Since its inception in 1988, we estimate that over two million people have participated in Living Free support groups and most have been in an Insight Group. As I reflect back I am once again reminded how God's hand was on this ministry from the beginning...
It was May 1987 and I was on my way to visit David Wilkerson, founder of Teen Challenge. I had developed a school ministry for drug prevention—Project 714—and it was doing well. Although I was happy doing that ministry, at times I felt a bit restless because my heart was for the local church, but no doors had opened for such a ministry. I was meeting with David to discuss Project 714.
As soon as David and I exchanged greetings, he began telling me that God was calling me to minister in the local church to those with life challenges and life-controlling problems. I was astounded at the things he said. After delivering his message to me, David said, "Jimmy, you must weigh what I have said."
David's words had a significant impact on me. Even though the ministry he described touched the very core of my heart's desire to minister to the local church, I knew God was in the Project 714 ministry as well. Frank Reynolds, the National Teen Challenge Director, had accompanied me on the visit to David. Later he said, "Jimmy, just follow the Lord, and He will guide you." I knew that was what I needed to do. I watched... I prayed... and I waited.
Four months later, I began to see David's words to me being confirmed. An elder at an evangelical church in Chattanooga, Tennessee, asked to have breakfast with me to discuss starting a ministry at his church for people struggling with life-controlling problems. After this meeting, I taught four Wednesday evenings at his church about ministering to people struggling with life challenges. Little did I know then that God was birthing the ministry of Living Free, formerly known as Turning Point Ministries.
After the four Wednesday evenings of training, it was suggested that we start a small group as a follow-up. Ten participants from various walks of life (doctors, professors, lawyers, teachers, and others) signed up for the group. As we shared, God taught me another lesson—everybody needs to understand how to deal with and overcome life-controlling problems—not just the down and outers who obviously need help. We all have problems and challenges—some of us are just better than others at covering our struggles with our Sunday smiles.
Each week before the group meeting, I prepared the lesson—always based on God's Word. Then during the meetings, we witnessed the evidence of God's transforming power. From this small group, the Insight Group was born.
The purpose of the Insight Group is to help each participant "walk in the way of understanding" (Proverbs 9:6) as it relates to an individual with life challenges or life-controlling problems. Participants discover how life-controlling problems develop. They learn how to identify the spiritual and emotional conditions that contribute to a problem taking root and growing in their life or in the life of someone they know.
The Insight Group is based on 2 Peter 1:3-11, which gets right to the heart of our struggles with problems that can master us. The passage reveals eight qualities or objectives that God wants to build into our lives: faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. Participants learn how these objectives build on one another to develop Christian character in us. We call this the Upward Path to Developing Christian Character. Participants learn how to apply these traits to their lives in practical ways to meet and overcome life's problems and challenges—God's way. They learn that "His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness" (2 Peter 1:3).
Now, some years since Insight Group began in a Chattanooga church with those ten people, participants are meeting in groups around the world. Only God can do that. We estimate nearly two million people have participated in a Living Free Group, and we have received countless testimonies about how God has worked through the groups to transform lives.