By Larry Short
At Elim, affinity groups and community groups are the primary place where we practice the “one anothers” of Scripture and walk together to hold each other accountable to become more like Jesus. Moving people into healthy groups and mentoring relationships is key to achieving the second part of our vision: “Grow Together in Christ.”
Last week we focused on what it means to grow “Together.” This week, we look more at the nature of growth itself, and especially what it means to grow IN CHRIST. And yes, once again we are offering a special treat to everyone who clicks the following link, reads this week’s Last Word in its entirety, and follows the specific instructions you find therein. Enjoy!
Growing together in Christ will occur, to some extent, on weekend worship services and in class-like child and adult education contexts. But at Elim we’ve discovered that Sunday morning is not enough! This growth will occur most effectively in the context of affinity groups or community groups … smaller groupings of like-minded individuals from within our Body who commit themselves to gathering together regularly to pursue a deeper and healthier Body Life commitment to growth in Christ. It is in a dozen such groups in this church (and I am including, in addition to community groups, affinity groups such as the M&Ms, YAMs, women’s Bible study, MOPS, etc.) where the real growth, the practical application, occurs. Where people know each other more intimately, submitting themselves to the leadership of their shepherd-teacher(s) as they seek to work out together what it really means to become more like Jesus, our Master Shepherd-Teacher.
We are blessed to have a majority, more than 60%, of our attending church members and friends involved in such groups. But we also recognize that the remaining 40% are missing out on a key component that will heighten your chances of “finishing well” in this Christian race. As we as a church embrace our vision statement of “Know God, Grow together in Christ, Go and serve South Hill and Beyond,” we will be thinking carefully not just about those three components, but the all-important transitions between them. If weekend worship services are where we come together to know God better, we will also be using them to encourage you to take the next step and transition into a community or affinity group where you can really begin “growing together in Christ.”
And we recognize that not everyone will find a group where they feel they completely “fit.” Perhaps you work evenings, and can’t find a group that doesn’t meet in the evenings. Or perhaps you have struggled all your life, due to the fact that you are left-handed or double-jointed or talk in a funny voice. What should you do?
Here’s an idea: Start one! We want to be very intentional about raising up and training new group leaders, and we would love to work with you on creating a group to help facilitate growth together in Christ for people who may be just like you (left-handed, double-jointed, funny voice talkers with evening jobs).
Without groups of people who are committed to walking the Christian life together, our strategy as a church will never be successful. We need each other! And most of all, we need Christ, which is the final and most important part of this second line in our vision statement: “Grow together IN CHRIST.” For Christ did not launch out on His earthly, heavenly-Kingdom-building ministry alone, but surrounded himself with a concentric team of God-seekers, in order to walk the journey together with them. Not only did He have a large following of disciples (estimated at about 500 during his earthly ministry), and a smaller team of 12 apostles, but even a smaller yet and more tightly-knit inner team of 3 disciples, to whom He entrusted His most intimate and amazing moments and experiences (such as the Transfiguration).
Which speaks to mentoring, another key part of “growing together in Christ,” wherein smaller groups of 2 or 3 individuals work to establish and hold each other accountable for spiritual growth, and learn from each other … but, alas and alack, we are out of time and space! (Of course, we have enough space to provide you with another email link for Martin … CLICK HERE to submit an email with “DOUBLE YUMM!” in the title, then be sure to claim your prize on Sunday!)
So, the last word of this Last Word is: If you are not yet in an affinity group or community group or mentoring relationship at Elim, we offer you two choices: 1) Get in one! 2) Start one! The status quo is unacceptable. We must be growing together in Christ before we can hope to do what He is calling us to do … GO and serve, South Hill and beyond! Tune in next week, for more on that.