A few weeks ago, in his Trending at ICC article, Pastor Joe challenged us with this question: ‘What are you increasing in?’
Last week, Pastor Mike highlighted five ways we can experience personal revival. Both of these articles prompted me to ask myself, ‘how am I growing spiritually?’ Pastor Mike concluded with this compelling statement: ‘If we want a personal revival, we must set our minds and hearts on God and not be turned aside by those who encourage an easier path, a milder devotion, a tepid spirituality. It is the lukewarm that Jesus spits from his mouth. (Revelation 3:16)‘
As I read this I was personally challenged, and yet I was also very thankful. I was challenged because I don’t want a watered-down faith that looks for the well-worn path, but so thankful that I am part of a small-group community who comes alongside and walks the less-trodden path with me. They encourage me and keep me spiritually accountable. It’s far too easy to be swayed by those who lead us along the easier path. One vital way we can avoid this is to be part of a small group of believers meeting together regularly to ‘encourage one another and build up one another…’ 1 Thessalonians 5:11
Most of us would admit that there is a gap between who we are today and who we want to be.
We all desire to grow into a better version of ourselves – whether that is developing a new skill, getting healthy, improving our prayer/devotional life, to name but a few. Admittedly, being part of a small group here at ICC may not help you eat more healthily (it’s hard to resist those cookies and the cheese platter) but if you desire to grow spiritually being part of a small group is one of the primary ways you can do so.
It’s easy to call ourselves Christians. It’s easy to stay where we are. Growing takes work and we have to be intentional. In small groups, namely LIFE groups here at ICC, we gather together to help one another become more like Jesus in every area of our lives. We can read articles that provoke us to action; we can listen to sermons that challenge us and motivate us to change; but there is no better way to water those seeds, and experience significant growth, than to be part of a community of believers who we can be accountable to and minister (and be ministered) to.
It is in small groups that people can get close enough to know each other, to care and share, to challenge and support, to confide and confess, to forgive and be forgiven, to laugh and weep together, to be accountable to each other, to watch over each other and to grow together.
Personal growth does not happen in isolation.
It is the result of interactive relationships, helping one another become more like Christ. Broadly speaking, Jesus‘ teachings instruct us how to develop ourselves spiritually, and how to treat other people. Neither of these can be learned alone.
A consistent, regular commitment to a small group is a proven place to find the support you need to live a Christ-centered life.
If we truly desire to see positive change in our lives we have to confront those things that are preventing us from making progress. James urges us to ‘confess your sins to one another and pray for one another…’ (James 5:16) It’s not easy to be vulnerable and admit our failings, but for true, lasting change to occur we must be willing to confess. When you are part of a small group of people who are united in a common purpose to grow together and pray with, and for, each other you will find a safe place to confess and receive prayer and encouragement. Confessing and praying for one another are only two examples of over 30 “one another” commandments given in the New Testament (many more than once). Most of these can only be practiced in the context of community.
God calls His people to serve. While there are certainly many opportunities to serve in the church as an individual, serving together can be so much more meaningful. There’s no better way to establish relationships than to serve alongside others. If I may expel a myth about small groups – they don’t exist to meet your needs. They exist for you to love God by loving His body, the church, and for you to love others with the love of Christ. When we love and serve others with the compassionate love of Christ, the fruit of that will be evident in our own lives.
We need each other to help us know the truth about who we are, who God is, and how we can live in light of those truths. ‘Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.’ Proverbs 27:17.
God can use the relationships we form in small groups to transform us.
When we are authentic with a group of people, we can experience God’s grace and love coming through others, which leads to freedom and transformation.
Do you desire to see greater spiritual growth? I leave you with the words of the writer of Hebrews:
24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”Hebrews 10:24-25
Suzie Nicolosi is the Small Groups Coordinator at Island Christian Church.
For more information about small groups or to plan a visit to a small group – Groups@ islandchristian.com