For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.John 3:16-17 KJVR
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Friday, September 9, 2011
A startling story, now a mixture of fable and fact, is told of Oxford University's New College Hall. When the Hall's stunning vaulted ceiling--of 18" oak beams twenty feet in length--was found with a devastating infestation of powder-post beetles, the university's forester was summoned. Were beams of this size--of this quality--accessible? How much did they cost?
And that's when the fascinating answer surfaced. When New College first received its charter in 1379, an entire oak grove had been planted for replacement of the hall. They had planned six centuries ahead. The grove continually reseeded itself with acorns, so as beams were milled to replace those infested, the process had already begun again.
Sustainability like this--in much smaller terms--has become an environmental buzzword as we discuss topics like "carbon footprints" and "reduce, reuse, recycle." But small groups, too, can glean much from the sustainability of these pioneers from Oxford. Small groups can far outlive themselves by creating more disciples through ministry, whether as individuals or together. Feasibly, there could be repercussions of your group hundreds of years from now. But what does that look like? And where should you start?
Turn your eyes upward and outward. Small groups are critical for discipleship of their members. The Bible is clear that God cares more about the condition of our hearts than what's outward. But God is also clear that action follows faith. What vision does God have for your group? Could it reproduce itself in vital ministry--and thrive even more? Acts 13:2 mentions that while the believers at Antioch "were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, 'Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.'" As a group, spend time praying for clarity, vision, and love that compels you to reach outward in your community.
Discover passions and gifts. God has brought your group--and the stories of each member--together. You may seek out online spiritual gift inventories (your church may have one already). Spend time discussing personality, passion, aptitudes, and experiences. Talk about how God may be weaving those into one big arrow pointing to his purposes. As time allows, meet with members one-on-one to help them explore and pursue a vision for their part in the Body of Christ.
Take action every week. Each week pick someone outside of your group who needs to be encouraged. Pray for them, and pass around a note card for everyone to write an encouraging message to them. As individuals, pick non-Christians to pray for weekly, and look for opportunities to begin God-directed conversations--possibly about topics you've discussed in small group.
Invest down. Consider how you can invest in the lives of one another's children. What are the needs your kids have--or opportunities you'd like them to have? Discuss how you can provide some investment in the needs and opportunities of kids in your community group or church. Consider inviting kids from the neighborhood to be involved as well.
Take turns. Each week, assign a different couple in your group to come with a person in mind who is in need (not a faceless organization) and what you can do to help meet that need. If materials or funds are required, consider taking up an offering of sacrificial giving. Come back and report on what action was taken.
Start small. Dream big. As you stretch your wings, there are plenty of ways for people to completely exhaust their energies and resources. Rather than burning out, seek God-given, God-sized vision that results in your group wisely, generously pouring itself out in love rather than overextending itself. Help your group remember that ministry doesn't make us more acceptable in God's sight. It's an outpouring of what we've been given freely.