What I Learned From Exodus Groups

July 31, 2018  |  Luke Simmons

Exodus Groups has been a small but crucial ministry at Gateway for nearly 5 years. It doesn’t always get tons of promotion, but it’s been a powerhouse for helping people in our church experience more gospel freedom and fluency.

Here’s the quick backstory on Exodus Groups: A church in Seattle had been pioneering some gospel-centered approaches to addressing hard-to-discuss issues in a safe environment. They were offering a training for other churches who wanted to learn from them. Along with some other Gateway pastors, I went to the training. I was hoping to learn how to do them, but instead I realized I was going to have to go through one myself.

Here’s some of what I learned (and why I hope everyone at Gateway eventually participates in one — get more info here).

1. God wants to lead me into experiential gospel freedom.

The Exodus is not merely an interesting tale of God’s miraculous work for Israel. It’s actually a paradigm for understanding how redemption works. God moves us powerfully from slavery to freedom.

Many of us have experienced conversion and, thus, our status has changed. We are officially freed. But we still live like slaves — to sin, to past hurts, to unhealthy habits, or to bitterness.

Freedom is the life God wants for us. Not theoretically, but experientially.

2. The path to freedom usually involves embracing vulnerability and pain.

We can pretend everything is OK. But for things to actually become OK, we need to open ourselves up to others and to the pain in our lives.

This is what made Exodus Group a difficult experience for me. I wanted greater freedom, but I didn’t want to open up to people I didn’t know very well. As a result, the first half of the experience was pretty rough. But once I opened up to God and others, I began to see God work.

3. God wants me to be an accessory to the healing of others.

I went into Exodus Group mostly thinking about what I’d get out of it or how I’d implement it at Gateway. But I saw that it wasn’t merely about my experiencing gospel grace, but also being an agent of grace to others.

In my group, people opened up and shared real areas where they needed God. Though I had little to offer in terms of advice (that’s not really what the group is about anyway), my presence of empathy, support, and prayer was part of what God used to create breakthroughs for others.

4. God is inviting me not simply to do things for him, but to live life with him.

Every participant in an Exodus Group has to write a Psalm. It’s the kind of thing most people roll their eyes at and get nervous about. But it’s a non-negotiable. I’m so glad.

It was through this process that God led me to see how easy it is for me to think about God or do things for God, but live as though he were down the street rather than with me each moment.

This became the theme of the Psalm I wrote based on Psalm 16:

I have no good apart from you
The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup
In your presence there is fullness of joy
(Psalm 16:1-2,5,11)

Apart from you. I once walked apart from you.
On my throne. For myself. Utmost in my own affections.
Able to please others, but never satisfied myself.

Around you. I often walk around you.
Mentioning you. Perking up when others say your name. Like you were down the street.
Talking about you, but rarely to you.

About you. I know lots about you.
Your attributes. Your actions in history. Answers to difficult questions about you.
Doing your work, even when you’re not working in me.

With you. Your offer, your promise is for me to be with you.
As you died and rose. As you reign in Heaven. As I sit, rise, walk, and stand.
Falling into you, trusting you are better than life.

About you. Now everything can be about you.
About your fame. About your pleasure. About knowing your heart.
Working for you, knowing you are with me.

Around you. Now my heart revolves around you.
Drawing near. Leaning in. Resting on.
Talking with you, everywhere I go.

Apart from you. Now I will never be apart from you.
Always loved. Always accepted. Always close.
Trusting your promise, I need not walk alone.

The next round of Exodus groups begins soon. Get more information or register here.