Have you found your place in a small group within your church?
Shawn and I are a few months into the journey of hosting a group in our home on Thursday evenings, and I’d like to share some of the benefits we’ve discovered.
- Our church feels more like our church now. It’s a place for us, a place we belong.
- We see familiar faces on Sunday morning and share handshakes and hugs. Instead of watching random faces in the crowd or nodding to strangers, we’re connecting for fellowship.
- We have a family group to pray for and with. We have friends to share our heartaches and joys. Nothing beats having a friend drape an arm across my shoulder to join me in prayer as I carry personal concerns to the Father.
- We share Scripture and discuss the meaning and application. I’m learning so much from my brothers and sisters, and I’m thrilled to hear how God is working.
- We praise and worship God as a community of believers.
There’s usually room for one more in a group. Find one and visit several times. Prayerfully consider joining. Or, if you’re up for the challenge, host a new group.
In our land of rugged individualists some may think group life is not necessary for the Christian. “I’m tough. I can make it on my own.” Right. Can you grill a steak over a single charcoal briquette?
Without the influence of and fellowship with other believers the probability rises that we will cool off spiritually. With the shift in Christianity to larger churches with multiple services personal connection is an individual responsibility. Sure, we can remain anonymous and uninvolved, but to maximize our investment we need the small group impact.
Scripture offers a solid basis for group life. Grab your Bible and a concordance and search for verses in the New Testament that use the phrase, “one another”. You’ll find an extensive listing of the responsibilities we have to each other.
I grouped the verses I found into fourteen broad categories. We’ll cover three today, and I’ll share the remaining eleven in future posts.
If you are considering hosting a group and have questions about logistics or just want to ask how we do group, contact me or leave a comment. I’m happy to share what I’m learning, and look forward to benefiting from your ideas.
Group life fosters my spiritual growth
Do I have 100% understanding of the entirety of Scripture? Have I figured out every possible way God can work in my life? Have I grasped those areas where I struggle, and do I have strategies in place for improvement?
We need each other. Picture the disciples in the boat with Jesus as He calmed the wind and waves with His voice. Concern, fear, confusion—a host of emotions flooded their hearts. It was prime time to open a conversation with a companion, “What just happened?”
And He said to them, “Where is your faith?” They were fearful and amazed, saying to one another, “Who then is this, that He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey Him?”
Luke 8:25 NASB
Mark (chapter 9) records the Transfiguration of Christ. Peter, James, and John were eye witnesses though the significance of the moment sailed over their heads. On the trip down the mountain Jesus mentioned rising from the dead, and the trio launched a discussion of what He meant by that phrase. I wonder why they didn’t ask Jesus for an explanation, but I’ve bobbled my head in agreement many times rather than admit I’m clueless.
They seized upon that statement, discussing with one another what rising from the dead meant.
Mark 9:10 NASB
As we analyze our beliefs, as we discuss and defend our convictions, as we share our experiences and concerns our faith grows stronger. Where better to carry on that dialogue than in the safety of a group of believers taking the same journey? An immediate connection forms when I discover Joe has the same question or Sally is in the midst of a similar experience.
Group Life teaches me to accept others.
With billions of people inhabiting the earth I am certain to encounter a few that I simply do not care to befriend. Avoiding the one I do not want to know is tough when we’re in the same small group. Group life is a great place to learn how to accept others, and the process requires me to conquer several levels of attitude adjustment.
Don’t be judgmental.
Give the other person the benefit of the doubt. How has he struggled to reach this point in life? What is his level of spirituality? Am I concerned about his growth, or am I revving the engine on my Bible-Knowledge-Shredder waiting my chance to flail him into oblivion for his lack of maturity? Behind every face is a story. We’ll never learn that story if judging is our first response.
Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this–not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way.
Romans 14:13 NASB
Here’s the verse but please read the context.
with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love,
Ephesians 4:2 NASB
The word tolerance includes these meanings: to stand up straight, to put up with, and to endure. Possible a relative attending a recent family gathering has come to your mind. During the visit perhaps you gave thanks your homes are separated by hundreds of miles. To preserve the unity and peace of the family gathering you gritted your teeth and determined to tough it out. That’s tolerance at its root. You overlooked your personal discomfort by focusing on the larger goal. Hey, some people are just plain annoying, and we must learn to stand strong and tolerate them.
I’ve had the experience of getting closer to someone even with their foibles, warts, and cooties. I bring my own collection of these items to the relationship. Over time we find common ground, and the bond between us is cemented. With tolerance we’re learning to put up with someone. With acceptance we’re deliberate about getting to know them.
Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.
Romans 15:7 NASB
Acceptance means to welcome this person into my home, to take him into my friendship circle, or to grant this person access to my heart. The process takes time. And trust. And a willingness to be vulnerable. There will be setbacks, but I must keep trying. How many blessings in the friendship category have I missed by tolerating someone rather than accepting him?
Group life brings accountability.
Doing right is easier when I’m with a group following the same path. If one of us stumbles, another can offer a hand up. I love the Bethlehem shepherds in the Christmas story who illustrate this idea. Once the angels disappeared into the night, the shepherds discussed next steps. Was there any other course of action than to seek the Savior? They embarked on a search mission and encouraged one another to stay focused on the task.
When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.”
Luke 2:15 NASB
Sometimes I need a loving friend who will point out the danger in my path. Swallowing my pride may choke me, and accepting the course correction (especially when my wife is the source) might be hard to digest. Ignoring the warning from one who has demonstrated love and concern for my welfare is just plain dumb.
And concerning you, my brethren, I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able also to admonish one another.
Romans 15:14 NASB
Speaking truth is vital. Speaking truth with love is crucial. Avoiding an expansion of personal pride because I’m not the one struggling is paramount.
Therefore, laying aside falsehood, SPEAK TRUTH EACH ONE of you WITH HIS NEIGHBOR, for we are members of one another.
Ephesians 4:25 NASB
Alone it’s easy for me to drop out of church or stumble into sin. Being surrounded by a loving family group to whom I’ve given the freedom to call me on the issues is an excellent precautionary step.
Coming next time:
- Group life offers a training ground for service.
- Group life establishes a team for pursuing common goals.
- Group life teaches me to love.
- Group life is about people construction.
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