish” is the word noutheteo.   It means “to warn of, notify of a fault; to reprove with mildness, to counsel against wrong practices, to caution or advise, to instruct or direct.”   Webster’s Dictionary says that to “admonish” is to include the instruction of “counsel against wrong practices, to caution or advise, to instruct or direct.”

 

When someone’s life is out of order we need to patiently engage in a teaching process in which the right and appropriate practices are fully unfolded.  This would include teaching God’s intention for that area of a person’s life, explain what aberrations look like, and what a change of life would involve.  They would be instructed and encouraged on how to apply the new perspective and helped to walk in it until the new life had been successfully embraced.

 

This is what Lifekeys is all about.  To help people whose life is out of order we need to apply the apostolic counsel of Paul to our approach to ministry.  We need to construct ministry processes capable of fulfilling this criteria:  a detailed teaching process, applied with patience and diligence, instructing a person about their behaviour, and persisting in that process until behavioural changes were observed.

 

There is great hope for a good outcome when such a teaching process is combined with a small accountability group that focuses on the application of the teaching.

 

Sunday services don’t lend themselves to this kind of ministry.  Survivors of sexual abuse need “noutheteo”.  People who are mismanaging their family finances need “noutheteo”.  Married people in danger of destroying their family life need “noutheteo”.

 

The teaching must be specific, focussed, detailed, and persisted with until behaviour can be embraced and assimilated.  You just cannot do that in a Sunday service.  The people who need help most are often not in the room, you don’t know if anyone is actually doing anything you say – it’s the wrong environment.  Restoration needs to be undertaken in a different environment – specifically constructed to ensure that “noutheteo” is actually happening.

 

The second element of verse 14 is: “ … encourage the fainthearted, …”

 

The word translated as fainthearted is the word oligopsuchos.

 

Who are these people?  What is their problem?  Vine corrects the translation of the AV, (where the word has been rendered as “feeble-minded”) by the rendition of this word as intending the idea of “despondent” and “fainthearted”.[1]  With this definition Arndt and Gingrich agree, adding the perspective of “discouraged” as being particularly the intention of 1 Thessalonians 5:14.[2]

 

Why would a person be fainthearted or discouraged?  We are surrounded everywhere by depressed people – people who feel deeply despondent.  The reasons are many.  “The first time I sat with a group of men struggling with sexual addiction and heard their stories I saw how despondent people can be when they face a temptation every day for which they can find neither solution nor relief.” [Allan Meyer] 

 

People who are raised in abusive households, surrounded by violence and anger can live with residual discouragement.  Survivors of sexual abuse, divorcees, those who have lost a job and can’t find another; the list is as long as the life issues that break people’s hearts.

 

The apostle Paul said to the church at Thessalonica that people who are in this state need a particular kind of ministry – they need to be encouraged.  The word he used in this verse is not the usual word for encouragement.  It is the word “paramuthia”.

 

Vine compares this word (paramuthia) with a similar word “paraklesis”, which is frequently translated simply by the word “comfort”.  Vine says of “paramuthia” that it primarily denotes the act of speaking closely to anyone, and “hence denotes consolation, [and] comfort”, yet with a greater degree of tenderness than that which is intended by the word “paraklesis”.[3]

 

What a helpful insight this is to those working with struggling and despondent people!  The mistake so easily made when dealing with those overwhelmed and discouraged by their brokenness is to rush to rebuke, to harshness, to judgement, to condemnation, or to disconnection.  In a faith environment it is easy for small group leaders to resort to challenging exhortations – to “get over it” or “get a life” or “just believe God” when discouraged people tell the truth about where they are.

 

Where people desire to do better, but fail, there is an attendant discouragement that is easily turned to despair.  Those involved in small group leadership need to learn to contain what may be their natural exuberance and desire to exhort in situations where paramuthia is called for.  This counsel from the apostle Paul, added to the previous passage, compounds in such a way as to call for an attitude of deep humility that expresses itself in gentle and kind encouragement.

 

Paramuthia is a prescription for a supportive atmosphere, not condemnation, and for many in leadership it needs to be learned.  Leaders, by their very nature, may have a default position that bypasses this essential element in the restoration process for those who are in need of patient support.  In so doing this deepens the problem rather than helping.

 

Paul’s counsel is that despondent people have a need for “paramuthia” – to speak closely, to draw close to and comfort with tenderness.  A teaching experience followed by a small accountability group that functions in an atmosphere of support and accountability, would fulfil that counsel admirably.

 

The third element of verse 14 is:  “ … help the weak, …”

 

This simple injunction to help the weak is powerful and insightful. 

 

The word translated “weak” is the word “astheneia”.

 

Vine says of this word that it denotes those who are impotent or strengthless.[4]  Arndt and Gingrich confirm Vine’s usage, agreeing that this word rightly denotes weakness of all kinds including that of “moral weakness” of such magnitude as to render a person disabled or powerless.[5]  What an apt word to use when describing the pain-filled struggle people have with addictions of every kind – impotent or strengthless, disabled to the point of being powerless.

 

Some in church life would deny that any believer in Christ could aptly be described with such a word, that any Christian could ever be considered “powerless”.  Yet the Apostle Paul held the view that it was not only a possibility, it was a present reality, at least in Thessalonica and something should be done about it.  The Apostle Paul knew there were people in the church that were “strengthless”, unable to help themselves, and he did not want them discarded or ignored.

 

Paul advises that these people are in need of a particular kind of ministry.  He uses the word antecho.”

 

 Thayer defines this word in the following way:  “to keep one’s self directly opposite to anyone, hold to him firmly, cleave to, paying heed to him”.[6]  Thayer in the same reference adds that the ideas, “to aid”, “to care”, “to hold to” “to hold fast” are all appropriate ideas inherent in the word “antecho”

 

Paul instructs that, as Christians, we bear the burdens of the weak by joining with them in an intensely accountable, face-to-face, continuing relationship of caring support, until such time as they find the strength to stand.  Again it is clear that a Sunday service is not going to accomplish this kind of relationship.  For this to occur a small group environment will be essential, along with training to manage a relationship like this appropriately.

 

Left to themselves people who have become enslaved to an addictive cycle of one kind or another will be unlikely to do a journey to wholeness.  The best attempts they can muster to change and cease their unhelpful and ungodly behaviour crumble under the pressure of a will assailed by passions, thoughts, emotions, and bio-chemistry.  They have no strength to withstand alone. 

 

Paul urges that people in this condition should not be left to handle their crisis in isolation; again, it could be said of this situation “it is not good that man should be alone.”  They have no strength to aid and care for themselves.  Thus the ones with strength must set themselves directly opposite the needy person.  They must courageously make a decision to hold on firmly, stick to the task, pay close attention to the needy individual, aiding, caring, and holding fast.

 

This is not just a description of the role of an accountability group, it is a prescription for such a group.  The word of God calls for a level of love and service from the strong, such that they would be willing to form a group that stays close, holds on, and is not easily discouraged by failure or slowness to respond.  Not everyone is wired up for this challenge, but in every church there are people who have been wired by God to play a loving and supportive role in the lives of those on a journey to wholeness.  Train them and help them serve.  Without this kind of support some people will not make the distance.

 

1 Thessalonians 5:14 concludes with the words “ … be patient with everyone”.

 

Restoration may take longer than you would like.  The process may not be rapid for all those involved.  For many people restoration is not likely to be instantaneous or attainable through a single act of repentance, prayer, teaching, or spiritual ministry of some kind.  For this reason we must strategise, train and deploy the body of Christ for the work of restoration – or for all too many it simply will not take place.

 

God encountered a church in Mt. Evelyn, Melbourne, Australia.  God stirred hearts and opened minds to scripture in a way that transformed our behaviour as a church – we became a restoring community.  Out of that encounter the Careforce Lifekeys ministry has grown.  It would be a privilege to join with you to see your local church enhanced in its calling as a restoring and healing community.

 

 



[1] Vine, W. E., An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, London:  Oliphants, 1973,

[2] Arndt, William F., Gringrich, F. Wilbur, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament,

[3] Vine, W. E., An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, 207.

[4] Ibid., 204.

[5] Arndt, William F., Gringrich, F. Wilbur, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament,

[6] Thayer, Joseph Henry, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, 49.

Helping our local communities find Christ through their brokenness remains one of the greatest untapped evangelistic tools available to the church today.

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