I spent most of last Tuesday down in Waco with seven other preachers / ministers in a classroom at the Crestview Church of Christ talking with each other about Christian ministry. We told our stories, we read and prayed through a few of the Psalms, we visited about pressure points in our ministries and the temptations that naturally come during those times. We shared with each other the things that give us stress. It seems I’m not the only preacher who doesn’t have enough time during the week to do what he knows he ought to be doing. There’s the fear or the stress of feeling like I’m just spinning my wheels and nobody’s really paying attention or applying the things I’m preaching; the worry that we’re not changing into the image of Christ—we’re all staying the same. And there’s also the stress of everyone expecting the preacher to know everything and do everything and be in charge of everything—just as long as he doesn’t act like it.
One of the nicest parts of the day for me was when Jim asked us what specifically was encouraging to us in our ministries. I quickly ran through several things in my mind: a fantastic office staff, a supportive group of elders, an encouraging wife, wonderful friends who push me and challenge me, my Sunday morning prayer time with a couple of brothers here at Legacy, our Tuesday morning group, and our Small Groups Churches.
And then I spent 20 minutes talking about how amazed I am by our Small Groups Churches.
I never expected our Small Groups Churches to be acting in the ways they’re acting so quickly. I imagined it would take several months for our groups to bond and study and pray and minister to each other before they began to realize the ultimate goals of reaching out and ministering to others. But, praise God! His vision and his plans are so much bigger and more wonderful than mine.
It seems that every week another of our Small Groups is doing something else in a sacrificial way to take the love of Christ to others. I’ve told you before that several of our groups began writing letters and cards to misssionaries the day we kicked off our Missions Sunday push last month. A couple of our groups are planning huge garage sales and will donate all of the money to our Missions Sunday. Two groups have collected money for gift cards and donated other items to at least two local families who have suffered through house fires. One of our groups is taking a mission trip to Honduras together in June. One group has begun an open Prayer Meeting at one of their houses twice a month. And these are just the things I’ve heard about in the past couple of weeks.
Our elders looked at Small Groups Church as a more effective way to shepherd this rapidly-growing flock. And I can’t describe to you how wonderful it is to overhear elders talking to each other about something that happened at Tom & Mary’s house or something that was said at Dave & Linda’s house or something that the people at George & Sue’s house are doing or thinking about. Our elders are regularly in our people’s houses now. And it’s fostering a beautiful sense of mutual trust and love, absolutely paramount when it comes to healthy relationships and a healthy congregation.
Most of our groups are wanting to do more, not less. Most of our groups are inviting visitors and new members every week. Of the ten meetings we’ve had so far, our group has had somebody brand new at seven of them. And I know a lot of other groups enjoy the same kind of energy. I’m encouraged by Aaron and Jennifer Green’s group’s eagerness to multiply and infiltrate the rest of our congregation and community. I’m thrilled with Richard and Joanna Ashlock’s group’s vision for inviting new people in. (You can read Jennifer’s blog-post about their “multiply” here and Joanna’s blog-post about their vision here.)
Of course, these things are all a part of the long-term goals of all our Small Groups. These things are presented at each of our training classes and are talked about all the time in a variety of ways here at Legacy. I just assumed it would be a while before we actually started seeing some of these things happen. But it’s happening all the time.
And it’s our Small Groups Churches that lift me up and encourage me through the pressure points of my ministry here. The people at Legacy are listening. The brothers and sisters at Legacy are applying the Word into their everyday lives. The Christians at Legacy are making a difference. Lives are being changed. Lives are being impacted by the love and grace of our God through Christ Jesus. And our Father receives all the power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise forever and ever. He always delivers more than I can ask or imagine.