We’ve invited several of our own to post on the blog from the prompt, “Why LIFEgroups?” We hope you enjoy their reflections and are driven to reflect on God’s goodness to you as well. Thanks for reading.
The Greenville Grace website states that “LIFEgroups are our weekly small group ministry… the Church is to be about encouraging one another, praying for one another, holding one another accountable, sharing with one another, loving one another, teaching one another (and much, much more).” It goes on to note that because it’s simply not possible to meet all these goals solely by participating in a large assembly, at least not as deeply as God surely desires, LIFEgroups exist to help us meet the goals of a healthy, thriving local body of Christ—to promote praying thoughtfully for our fellow group members, to stimulate careful, collaborative study of the Word, to help us care for one another in immediate and tangible ways, and to allow for frequent and intimate fellowship with each other.
My wife, Krista, and I are entering our 5th year in a group. It has been a central part of our life at Greenville Grace, and no doubt it will continue to be. Why? Simply put, because our participation—in ways I could never have predicted, sometimes would not have chosen, and which frequently placed us well outside of our different comfort zones—has taught us to become more disciplined in our Bible study, more empathetic to fellow members confronting challenges we recognize, more attentive to others facing challenges foreign to us (so far), and significantly more honest about our shortcomings and weaknesses as they are revealed on a daily basis. Our LIFEgroup is one more vehicle that illuminates the Gospel and draws me closer to God, to His Word, and to my brothers and sisters in Christ. It is not a substitute for corporate, weekly worship, but a spectacular—and to me, an indispensable—addition to it.
Certainly we have benefited enormously from the iron-on-iron effect of digging into the scriptures with our brothers and sisters in Christ, testing our interpretations against the prayerful examination and questioning of each other. Moreover, that salutary friction has served me in other ways—most notably in those situations when, as the songwriter John Hiatt once observed, “You argue for an option, you angle for your case, but you wouldn’t know a burning bush if it blew up in your face.” In other words, my group fellows possess the perspective and honesty to point out things (sometimes crucial things) I ought to have perceived but didn’t. For example, I shared with my group last year an extremely thorny work-related conflict I was going through with a colleague. For a few weeks I discussed some of the circumstances and events involved to describe how this coworker was mistreating me, and I asked for prayers—for strength and wisdom so that I could endure or find a solution. Finally, one group member asked “Tim, as all this has been going on, have you ever prayed for [name of involved coworker]??” Ouch. No, I hadn’t.
And it would be impossible to overstate how much we need and find joy in the bonding agent of heartfelt laughter and fellowship with our small group, no matter the setting or context. But as I consider those LIFEgroup meetings which impacted me most, they are ones in which we “left the script,” so to speak, of discussing our responses to the supplied questions of the week and confronted the heartache one of our partners was enduring or confessed our own sin.
We prayed together, fervently. We shared intimate reminiscences and struggles and approaches to parenting. We read scriptures. We cried. We laughed.
I remember, for instance, one meeting which began with a seemingly prosaic solicitation for prayer requests. An hour prior to the gathering I had read a note from one of our autistic son’s teachers, detailing the latest episode of noncompliance and misbehavior. We had been down this road many times in the previous months and I was seething with anger at him despite knowing full well that an array of mitigating circumstances was present. I took him to his room and unloaded a verbal barrage that would have made any Marine Corps Drill Instructor proud. As our LIFEgroup sat in a silent circle, each person eyeing the others to see who might chime in first, I confessed in raw terms what had transpired a scant 60 minutes prior and finished with this bitter conclusion: “I killed my son with words today. I broke him.” And then I cried, deeply (and justifiably) ashamed. The entire hour and a half proceeded, as I recall it, without our once referring specifically to the questions of the week. We prayed together, fervently. We shared intimate reminiscences and struggles and approaches to parenting. We read scriptures. We cried. We laughed.
Why LIFEgroups?? Ninety minutes or so later I felt accepted and better known. Ninety minutes later the Bible was just-that-much-more alive and revealed to me, as was the very real power and privilege of prayer. Ninety minutes later I was more prepared and empowered to glorify God through my marriage, my parenting, my work, my worship, my daily walk through life—for one more week. Ninety minutes later I was reminded vividly, yet again, that I was a sinner in need of a perfect savior. Ninety minutes later I better apprehended (yes…I actually do sometimes forget) that Christ has come, fulfilled God’s plan, forgiven and adopted me into His family. That’s why.
– Tim Swensen