Victory House ( http://lcfonline.wpengine.com/victory-house/) is a discipleship ministry home located in Capistrano Beach California. The name “Victory” was chosen because of Christ’s triumph over sin spoken of in 1 Corinthians 15:55-57, “‘O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” The . This designation aptly communicates the mission of the ministry, training men to walk in Christ’s victory. We, the leadership team, endeavor towards this by way of a one- year program designed to equip men with the mind of Christ- given over to sacrificial service, trained by the Word of God, and geared towards obedience to our Father’s will. Victory House is intentional about reaching out to men from all walks of life that have realized their brokenness and are ready to surrender to Christ’s Lordship.
Unfortunately, this realization usually occurs after they (I) have (had) become homeless and their (my) lives (life) are (was) in disrepair. Victory House is a self-funding ministry that receives most of its support from the Lighthouse Thrift Store. This enables us to house, transport, feed, and offer other opportunities at no cost to our residents. Both Victory House and Lighthouse Thrift Store are wards of Lighthouse Charitable Foundation. Where Victory House is sanctuary and home to our disciples, the thrift store is the working part of our ministry.
For all intents and purposes, Victory House is a congregation “in Christ” of ministry staff and disciples complete with leadership, “buildings, and distinctive doctrines.” Relationships are bound to form in a church whose members: (1) live and work in the same places, and (2) share the same living and working schedules. By design the Victory House concept for ministry is family styled. What does the Bible teach in regards to this concept? How can men from varied walks of life be united as one? This paper will examine the family model the Bible sets forth for the church while analyzing the present state of Victory House relationships.
Theology of Family
More often than not, an individual or group of Christians will strip mine the Bible for scriptural passages in order to develop a theology of family. In doing so they frequently overlook or disregard the historical or cultural context to which the scripture applies. This common approach characteristically produces a theology of family that reflects that particular individual’s or group’s perspective rather than God’s truth. Scriptures that indicate “regulations regarding family and household relationships (e.g., Eph 5:22-6:9; Col. 3:18-4:1; 1 Tim. 2:8-15; 6:1-2; Titus 2:1-10; and 1 Pet. 2:18-3:7)” are favored among them. New Testament scholars, such as James Dunn, consider this approach to be “an abuse of Scripture” because of the negligent attempt at exegesis that turns a blind eye to historical and cultural context.[3
Conversely, Balswick and Balswick suggest an opposite method that plumbs from relevant scriptures a deeper theology for family than merely defining roles within a household. Their model offers a modus operandi for relationships “in Christ” derived from Old and New Testament reports of how the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, interact with one another. The Trinitarian relationality theology for family advocates “differentiation – the process of maintaining a separate identity while simultaneously remaining connected in relationship, belonging, and unity.” It makes perfect sense that human beings, having been created in the image of the Trinity, would also thrive in interdependent and fulfilling relationships with one another.
Furthermore, the way in which humans behave and respond to one another in relationship can potentially reflect the image of God within us. A proper understanding of how the Father, Son, and Holy Spirits maintain unity while also being distinctly unique from one another is essential when developing the Trinitarian model of theology for family. The Balswicks opine,”…the members of the Godhead act in unity through the themes of covenant, grace, empowerment, and intimacy.” By all means, a covenant of unconditional love is the integral element to any theology of family. The leadership of Victory House agree with Balswick and Balswick that covenant, grace, empowerment, and intimacy are necessary but non-linear stages in a God-honoring theology of family.
The specific notion of covenant in regards to theology of family is that of an unconditional commitment to love and be loved. The covenant exists in either a unilateral (initial covenant) or bilateral (mature covenant). Usually, a unilateral covenant is entered into with the expectation of it developing into a bilateral covenant. For instance, in the Old Testament book of Hosea, God pursues the Israelites with the unconditional love of unilateral covenant. The Israelites lose the Lord’s blessings when they do not honor the Lord’s terms but gain His favor when they acknowledge God on His terms. Human parents model another instance of an initial covenant with their infant children. The hope is always that their unconditional love will, ideally, be reciprocated in a mature covenant.
Relationships based on covenant “recognize the importance of mutuality, fairness, and reciprocal process that lead to interdependence.” Loving unconditionally enriches familial relationships through unselfish acts and bearing one another’s burdens in ways that contractual relationships forgo.  Unconditional love also cultivates grace in covenant relationships.
Covenant commitment is indispensable element of the Balswick theology of family that God has sown into the Victory House. Our leadership team is bound by our calling to love the men God sends our way despite their present condition or their backgrounds. I have seen all types come through over the years. There are times when we, as leaders, have to contend for the common ground in order to maintain relationships despite clashing cultural and ethnic moorings. Lest mention, when twelve grown men share a common living space there are bound to be housekeeping and boundary conflicts every so often. In my experience at Victory House I have witnessed unilateral commitments from leadership to residents develop into bilateral commitments because of unselfish acts and bearing one another’s burdens.
Balswick and Balswick believe that it is difficult to distinguish between covenant, unconditional love, and grace, unmerited favor. John Rogerson reasons that grace “grounded in God’s mercy” is “designed to mitigate hardship and misfortune,” thereby strengthening family life. Rogerson deduced this principle from Exodus 22:25-27 which basically teaches us to have compassion on one another by not undermining each other’s well being. In practice, an atmosphere of grace works to counteract the forces that otherwise destroys family relationships. Grace allows for forgiveness and longsuffering in relationships that is absent from relations bound by contractual commitments.
Readiness to forgive and be forgiven is vital to sustaining healthy relationships. Where grace abounds “family members learn to act responsibly out of love and consideration for one another.” Even with the presence of grace there is a need for ordered structure and designated roles within the family. The structure and roles, however, are intended to satisfy the needs of the family while enhancing their lives.
To forgive and be forgiven is normal part of every day life at Victory House. In our home there will be guys that have been walking with the Lord for nearly twenty years but back slid into sin and guys who recently committed their lives to the Lord. The younger of us are the easier to offend or distress than our more mature brethren. There are misunderstandings and miscommunications all day every day within our fellowship. What’s more, our house is in a constant state of flux. Sometimes people leave just as quickly as they came. There are days when a guy will bail out in the morning, I will strip his bunk, and we will have new guy in it by the end of the day.
For Christ-sake , Victory House leaders strive to be vessels of God’s grace in our home because the stakes are high. The last thing men in recovery need is to be hammered by disappointment or anger over poor choices. Grace is a huge part of our leadership style and we encourage one another to learn from our mistakes. Admittedly, not communicating my disappointment or agitation over someone else’s decision is not something that I have mastered. For example, it is lights out in our house at 9:30pm, which means I also lock the front door. The only exception to not being in bed after this time is if someone is up studying the bible or doing his homework.
Now, if I am in the breakfast nook and a resident comes knocking at the front door at 11:00pm it hard for me to not be agitated. Mostly because I assumed that person was upstairs in their bunk. Yet here they are at the front door with some self-aggrandizing reason as to why. Prayerfully, I will get to the point to where the Holy Spirit subdues my shock. The only other alternative is to start doing bed checks but I honestly believe that would be more harmful than good in the long run. I do not expect an atmosphere of distrust to run concurrent with an atmosphere of grace. Ultimately, Victory House endeavors for an atmosphere of grace because it is necessary in order for us to empower one another.
“Empowerment can be defined as the attempt to establish power in another person.” Balswick and Balswick identify empowerment as the biblical ideal for the use of power in relationships. For this line of reasoning, power is to be understood as the ability to influence someone else. Research has ascertained that most people with power use it to control or manipulate others rather than to empower them. In fact, the empowerment process does not rely on force or coercion but a mutually enhancing relationship.
Empowerment is the biblical model for exercise of power, which is contrary to the world’s standard. In John 10:10 Jesus announces that He came so that we could have more than just a mere existence, but an abundant life with purpose. John 1:12-13 declares that purpose to be children of God, which proves to be the “supreme example of human empowerment.” As children of God we have been born again by the power of the Holy Spirit (John 3:3), which is not just a little power. As a matter of fact, Ephesians 4 establishes that the power of the Holy Spirit is suffice to advance God’s kingdom and to also build one another up.
Overall, it behooves the leadership of Victory House to work towards empowering our residents. There is an occasional instance when someone will stay in the program longer than their one year commitment. For the most part, however, we set a pace for the guys to assume more responsibility over their lives at the twelve-month mark. Building men up with the Word of God is our primary focus but there are other ways that we work to empower our residents. For example, coming alongside guys in their struggle to regain their California driver’s license, custody of their children, health, eyesight, or all of the above are forms of empowerment. Ultimately, these gains work towards empowering our residents to live mature interdependent lives in the body of Christ.
Living interdependently serves to develop intimacy, to know others and to be known by them. Balswick and Balswick suggest, “to have any…interdependence with another person, one must always be willing to give up some of one’s own needs and desires.” After family members have established covenant, grace, and empowerment they will begin to trust one another and make greater efforts to listen and understand one another. Not only do we labor to understand one another but we also begin to share our feelings because intimacy has been created.
Some of the most intimate moments that we have are when we study Proverbs in the morning as a group. The study goes like this: 1) We read the chapter of Proverbs for whatever day of the month it happens to be that day. 2) We each read a Proverb until we have read all the verses for that chapter. 3) We go back through the chapter and choose a proverb or proverbs to reflect on. 4) Then we share our reflections. This usually becomes a very revealing time. Either some confession as to a past time when someone made a wrong decision in light of Wisdom’s principles or, vice versa, how they have experienced the truth of it. The longer someone has been doing the study, the safer they feel to offer honest reflection of themselves in light of the Scripture. It is one my favorite study formats because it is instrumental in sowing the seeds of intimacy.
The goal of intimacy is the cultivate family relationships where members communicate confidently and express themselves without fear, want what is best for one another, while valuing and confirming each others uniqueness. John provides these relevant revelations: “God is love” (1 John 4:16); “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” (v.18) [Balswick p.32]. As a ministry leader, I aspire to be as none threatening as possible in relationships while contemporaneously exercising the authority of a servant/leader. Confession. I am nine and half years old in Christ. I have not mastered intimacy, or any components of this Theology of Family, but this is what I am working towards until something better reveals itself.
The board of directors of the Lighthouse Charitable Foundation oversees the activities of Victory House but a husband and wife team head-up the group on a daily basis. Ideally the two would lead with a complementarity that “reflects the self-less, other-centered, noncompeting unity of the Trinity. I agree with Judith TenElshof view on the distinctions between men and women. Rather than use the differences to create rigid roles that provoke competition, we should aspire to live out our differences to the fullest. By practicing other-centeredness and exercising the fullness of our gender we stand to inspire completeness in the opposite gender. Thus, reflecting the ordered, distinct, and unified Trinitarian image in which we were created. It is my humble opinion that the husband and wife team that I report to directly model this ideal well, given the Divine reality of the fallen human condition.
“Attachment research is a field of developmental psychology that examines how patterns of communication between parent and child shapes the development of the child in various domains, such as in the social, emotional, and cognitive areas.” There are four primary attachment styles that range from a secure caregiver cultivating a secure child to a chaotic, abusive, frightening caregiver engendering a chaotic child. The residents of Victory House span the gamut when it comes to which attachment style their primary caregivers communicated to them growing up. While in our care, the leadership team of our ministry is committed to prayerfully creating secure attachments between God and our residents.
I, personally, strive to go about this by emphasizing three elements that Mark Brady, Ph.D. claims to create secure attachment. The first element is providing disciples with clear insights into the mind of God in order to form secure attachment. The Bible oozes with instances of God communicating and expressing His love for us. The second element is pointing out, in God’s word, that God is paying close attention to us. Luke 12:6-7 illustrates this superbly when Jesus reveals that God is paying attention to everything about us, even the number of hairs on our heads. The third element is showing how God responds to the needs of His children in a timely manner. My default for this element is the Exodus of the Old Testament. All through out the story God is right on time and very present with His chosen people. Knowledge of God’s power, love, and faithfulness are what sealed my faith. I try communicate, with conviction, these elements with hopes of our residents attaching to God.
Occasionally we will have residents at Victory House who are trying to salvage their marriages. That, however, would be the exception rather than the norm. By design, our program does not leave one with much spare time to maintain a marriage or pursue any other love interest besides God. Hence, singleness is a major thrust of our ministry. To the extent that the residents agree not to entertain or enter into any new dating relationships for the duration of their commitment.
So here we are, a house full of single guys, seeking the Lord together. Believe or not, I have not gone on a date in over nine and a half years. Mostly because my life has been in constant state of flux since I received Christ nine and a half years ago. Namely, I have been in university studies most of the those years. Prayerfully, I will get the miracle job while I am in grad school, and possibly doctorate studies, that allows me to contribute substantial time and earnings to a household. Because I am one of the most time and money poor guys I know of.
At any rate, many of my role models have been single men that went about the Lord’s business without wives and children. Either way, I am doing what I can to model singleness well while not advocating either singleness or marriage. Hoy, especially in light of 1 Corinthians 7:7-8, “I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am.” In this light, its clear that singleness is a spiritual gift.
Discipling is a process. It entails everything from tending to the social, intellectual, biological, and spiritual well being of those being discipled. It can be likened to parenting in many aspects. For example, good discipling, like parenting, “is a matter of interacting with our disciples day in and day out. It is these day-to-day experiences that build our relationships with them.” I find this to be true at the Victory House. My words and actions do not carry any weight with our residents unless there is a relationship in good standing. That is just the way it is.
The relationship is the bridge that makes the discipling possible. At Victory House we work toward communicating that: “1) God cares for people, 2) God is responsive to human needs, 3) God bestows the richest gifts on us, 4) God shows respect for, values, and cherishes us, 5) God knows us, 6) God forgives, and 7) God disciplines us.” This is a biblical portrayal of our God that we are, prayerfully, reproducing into the spirit’s, heart’s, and mind’s of our disciples. Our goal is to reproduce God’s image in as many people as God will allow.
For all intents and purposes, Victory House is a congregation “in Christ” of ministry staff and disciples complete with leadership, “buildings, and distinctive doctrines.” Relationships are bound to form in a church whose members: (1) live and work in the same places, and (2) share the same living and working schedules. By design the Victory House concept for ministry is family styled. This paper has examined the Trinitarian image humans have been created in while also examining the gender relations, attachment, singleness, and discipling aspects of the body of Christ. Throughout the New Testament there are verses that refer to the Church as a family of believers that make up the household of God. It stands to reason that informed application of the topics examined in this paper stand to grow us as a strong family in God and in the eyes of our community.
Standing prayer request: Please pray for the leadership and program of the Victory House. That we would remain sensitive to God’s heart towards the least and marginalized. Also that we would not be complacent with the Word of God, but teach and live it out daily in the power of the Holy Spirit. The goal of which is the equipping men with the mind of God unto the salvation and sanctification of their souls. New Oxford American Dictionary, 2nd ed., s.v. “Church.”