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In today’s world, there are so many different types of groups. There are mom groups and dad groups. There are groups for different occupations and hobbies. There are middle age with children and middle age without children groups. Singles groups and divorced groups. The list goes on and on. But these are primarily social groups, even if the group is comprised of Christians. And let’s face it, there’s a big difference between “hanging out” with other Christians, and deeply connecting with them on a spiritual level. I do believe there is a place for both but, if you’re like me, you need a deep connection like never before. Scripture is so full of references to community and the importance of being with a group of like-minded individuals to walk through this life without fear of judgment or, even worse, rejection.
“As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” Proverbs 17:17
The beauty of that verse is clear – we cannot do life in the way God ordained it without friends. Just like we cannot grow in our faith if we do it completely on our own. We need others to do it in a way that enriches our lives and our relationship with the Lord.
One of my favorite pictures of the Christian community in action is of the early church as described in Acts 2:
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Acts 2:42
Read it again!
Did you catch that? They devoted themselves to one another and to God. When was the last time you devoted yourself to something? No, I’m not talking about a short-term project or hobby. I’m talking about an all-consuming, life-altering devotion. I would bet it’s been a long while. I know it has for me. But the first church let God truly consume their lives. They pushed one another, studied the “apostles teaching,” spent time remembering Jesus and prayed. Oh, how they prayed together and separately. They were devoted to these things and they changed the world.
I know it sounds like a cliche but I genuinely want to change the world. But not as I would have it. I want to change the world so that Jesus Christ is glorified. But as much as I’d like to think I’m just that able, I can’t do it on my own. I NEED people who have a heart for changing the world, too. I need people like those in Acts. They were living what I long for. What about you?
“Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25
The writer of Hebrews said it best and we would do well to heed those words. Meeting together in a sanctuary is fantastic and super important in your spiritual life. It’s a time of teaching and worshipping in a larger community. But if that is all you do, you’re missing out on the essence of the Church! And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Just imagine a world where people met together for the intentional reason of intensive prayer, study, worship, and Holy Communion. Imagine how families would change. Imagine how children would change. Schools would be impacted. Work would change. So much would be impacted by this type of intentionality. Are you getting excited yet?
Well here’s the secret. You can’t wait for someone else to do it and invite you. If you are excited about such an opportunity, you have to make it happen. You have to be the one to take the first step. If your heart started beating just a bit faster as you were dreaming of such a group, then God is likely nudging you to action.
How do you get started?
PRAY! And then pray some more. God will begin to lead you to invite one or more like-minded friends to join your group.
Establish a regular time and place to meet. This could be weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly. But it must be regular!!! There are going to be times when schedules don’t meet up. That’s okay. Set a time and stick with it. You’ll quickly discover who is putting forth the effort and who isn’t. And that is OKAY! Everyone is different and needs to be able to determine for themselves what is important.
If you are a parent, arrange somewhere else for your kids to be. I love children but children can make it a bit difficult to have deep meaningful discussions. The truth is, small children have a lot of needs and your attention is one of them. So, rather than feeling guilty about not having your children with you, think of this as your weekly “me-time”. I promise this will be the most valuable time of your life.
Decide together what your time will look like. What are your hopes and goals? And what are your absolute do’s and don’ts within your group. For me, I will not tolerate gossip. I’ve been the subject of it too much to want to put that feeling upon someone else. You and your group have to decide what your time will look like. Write it down and have everyone sign it. It’s a covenant.
Specify a leader for each meeting. Otherwise, it’s way too easy to spend the entire time chit-chatting. And in the end, that’s just not as beneficial. I think it works best when people rotate. We should each have ownership in the group so there is not a primary leader. Instead, we are all in this together.
Be transparent. Be honest. Be raw. Encourage. Exhort. Love. Challenge. And watch God do amazing things in your lives as well as within the lives around you.
What to Do Each Week
If you are like me, you prefer to have some kind of template to go by.
Catch up. How is it with your soul?
Talk about spiritual things. Did you spend time with God this week? Consistently? What did that look like? If you didn’t, why not?
What struggles are you having? Confess to one another. Encourage one another. Ask questions.
Goals, hopes, dreams: Check-in on goals from the previous week and set new ones. These can pertain to absolutely anything, not just time with God.
Celebrate Holy Communion.
There are some things to be cautious about though.
Like with any good thing, there are some things that can spoil it if you’re not careful.
Don’t gossip. I know. I’ve already stated this once but seriously it’s very important. Gossip is not God-honoring or beneficial. In fact, it’s evil. Resolve not to do this and hold each other accountable. If it’s not your story to tell, don’t tell it.
What is shared in the group, stays in the group. Make this a safe environment. Keep the things confided to yourself unless there’s a very important and specific reason to do otherwise. Remember, you are in a covenant and trust is essential.
Listen A LOT before you offer any advice or suggestions. Listen, listen, and listen some more. I’m an enneagram 2 so I get it. Being a fixer or helper is in my DNA. But people are not always looking to be fixed. Just because someone shares about a situation that is troubling to them, it’s not a greenlight for you to fix it. Sometimes your presence is enough. Be wise in what you say. God might move you to speak into a situation, or He might lead you to keep silent, but either way, James 2:4 says, “be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.” and Colossians 4:6, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”
Finally, Don’t force it. If the friendships are to be true and lifelong, it will simply happen through the study, the transparency, and the fellowship. But if you are having to force it, to work at it until it no longer serves a joyful purpose, it’s not the right group for you. And that’s okay. Keep looking and praying until you are led to the right group of people.
God has great things in store for you. He wants you surrounded by His love. And He wants you to know who you are – His!