Last night was our final Community Group meeting for the year. Ever since we planted Rolling Hills, I have led a Community Group. This is one of my favorite parts of ministry. Seeing God work in people’s lives is so encouraging and invigorating. And, I truly believe life-change happens best in community. Jesus had 12 men to share life together and they grew deeper spiritually through their interaction with Jesus as well as with one another. Jesus gave us the model, and I believe this is how spiritual growth continues to happen today.
A few years ago, Lisa & I along with Tom and Angie Atema made the decision to have a new Group each year. This was very intentional. Before this, we had the same Group of friends. And, while we loved it, we felt like God was calling us to invest in others. So, we left the comfort of our friends and branched out into leading (with Tom and Angie hosting) a new Group – the idea being that we would invest in new people for a year, raise up a leader and launch them as a new Group the following year.
It has been amazing! It is not always easy. Ministry is messy – just ask Jesus. It takes a while to get to know new people as well as to learn to trust them. It takes a while for a Group to connect and gel. It takes a while to feel open enough to share your heart, your struggles and truly where you are spiritually with others. But, the beautiful part is when God moves among us and spiritual growth happens right before our eyes.
We have loved and continue to love all our Groups. We still see one another at church, cheer on the new Groups that launch and continue to share life together. Sometimes it may take two years or more, but launching new Groups is a sure sign of spiritual health and maturity. As well as a great way to meet new friends.
This Group we had this year has been amazing. We knew no one coming into the Group last August. Not one. And, yet, God bonded our hearts closely together. We have laughed a lot, and cried a lot. We have celebrated the greatest joys in life together this year – parents baptizing their kids and new babies being born. But, we have also walked through some of the darkest times together this year – the death of a parent and major struggles in marriage. Yet, all of these life situations have drawn us closer to God and closer to one another.
Since it was our last night, we asked everyone to share how they have grown spiritually this year. One couple shared how they had just moved here last summer and had no idea what would happen. God blessed them with church, community and they have grown more spiritually these past 9 months than at any other time in their lives. We love this family.
Another person shared what a hard year it has been with having a new baby, tax season (being an accountant) and dealing with family challenges. She said, “I have been carrying so much ‘Momma Guilt.’ I have felt like a failure as a mom, in my job and as a wife. And, yet, I now know God is with me, and I can see me being who God created me to be again.” Only God.
I love this. Another person said, “I used to love my religion. I grew up in a strict, fundamentalist church. My extended family was, and still is, there. It was comfortable, and I loved my religion. But, now, I love Jesus. Not my former church or even Rolling Hills, but I have fallen in love with Jesus. He is first in my life.”
One more shared about how difficult this year has been. They have had marriage issues that are still on-going. But, they said, looking back now, I can see how God brought me to this Group because He knew what I would be going through this year. He knew how I would need community and godly people around me.
You were not created to do life alone. God wants you to experience Him and life through others. But, you must be intentional. It is not easy to sign up and go to someone’s home that you don’t know. But, trust God. Be bold and put yourself around people who will help you grow in your relationship with God and others.
Every year it is so difficult when we come to the end of our Group. We have fallen in love with these friends, and it is so hard to bless them and to see them launch a new Group. But, like a newborn baby it is awesome to see them grow. To see them trust God, raise up another leader and continue embracing life in community. This is the mark of a disciple – making disciples (Matthew 28). Baptizing, teaching and obeying Christ.
You need a Community Group. You need a place to grow and to belong. Be intentional. Don’t hide behind the excuse of “I’m too busy.” No you are not. It is a matter of priorities, not time. Then, at some point in your spiritual journey, you need to lead a Group. It is awesome to love, pray and invest in others! Step up and trust God to work through you for His glory. In fact, you will grow even more as you prepare, pray, and pour out your life into others.
My prayer over our Group last night is my same prayer for you:
“I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:3-6
God has started something great in your life, but He is not finished with you. It is through a Community Group that God challenges you and encourages you. You need a Group. I need a Group. Life can change in a hurry. We grow spiritually in a Group. God has a great plan for your life. Trust Him. And, take the initiative to join a Group.