For almost two years, we have been reminded through the Book of Hebrews that one of the hallmarks of staying faithful to Jesus is to persevere in the faith [Hebrews 10:36, 12:1]. As ones who are to endure, we are called, among other things, to pay close attention to the gospel and to fix our eyes upon Jesus as we strive to endure to the end [Hebrews 2:1; 3:1; 12:2].
In order to persevere, we’ve learned that we are in desperate need to have people around us, speaking into our lives, and we are to be around others speaking into their lives [Hebrews 3:14; 10:24, 25; cf. Ephesians 4:15].
We also need to be reminded that these truths are not just words on paper, but that these words are living and powerful and that these truths change lives [Hebrews 4:12].
Just as the writer of Hebrews encouraged his readers in chapter 11 by sharing testimonies of saints who persevered in faith, we, too, need to hear testimonies and stories from within our church body that encourage us to press on in faith as we press into each other.
It’s for this reason that from time to time as pastors we believe it’s important for the church to hear testimonies from people within the church about how God is using people and ministry within this church to build-up the body.
Last month, I shared a testimony from a couple about how God is working in and through our Community Group Ministry.
I shared with the church that I received an email with the subject heading “Top 10”, which naturally piqued my curiosity. The email detailed this couple’s top 10 reasons why they were looking forward to rejoining their community group this fall. As the pastor who oversees our Community Group Ministry, the email was meant to encourage me to ‘keep on keepin on’ with our continued focus on this ministry.
I was so encouraged by this email that I asked if I could share it with the church. They agreed, and so early last month I did. In case you weren’t here on that Sunday morning, here is the email...
Every year, as we anticipate fall and re-connecting with our community groups, I feel a joy and yearning to once again gather together with our dear community group. I was counting my blessings. Here is my short list.
It is a perpetual means of God's grace working in my life.God has worked in my heart in ways that don't stop when the meeting ends.
It expands my heart to care about the needs of others. Deep needs and concerns are shared from the heart. This keeps me tender hearted and "other-oriented."
Everything about it draws me closer to the Lord. Everything. It is a discipline that leads to desire. It requires a small amount of self-denial and a big amount of commitment. It's not a gym membership that can be put on pause or canceled. It's people's lives. It matters to the Lord and He has made it matter to me. I felt no external pressure to be in a group or to conform. God drew us.
It causes me to worship Christ with my group in singing hymns of faith and doctrine. All the people in my community group grew up singing and we are very comfortable singing together - we sang a patriotic song at the start of each day in grammar school, we sang with our families on car trips, we sang in church and Sunday School, we sang along with songs on the radio as teenagers. We all love to sing from the hymnals we lug around as we rotate homes. It's another means of putting into our hearts the truth of God's word. It's wonderful.
I experience true fellowship and extend it to others.There's genuine caring for one another. (Con't on page 2)There is unity of purpose - that the Lord be magnified in every area of our lives. It's an opportunity to come along side others in a way that develops intimacy with a view of what is of eternal significance. We have laughed, wept, mourned, and exhorted one another. Life can be hard. We need one another as the body of Christ. As Tony has recently emphasized, it's about endurance and at its heart that is a core purpose of community groups - enduring in our faith.
It provides healthy introspection from God's word as I study the material our group is working on.Opportunity to go systematically through a study keeps my focus in God's word and keeps me accountable to do the work of studying out of proper consideration of the efforts of the others who lead and for the others in the group who also do the study. Many Biblical truths have been imparted to me by God's word in my home group's studies. Many true, "water-shed" issues have come up causing me to dig deep and by God's grace, to better grasp doctrine and grow in Christ. The mirror of God's word has caused me to undergo healthy self-introspection which has helped me identify sin, areas of growth needed, and press into the glorious reality of the gospel – all further means of His grace in my life.
It lifts me up in Christ. I've heard the expression that "90% of it is showing up" and that's honestly true as it applies to many things in life and it's true of being lifted up in Christ by just being in attendance at a community group so it can lift us up. God always meets my needs and community group helps me stay conscious of this.
I lift others up in Christ. In the context of community group, I have opportunities to encourage, engage, and pray for others. It doesn't take great heroics. Just being there and caring lifts one another up. And just think of what calamity we may never know has been avoided simply by the ongoing efforts and encouragement of community groups! It's a sobering thought to me.
We live out the "one another's" of scripture. We pray for one another, encourage one another, share and receive insights from one another, we love one another, help one another, and so much more. It's beautiful. It becomes the very fabric of our lives.
It strengthens my relationships with our church which is an exaltation to God.We share what God did in our lives, how the sermon impacted us, what we are learning, we pray for our church leaders and missionaries, we stay connected to our church and share our involvement.
What a blessing to read these words again! I hope they are as encouraging to you as they have been to me.
In a church our size, it’s difficult to know others and be known by them unless we shrink down into smaller contexts. As pastors, we have determined that our Community Group Ministry is the most effective way for us to have people from within this church body minister the grace of God to one another.
Brothers and sisters, we need each other to endure. We need each other to persevere. None of us was meant to live the Christian life on our own terms, in our own ways. Rather we were meant to live life in community.
Do you have people from this church speaking into your life? Do you speak into the lives of others from Grace? Do you pray with them? Sing with them? Rejoice and weep with them? If not, don’t continue to let days, weeks and months go by before you take action.
Feel free to email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or call the church office about getting plugged into a Community Group, and Lord willing, you too will find that in community God’s grace ministers to you in ways that upholds you when you are weak, comforts you when you are fainthearted and gives you grace to persevere to the end [1 Thessalonians 5:14].