A small group discipleship program

 

Key Elements of Head to Heart...

Surely you heard of [Christ] and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught with regard to your former way of life to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:21-24, NIV)

Head to Heart helps you take off your old self and put on your new self by a process that helps to get God’s truth from your head to where it needs to go, to the inner parts of your heart. Rather than focus solely on “learning,” this class provides a discipleship process that helps to put truth in your heart. The process has three key elements: 1) focused biblical teaching, 2) identifying our “false instinctive beliefs,” and 3) a design of teaching and small groups that help us to integrate God’s truth.

Focused Biblical Teaching

A problem for many Christians is that they are so inundated with information that it is overwhelming, and God’s truths are not organized in their minds in a way that focuses the heart on what is truly important. In this class we address this problem through the “hierarchy of the heart” that explores the biblical pattern for integrating the truth so that it grows within. The truths that need to be carefully practiced are placed front and center in a prioritized order. The goal is to have the most important information truly absorbed at an instinctual level. The hierarchy begins by focusing on God the Father, his nature and character, and then proceeds to what he has done for us. (For a thorough discussion of the Hierarchy of the Heart, see Knowing the Heart of the Father, p. 145-233.)

Identifying Our False Instinctive Beliefs

One of the fundamental obstacles to integrating God’s truth at a heart level is that we still have, even as believers, false instinctive beliefs operating in our lives. We acquired these false instinctive beliefs from our fallen world, our culture, and our families. Most of them were already well-entrenched by the time we became adults, and we likely are unaware of some of these false beliefs because they are so “normal” to us. These beliefs operate at a deep and powerful level, because strong emotions are attached to them. Under stress we are especially likely to act according to these instinctive beliefs.

These false instinctive beliefs wage a powerful underground guerilla war against successfully integrating God’s truth. Therefore, a key part of the Head-to-Heart process is to help each individual uncover the false instinctive beliefs that are still operating in their lives. Here are some of the common false beliefs that affect us at the deep level of our identity:

• I must meet certain standards to feel good about myself

• I must be accepted (approved) by others to accept myself

• Those who fail are unworthy of love and acceptance

• I am what I am, so I cannot change

• I am my physical appearance

• Who I am is a result of choices by others

• I am what I have done, or my performance defines me

A powerful approach for identifying our false beliefs is to understand that our emotions and behavior can be traced back to our actual beliefs (these are usually, for believers, a mixture of God’s truth and false instinctive beliefs).

In order for God’s truths to become our own instinctive beliefs, we need to feel and experience these truths at a heart level. Although we are not usually taught the importance of our imagination for spiritual growth, it is God’s intent that we use our imagination to help us see the world the way he does. Integrating God’s truth into our hearts requires that we use our imagination to picture ourselves in the truths of the Bible. Accordingly the teaching in Head-to-Heart includes a variety of illustrations and exercises to help us picture God’s truth.

In addition, God has designed us so that we need healthy connection with other people to grow spiritually, emotionally, and relationally. When we process deeply with others in a safe environment, we discover more about ourselves, God, and our relationships. The very act of speaking out loud the truth we are discovering helps us to plant it more deeply within. Thus Head-to-Heart seeks to create a safe small group environment where we help each other explore how the teaching applies to our lives. We ask each participant to commit to a set of Group Expectations that are designed to create a safe environment where we can be honest and open about what we really think, feel, and experience in our lives. Each gender-specific small group has two co-facilitators, and the facilitators’ main role is to model and help the group practice these Expectations.

Overview of Head to Heart Content

Head to Heart Introduction (Session 1). 

In this initial meeting an overview of Head to Heart will be given, along with the class Head to Heart workbook and reading materials. The Group Expectations will be explained and each participant asked to commit to these Expectations in order to provide a safe small group environment where people can deeply process God’s truth and the reality of their own lives.

Identifying Our False Instinctive Beliefs (Sessions 2-4). 

We begin the process of helping each person identify the false instinctive beliefs at work in their lives.  In particular, we explore the impact of the Fall and our family backgrounds in shaping our instincts and beliefs. We will also introduce the importance of using a biblically formed imagination to help us take off our old self and put on our new self.

God’s Affectionate Acceptance of Us (Sessions 5-11). 

We will explore the family environment that God intends for us to personally experience with him, the environment of the Trinity. We will look at the way each person of the Trinity extends acceptance to us, with a special emphasis on the love of the Father. God the Father is our ultimate and intended Father, and his amazing love includes his delight in each of his children. Jesus Christ, God the Son, is dedicated to delivering us from our sin, giving us peace in the present, and securing our future with him. The Holy Spirit is a permanent down-payment to us signifying God’s intention to finish our salvation, and the Spirit reminds us that God is our Heavenly Dad. In this context of our relationship with the Triune God, we will explore how a Christian develops a healthy sense of worth and trust in relationships.

Your Identity (Sessions 12-13). 

We will explain how our identity, the instinctive picture of ourselves that we carry around inside of us, massively impacts our lives. Identity is primarily shaped through relationships, so initially our identity is formed by a product of family and cultural background. When we trust in Christ, we then receive a new identity with Christ, and our growth in character involves replacing our old identity with this new identity.

Understanding Your Emotions (Sessions 14-15). 

We explore the crucial role of emotions in our lives and the Bible’s teaching about emotions. Emotions do not authenticate truth, but emotions do authenticate our understanding and integration of truth. As we walk by the Spirit, we learn how to address the moods and desires of our old self, and realize that the point of our new life in Christ is to have the emotions of God (i.e. the fruit of the Spirit).

Managing Your Pain (Sessions 16-17). 

We explore the role of pain in our lives, and how not addressing our pain in healthy ways leads to unhealthy coping mechanisms and addictions. After explaining the “cycle of addiction” we learn how God helps us overcome our dysfunctional patterns by effectively managing our pain in light of our identity in Christ.

Healthy Relationships (Sessions 18-21). 

Several key aspects of healthy relationship with God and others are explored in the context of the previous Head to Heart lessons: 1) the practice of prayer to expand our relationship with God and help us sort out issues with him; 2) dealing with the effects of sin through radical transparency with God and forgiveness; and 3) identifying four unhealthy communication patterns, developing healthy communication skills, and the crucial role of communication in loving others. 

EXCERPT FROM Head to Heart:  Experiencing the Father's Affection, by David Eckman, Ph.D. © 2017

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED