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The Life Model: Living from the Heart Jesus Gave You

Author: James G. Friesen, et. al
Published: Shepherd's House, Inc.  Nov 10, 2000
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Life Model Order the new 15th Anniversary Edition today! This new version now includes study questions at the end of each chapter as well as many other bonuses. The Life Model is a unifying approach to ministries of counseling, recovery, pastoral care, prayer ministry, delivereance, inner healing, child rearing, body life and health. Substance abuse recovery programs internationally are guided by the Life Model's five principles. Because the Life Model develops strong maturity, it is widely used as a church model, particularly where people must face suffering. Missions have adopted the Life Model for restoring hurt missionary children. Almost every major ministry dealing with trauma and abuse in the USA uses the Life Model as part of their teaching. Written by James Friesen, E James Wilder, Anne Bierling, Rick Koepcke, and Maribeth Poole.

The first version of the Life Model was assembled by the Shepherd’s House staff using punched pages and tied with black strings to look “artsy.” While the full Life Model has not yet been written or published, this first collection of writings was named Living From The Heart Jesus Gave You. “Living from your heart” is a way to speak of finding our true identities. This document took several years to write from the contributions of Dr. James Friesen, Dr. Jim Wilder, Anne Bierling, Rick Koepcke and Maribeth Poole. This strong group of men and women were studying the reasons why some people who came for help would heal and grow while others stayed in trouble. Friesen was not at all convinced that people would like the term Life Model. He was surprised when the book he compiled started being called “The Life Model.”

The central challenge to the writers was what order to present the five principles that help people live out their true identities. Their conclusions were kept in an ever-changing set of documents about how life worked. Each revision was corrected, illustrated and condensed to the fewest words and concepts. Living From The Heart Jesus Gave You has gone through many printings and through maroon, blue, green and full color covers. Some of these versions have been offered for hundreds of dollars on E-bay. We think those people are loopy. The content of every version is basically the same. Chapter five was reworded in 2000 under the blue cover and we changed to a larger font in the green cover but the ideas stayed the same.

Bierling came from an education background. On her way to becoming an assistant principal she studied “idealized modeling,” a way of thinking that aims to create a model of how life should be rather that just measure what already exists. Concepts in the Life Model (like maturity) are based on what people would look like if we did things right instead of an average of how most people turn out at each age.

The staff debated for years over what to call the model since it covered: all of life from birth to death, how to heal, how to grow healthy children, how to be fully alive and how to harmonize the many conflicting models for human community. The hardest word to choose was one that would mean “I am growing the way I should be, am fully developed and fully alive for my age.” It is not easy to find that word. Thriving was one choice but maturing was the final selection. Maturing was not ideal because it can mean “over fifty” or “containing obscene content.” The choice of the name “life model” also caused problems as that can refer to a nude person posing for an art class.

The five factors identified in this book that help people change are: having a place to belong, receiving and giving life, learning to recover from things that go wrong, maturing and getting to know our hearts. These five became known as the “five to thrive.” The staff decided to write as condensed a book on these five factors as they could manage. It was also decided that the book would be aimed at the communities who were trying to make a difference in people’s lives rather than an academic audience. This caused one contributor who was in academia to leave the project. It also resulted in a book with few footnotes and as culturally flexible a message as possible. Wilder was raised in South America while Poole grew up in Africa so a cross-cultural perspective was part of the fabric of their thoughts. Koepcke became so convinced of the centrality of community that he soon moved out of counseling and into pastoral ministry.

Living From The Heart Jesus Gave You is not a book on theology and, in fact, it does not say much about the topics Christians generally debate with each other. This book is about being fully alive and, for that reason, Christians from many different doctrinal convictions have been able to use our model. This book is now in several languages and being translated into new languages by a wide assortment of groups that do not usually share much in common – certainly not the same books. Unlike the usual Christian book, this one contains more than one idea and has a lot of content on most pages. It is short but not a quick to read book. You will need to stop and think a few times.


The Life Model is now available in German on, .uk and .com and in Spanish in Spain on .es. (If you want the English version please use the order link above and order directly from us!)

German Life Model at Das Life-Model

German Life Model at Das Life-Model

German Life Model at Das Life-Model

Spanish Life Model at El gozo que restaura

Spanish Life Model at El gozo que restaura

Locate a Life Model Church! Connect with like-minded friends!

Due to growing demand, we plan to post every known Life Model church on the Life Model website. Using a new electronic mapping system, the Life Model website will have an online map. In order to find the location and contact information for churches who proactively use the Life Model we need your help.

There is a LINK on the left panel of the Life Model website that lets you "View Locations". Be sure to check out the new maps!

See the location of Thriving Recovery groups, Shepherd's House partners, Shepherd's House offices and where the Life Model materials have been distributed in the last three years. See the map now!

Pastors and church leaders, please email the seven pieces of info (below) to Shepherd's House at

Experience joy with like-minded friends. Learn the skills to thrive.

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