‘Laypeople In Vital Exchange Groups: A Process for Creating Community in the Local Church’ provides a model of how to establish more authentic relationships be-tween Christians. Discipleship has suffered in the church largely because believers have not learned how to tell the truth about their inner struggles and spiritual failures. Fears of what other church people might think prevents honesty, undercuts the practice of mutual accountability, precludes the development of a grace and truth atmosphere and inhibits the growth of true Christian community. In essence, the church has become a place where it is not safe to be genuine and where Christians fail to experience ‘until-death-us-do-part’ relationships of love and loyalty.
This project seeks to build on a powerful three-day event in the Church of God (Anderson, Indiana) known as the Laypeople In Vital Exchange (L.I.V.E.) Weekend. These weekends demonstrate what authenticity looks like as guests from outside the local congregation share very personal testimonies in large-group gatherings and model how to express honesty, love and a graceful spirit in small group settings. ‘Laypeople In Vital Exchange Groups’ attempts to transfer a weekend event into the weekly experience of people within the church.
Based upon an ‘Authentic Relationships Survey’ conducted among pastors who have hosted L.I.V.E. Weekends, and with an understanding of the cognitive-emotive and relational dynamics affecting relational integrity and spiritual growth, this project creates a practical, ‘ready-to-use,’ field-tested manual for establishing L.I.V.E. Groups in the local church. L.I.V.E. Groups equip small groups of believers in how to build a Christian community where relational authenticity is practiced more than discussed. ‘A Manual for Building Authentic Christian Community,’ volume two of this dissertation, contains twenty-five core topics for creating community, relational exercises for practicing authenticity in groups, community-building guides for facilitating more than eighty group gatherings, plus examples of group covenants and evaluations. This resource is a comprehensive tool church leaders can adapt to empower the people of God, anointed by the Spirit of God, working through the koinonia of God, using the Word of God, to help each other think the thoughts of God, and so to better love one another and resemble true sons and daughters of God.