5 Ways to Encourage One Another
In my message during worship on Sunday August 7th, I invited those present to think about our commitment to one another as members of the FUMC family in terms of the membership vow we took when we first joined The United Methodist Church. On that day we were asked if we would be loyal to The United Methodist Church, and uphold it by our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service, and our witness. (The last, being added in 2012) (Baptismal Covenant III). I stated in that message that our participation in these five activities are the ways in which God’s Holy Spirit uses us in each other’s lives to encourage and challenge us to live as faithful followers of Jesus.
Prayer enables us to talk to and listen to God on behalf of one another. We not only speak to God, but also listen to God so that we may hear God’s will and ways for each other’s lives. Certainly this entails offering up prayers for one another in our private personal devotional time. However, for those of us who have experienced praying in a small group, out loud or silently, there is an added blessing; we get to hear what others are praying for and share what we are concerned for or celebrating. We are encouraged to persevere in our praying as we discover that we’re not alone in our praying.
Our presence or being there for one another (in times of enjoyment or in times of pressing need) reveals our willingness to share our time, our energy, and our lives with one another. Our presence provides ways for us to be available and attentive to one another. Rather than choosing to do our own thing, we provide God with the opportunity to use us in each other’s lives to support and strengthen one another.
Our gifts, our natural talents and spirit given gifts, our resources of time, money, and possessions, offered to each other spontaneously or with well planned intention are the means through which God’s love and grace are poured out upon one another. In sharing our gifts we show God’s generosity and gracious provision for us individually, as families, and as God’s family—the Church. Our gifts provide the very resources that God’s Holy Spirit uses to equip and empower us to engage in ministry that helps us to fulfill the vision and mission that God has for us as the FUMC family.
Our service reveals our attitude and willingness to be used by God in any way or at any time to help or to assist one another love and live like Jesus. Serving one another in this way means that we are willing to do whatever is needed at that moment with a humble attitude in order to help complete the mission and bring glory to God by serving the way Jesus did.
And our witness is the way in which we bring God’s story to life as we share our life story with others. Daily we have the opportunity to talk with others about any number of topics of interest in our phone conversations, emails, texts, on Facebook and twitter, or possibly, even face to face. When we share our life story, what’s happening in our lives at the moment, are we making sure that we include God’s story-God’s presence and power being displayed in our daily activities? If not? Why not? Let’s give God the credit when it’s due! Our sports heroes do it! Even some of our favorite actors and politicians do it!
I certainly wouldn’t want to return to the days of the PTL Club (1974-1989) with Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, saying “PTL” (Praise the Lord) at the end of every other sentence. But why not be willing to give God some credit! Maybe, just maybe others who are listening may ask us to tell them more about our story and, more importantly, about God’s story!
As the days of summer pass by, let’s not allow the opportunities to pass us by to pray and be present with one another and to offer our gifts, our service, and our witness to one another so that God may use us to encourage one another!
Seeking to encourage you so that may be equipped to encourage others,
Join a small group
What do you think? In last month’s article I encouraged us to see the need for us as the Foothill United Methodist Church family to make small groups the means through which we fulfill our vision and mission because they help us to build, live out and establish community as we relate to, care for, share with, and serve one another.
As I reflect upon over 30 years of ministry as a pastor and prior to that as a disciple of Jesus in high school, college and seminary, I see how my participation in small groups has nurtured and shaped my relationship with God and with my brothers and sisters (clergy and lay) in the church. This is why I stated that small groups enable us to experience the presence and power of God, build community, grow faithfully as disciples of Jesus, and reach out to a hurting world. We live in a very fast paced world which can keeps us from establishing deep relationships with family, friends, and co-workers that are needed in order to grow as human beings and as followers of Jesus Christ. Just take a minute and ask yourself two questions: How much time to do I spend in any given week having a meaningful conversation with my family, close friends, and/or co-workers that deepens my relationship with them and with God? Name a half dozen people whom you really know and who know you that you could trust and depend upon to speak truth into your life and would be there to support you in any circumstance.
Small groups provide us with the opportunity to deepen such relationships with a small number of these people. When we take the time to be with others, to engage in thoughtful conversation about those areas of our lives that are important to us, and discover ways to encourage and support each other in them, we find the strength and motivation to grow as a person. When we add to this mix the focus of deepening of our relationship with God and one another spiritually by reflecting upon the Bible, and praying with and for others we have the potential to grow as disciples of Jesus Christ.
When this takes place, we soon discover that our experience and the benefits of being together are too good to keep to ourselves! We begin to invite and pray for others to join us. We also begin to sense the need to make a difference in our corner of the world, in our neighborhood, workplace and community. With the support and encouragement of those in our small group we begin to see the opportunities and to discover the resources as to how we can to make a difference in the lives of others we relate to on a daily basis. In time, God uses us to help others see the need and benefits of participating in a small group and they join us.
Maybe, just maybe, you’ve been thinking about some of these same thoughts. You’ve been thinking about and desiring a deeper relationship with God and with a few others. Well, here’s your opportunity. Talk with me, Cindy VanAllen, Sandy Harrington, Pastor David Truscott, my wife, Peggy or any of those who take part in groups that are meeting weekly for study and/or fun activities in our church family. A list of some of these small groups are in the weekly schedule in our Sunday bulletin.
And by all means, feel free to join us anytime just to see what they’re like!
Seeking to help us draw closer to God and each other, Pastor Ed
Our Vision of Small Groups at FUMC
Small groups need to be the heart of our ministry here at Foothills United Methodist Church because they are the very means through which we are able to fulfill our vision: “Foothills is a community committed to worshiping God and sharing his love.” Our mission: “To promote spiritual growth and to provide multi-generational ministries in Christ’s name”. Small groups help us to build, live out and establish community as we relate to, care for, share with, and serve one another.
Here’s a brief definition of a small/cell group (courtesy of Joel Comiskey): “A small group is “a group of 4-15 people that meets weekly for the purpose of evangelism and discipleship with the goal of multiplication.”
Our aim is to see each person involved in a small group in order that they may be fully connected to God and to our church. In our small groups you will be encouraged to grow closer to God, experience the transforming power of God’s love and grace in Jesus Christ, and discover the empowerment of ministry through the movement of the Holy Spirit.
Our focus is upward (worship), inward (edification), outward (training and equipping), and forward (multiplication).
Another way to express it would be to say that the focus of our small groups is on experiencing the presence of God, building community, growing faithful disciples, and reaching out to a hurting world which results in the creations of new groups in the future.
We draw our inspiration and motivations for each of these areas of focus from Jesus’ words to us as his disciples found in the gospels.
Upward: “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart and with all of your soul and with all of your mind.” (Mt. 22:38)
Inward: “Love your neighbor as your self” (Mt. 22:39)
Outward: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations…” (Mt. 28:19)
Forward: “Teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you...” (Mt. 28:20)
Small groups may come in all sorts of flavors or activities such as Bible Study, Arts and Crafts, Sewing and Knitting etc. They may scratch an itch, like our need to want to grow as a faithful disciple of Jesus, use our talent to meet a need in our community or learn a new hobby. We may be drawn to this group by our desire to have fun, meet new people or gather with friends.
However, as Comiskey notes, the activity does not define the group because we are a gathered community of Jesus’ disciples, who are seeking to fulfill God’s vision and mission for us as the FUMC family. The focus of our life together as Upward, Inward, Outward, and Forward shapes the group and places the emphasis on the presence of Christ, not an activity. The activity is only an expression of the life the group has together.
This does not diminish the activity, but enhances everything that takes place because we recognize that God is present and we are seeking to honor and glorify God. The outcome is that love and grace abound and those present are built up, encouraged and challenged to draw closer to God and to one another.
Are you presently in a small group? Invite someone! Not in one? Why not try one! Would you like to start one! Talk with me!
Let’s be a church family that utilizes small groups to grow us and encourages others to grow with us.