When my husband was called to ministry thirteen years ago, God placed a passion in my heart for small groups. I didn't realize at the time that the passion was for small groups, I just wanted to have a Bible study in my home because I had a desire to see women reading the Bible. Our church at that time didn't have a small group ministry; however, they supported my efforts. For the next three years, we met in our living room every Wednesday morning growing in our relationships with one another and I got to witness everyone spending more time in the Bible as time went on. Over the years I have led and participated in groups. One of the groups that my entire family was in was a family group. The family group was where I experienced how a group not only grew in relationship with God and each other, but we also served with each other. We were only a part of that group for a short time; however, it opened my eyes to how a small community of believers could live out our faith together. Now fast forward to where I am today in Western New York and I am on staff at our church where I am the ministry assistant for Community Life, which oversees the Community Groups (small groups) in our church. Our church has a vision to see all our groups growing in their relationship with God, growing in relationship with each other, and reaching out to others. I feel very strongly that God created us to be in community with each other so we could encourage one another in our faith walk. Please use the link and read what the author of Hebrews had to say about community in Hebrews 10:19-25.
Continuing on in my "Entering Rest" study, you may be wondering why I am writing about small groups and community. But I want to show you why I firmly believe that it is in a healthy community of believers that we grow our faith and learn to live it out as God intended. We have seen throughout the last few weeks that our obedience is evidence of our faith, and that God promises His rest when we believe. Reading through these verses, I feel that the author of Hebrews is telling us that it isn't just important to live out our faith walk with each other, but it is a vital part of our growth and obedience. The author wrote in Hebrews 10:24-25 (NIV), "And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching." I know so much of my personal faith growth has been in the time I have spent alone in prayer and in the Bible, in fact that time is necessary for growth. But I have also experienced growth because of the time I have spent in community with other believers. This is because when I am in community with other believers I am challenged to live out my faith. I am challenged to serve others. I am encouraged and motivated to do it because we are doing it together. And when we cannot physically doing it together, we can pray for each other to have the empowerment to do what God asks us to do.
This starts with going to church. Yes, I've heard the stories of how people have been hurt in church - I have been hurt, too. I've also heard the argument that the church is full of hypocrites. But here's the thing - we are all human and we have all hurt someone and I believe most of the time it is unintentional. And yes, we all say how we are supposed to live and then catch ourselves doing the opposite - all of us! That is also the beauty of the church. It is in those moments where we can also experience grace, mercy and forgiveness. Rubbing shoulders with a bunch of imperfect people who desperately want to do what God wants helps spur us on all the more to do what God wants. But then I believe we need to create an even smaller community of trusted friends (small group) that has the intimacy to encourage each other all the more in our faith. That is where we are motivated to truly live it out.
Are you in a community with other believers? As Hebrews 10:25 tells us, don't give up meeting together!
This post is linked with Faith Filled Friday.