Rick Writes:

Who You Gonna Call?

Many years ago, during the holidays, I found myself stranded in a dark Wal-mart parking lot.  My car would not start so I decided to call the Triple A response team, but all to no avail.  Julie my wife wasn’t feeling well that night and had taken some Nyquil to get some rest and hopefully feel better in the morning.  Let me tell you, that stuff really works.

 So, now, who you gonna call?

Though I knew a lot of people, I couldn’t think of one person who I felt I had enough relational currency that I wanted to call.  Oh, there were any number of people who would have come and gladly helped, but I just didn’t feel like I knew anyone well enough.  What I wanted was a family member.

One of the big takeaways from Mark 3, is that when Jesus is approached by his natural family, He is essence, redefines what a Christian family is when He says, “Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”  (Mark 3:35). What’s the good news here?  If you belong to Christ, you have a new family.

But for that family to work well, it takes intentionality.  People in our culture are becoming more and more isolated, and sadly that isolation is often found in the church as well.  People can come to church and leave with a sense of not being anymore connected to anyone else than when they first arrived.  One axiom that holds true, is that for a church to grow in a healthy fashion, it must grow bigger and smaller at the same time.  Bigger in terms of worship, and smaller in terms of the number of settings where people are meaningfully connected, bearing each other’s burdens in much smaller groups. 

In Acts 2, the church met “in the temple courts,” which would probably have been a bigger group, and the church “broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.” (2:46), which would have been much smaller groups, because the size of their homes would have been much smaller.

When thinking about intentionality and how that works with smaller groups, here are a few points to consider.

#1.  There is no one size fits all for this category.  A small group for one person               may mean coffee with a few close friends, and for someone else it may mean a bible study, a Sunday school class, or fellowship group.  The key elements are that it is scheduled, regularly meets, and concerns, victories, and burdens are shared. It is a place where people truly get to know each other.

#2.  A good way to start a group is by asking questions and gathering consensus.  How long should our meeting last?  And if you settle on a particular time, be sure people are out the door before the time is up.  Should we include dinner?  How often should we meet? Do we want to have a Bible study?  Should we watch a video before we come and be ready to discuss? Really, what do we want the format for our meeting to look like?

#3.  Be mindful of landmines.  Landmines can surface through the busyness of people’s schedules, or by the baggage that some individuals may carry.  In scheduling, flexibility is key, and in dealing with someone who has an agenda, or likes to monopolize conversation, it is important to find a strategy that helps everyone grow and makes it safe for everyone to be heard.

These are just a few thoughts when thinking about fellowship groups where life is shared and people are growing together in Christ.  For the early church, the result was, “and the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” (2:47). And to that, I would add just one other thing. If they happened to find themselves stranded in the Wal-Mart parking lot, they didn’t have to think twice about who they were going to call, because they knew their family.