Messy Care

What Is Messy Care?

Welcome to the Intro to (Messy) Care and Discipleship! This material is based on the book Loving Messy People by Scott Mehl. In this eight-session course from IBCD, you will learn how to minister to and care for others in the mess of life. This is an opportunity for you to grow in your understanding of the purpose of relationships as they exist in a sinful and fallen world. It will also enhance your ability to provide meaningful one-another care in the local church.

Everyone has relationships and, in the course of those relationships, everyone experiences problems. Does Scripture have anything to say about how we approach one another in the mess of life? Of course it does! Scripture provides us with dozens and dozens of one-another commands, each with a unique directive for how we are called to love those around us. In Loving Messy People, the commands are summarized in these four categories: knowing, serving, speaking, and “gospeling.” These are the biblical building blocks of all gospel care.

Each lesson in this Intro to (Messy) Care and Discipleship is designed to help you better understand how relationships work in the mess of life. You will discover and appreciate the beauty of God’s design as he orchestrates relationships to transform his children into the image of his Son. You will consider some of the barriers that exist in one-another care as well as some of the opportunities. You will see the kindness of God as He approaches his people gently, and you will learn to desire what the Savior desires: that our relationships might reflect his perfect unity.

We recommend that you do this program in a group. In his book Compelling Community, Jamie Dunlop describes the body of Christ working in tandem to evangelize an unbeliever. Dunlop calls this “mob evangelism”—every church member participating in the life of a person in need of hearing the good news. We believe the church would also benefit significantly from a practice of “mob discipleship.” Paul tells us that each person has been given a gift for the building up of Christ’s body (1 Cor. 12:4–6). God empowers every service and every activity. By studying how to love messy people in a group, you will begin to see how the Lord equips each of his children uniquely. You will then be able to put the things you’re learning into practice immediately with the other members of your group.

The Structure of The Study Guide

During this course you will be asked to engage in loving messy people. This will involve observing both the positive and negative responses we all tend to exhibit in messy situations. By examining how you react to a mess, you will begin to identify the particular obstacles you are prone to encounter in gospel care. Together, we will discuss how to avoid these obstacles and respond to others in love, the way God has called us to.

Additionally, you will be encouraged to practice biblical gospel care with someone God has placed in your life. Please remember, however: the people to whom you purposefully minister are not projects! They are fellow image-bearers whom God has placed in your life for a purpose. They are the brothers and sisters that God is specifically calling you to love.

Between the sessions, you will be asked to read, reflect, and journal about the circumstances God has ordained in your life and how you have responded. While we can introduce you to the biblical principles of gospel care, the real work will occur in these times with the Lord. Take this opportunity to search God’s Word, think, pray, and evaluate. It will be important to learn how to pay close attention to the guidance of the Holy Spirit as you love God’s people.

It goes without saying that prayer is a huge factor in the journey ahead. Pray for yourself (for wisdom, discernment, compassion), but also pray for those you’re called to love. You will want to spend much time before the Lord, allowing him to prepare your heart for the incredibly high calling of caring for one another. The people God has called us to help are both hurting and struggling. They may be suffering the worst kind of pain experienced in a fallen world; they may be struggling with the darkest depths of sin in their hearts. God is calling you to approach them with a genuine heart, softened by the Holy Spirit, prepared to mirror His love. Our prayer is that this course will help to provide that preparation.

Through this course our hope is that you will:

  • Discover the sweetness of gospel care.
  • Be empowered to embrace your call to minister to others in the mess life.
  • Learn how to lovingly minister to others in light of the gospel.
  • Gain confidence to minister to others when they are hurting, confused, or caught in sin.
  • Develop greater wisdom to address the multitude of different problems and situations that will arise in your own life and the lives of those around you.
  • Grow in love for those God has placed in your life.

The Structure of the Course

Intro to (Messy) Care and Discipleship is designed to equip everyday Christians using four distinct tools:

  • Participants in small groups will be invited to view a teaching session in which Scott Mehl teaches an overview of the session’s topic. Every member of the small group can follow along with an outline provided. There are eight teaching sessions in all.
  • After watching each teaching session, the small group
    will be invited to observe a roundtable discussion. These roundtable discussions are strategically comprised of pastors, elders, advocates, small group leaders, biblical counselors, and disciplers with years of experience in one- another care. The small group participants will “listen in” on these incredibly practical conversations, recognizing the common ground we all share as we succeed and fail to love fallen people in a fallen world. There is a total of eight roundtable discussions.
  • The small group will then initiate their own (guided) discussions about how they themselves approach knowing, serving, speaking, and gospeling as they strive to love messy people in their own lives. By working together through the Group Discussion and Reflection questions and Digging into the Word questions in this book, group members will gain practical and biblical guardrails for thinking about the dynamics of messy relationships.
  • Finally, in the Putting It Into Practice section, each participant will be given assignments designed to help them live out what they’ve learned in their various messy relationships.

This is a much-needed resource for the church that demystifies one-another care and equips every Christian to participate in the high calling of loving one another well.

Shepherd Press