The ‘Easy’ Prison Guard of Our Souls and Small Group Ministries

By Steve Gladen
Prison

image credit: CreationSwap user Matt Gruber

Ah…freedom.

As I write article I am sitting in a Starbuck’s at 7 a.m., which in itself doesn’t seem too out of the ordinary. Factor in now that I am not a morning person, it is my day off, I was up late, and being here is not my choice…I am a prisoner!

To what?

My daughter’s schedule. As an incoming freshman she tried out for “cheer” at her High School. She made the squad! We were so happy…but reality was just beginning to set in. Like so many parents who have High Schoolers involved in team sports and school activities, you become a prisoner to the schedule they need to keep. My freedom to choose has been taken away.

Taken for granted

When we talk about freedom, what do you think? To be honest, for so many of us we probably never think about it too much because freedom is always around us. To most of us, unless we are in prison or in an addictive behavior that imprisons us, freedom rarely comes to mind. Being a “prisoner” probably comes more to our minds (if at all) in thinking about work or the schedule our kids impose upon. Some of us may find this to be true about ministry as well.

It could be very easy to think that maybe nothing is keeping us from freedom. Nothing is holding us prisoner. So for small group point people, is there something that could be enslaving us, making us a prisoner without us even knowing?

It’s the subtle things in life have the rippling effects in my ministry that can take my freedom, even more than the “big” sinful issues can crush. Don’t get me wrong; those “big” sins can be very damaging, enslaving, imprisoning and destructive. However, it’s often these “easy” things in life, things that in the moment seem insignificant, that can become the “big” issues in your life?

Could these “easy” things actually hold us more captive than we think and in reality take our freedom in Christ? See if these “easies” resonate with you.

Its “easy” to:

  • avoid conflict and the difficult conversations
  • not answer the phone when you know it’s that same guy that you have talked to 10 times in the past week about the mess that he is in
  • turn into a vegetable when the kids go to bed and not show my spouse the love and attention that she deserves to receive from me
  • go to email in the evening, where I’ll get my pats on the back and recognition of authority
  • say that conflict between two volunteer leaders will simply work itself out
  • let programs dominate our small group ministry
  • not make space to have lunch with family
  • not make space to have a date with my wife
  • give in to the distraction and temptation that Satan puts in front of me
  • not exercise
  • not read my Bible or pray
  • to compare
  • to care too much about numbers
  • say yes to every member’s ideas of what our small group ministry should do
  • not involve the right people in the decision making process
  • to be tenacious, because it’s much more difficult to be wise and patient

Do you do what’s easy, and not necessarily what’s right?

Is it possible that all that “easy” stuff in my life is really not “easy” but actually a prison guard we don’t realize is taking our freedom away?

Is this “easy” taking our freedom and slowly constricting our life? Is it suffocating our marriage, family, friendships, or small group ministry and we don’t even realize it?

I would encourage you during this month, where we as a nation celebrate freedom, to look deeply into your life and see if right outside your heart is a prison guard named “easy”. Galatians 3:22 says, “But the Scriptures declare that we are all prisoners of sin, so we receive God’s promise of freedom only by believing in Jesus Christ.”

Trust Christ to help you do what’s right, not the “easy” guard that takes your freedom.

Steve Gladen

Steve Gladen is Pastor of Small Groups at Saddleback Church, which sees over 30,000 people gathering weekly in 5,000 small groups. He's the founder of SmallGroups.net and travels widely to speak on the topic of small groups and healthy, biblical community. He is the author of several books including Small Groups With Purpose and Leading Small Groups With Purpose.