Living Life Together
On a Thursday afternoon, Gary is trying to leave work. It’s been a busy week, but he wants to get out of there so he can make it on time to his small group. Honestly, to begin with, he wasn’t all that excited about being in a small group. His wife, Karen, kept asking him about participating in one together, and the preacher kept talking about how important it is for discipleship. So he finally agreed. But after they made the commitment to gather with a small group of people regularly, he soon discovered it was one of the highlights of his week.
In fact, it changed his life. In his small group, he began to talk about his spiritual life—the ups and downs, joys and struggles, questions and doubts. Others shared what was happening in their lives. They began to live out the practices of discipleship, especially praying for one another. He was stretched in his relationship with the Lord, but he felt such peace. He grew in all his other relationships, too. Not just with Karen, his small group members, and his church, but also with his family, his co-workers, his neighbors, his community. Jesus came for us to have an abundant life (John 10:10). Gary felt his small group helped him come alive.
Participating in a small group like this is the Methodist way. John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, called them “class meetings” and they were limited to twelve people. Wesley thought these small groups were so important, so central to Methodism, that he pledged to not preach where these small groups weren’t present and active.
Early in his ministry he wrote in his Journal, “I am more and more convinced that the devil himself desires nothing more than this, that the people of any place should be half-awakened, and then left to themselves to fall asleep again. Therefore I determine, by the grace of God, not to strike one stroke in any place where I cannot follow the blow.” That is, Wesley knew that when people were touched by hearing the Word of God proclaimed, there then had to be a system in place to help those persons grow in their faith.
In fact, in Wesley’s day, the majority of people experienced “new birth” not in the preaching but in the small group. Certainly, preaching touches people. Sometimes they’re intrigued or want to know more. That leads to taking the next step of participating in a small group. The “class meeting” was vital for discipleship, knowing God’s love and grace, experiencing forgiveness and healing, and becoming more like Jesus.
All this doesn’t happen alone. It happens with others, in community, with Christians and non-Christians together. Or as my friend, Scott Kisker, says, “Faith is born in the midst of relationship.”
Are you participating in a small group? If not, it’s time to begin.
You could join one that already exists on Sunday morning or evening, Tuesday evening, or Wednesday morning. Or you could be part of one of the brand new small groups beginning on Monday or Wednesday evening. Or just gather some friends. It would be fantastic to invite some who are Christians as well as some non-Christians so you can share the life of Jesus with them. Start by gathering together weekly for 6-8 weeks. You can decide later whether you continue or start something else.
You might have a meal together, some finger food, or no food at all. Younger couples with children could have childcare as part of their small group. Perhaps those with the gift of hospitality could host at their home, or everyone could take turns hosting. Someone could facilitate to keep the group on track. The content could include reading scripture or a book together. It could be based around Sunday’s sermon. I am happy to help organize new groups, and I have several options from which to choose.
The most important thing, however, is for each person to share, to be vulnerable and trusting. What’s the headline of your week? What’s happening in your life? How is God at work? How are you struggling? Then pray for one another.
Check out the Discipleship Menu at the Welcome Center or simply contact the church office to let us know you’re ready to be in a small group.