Okay. I admit it. Some of the questions in our growth guides can be challenging. And to be truly honest, I’ve even had the experience of trying to answer my own question while wondering, “What on earth was I trying to get at when I wrote that?” The good news is that is I get to meet with your growth group shepherds almost every week, and when we go over the lesson together they are really good at teaching me what I forgot. I need them as much as they need me!
When I write our growth guides I’m always trying to strike a balance between (1) simple observation questions, (2) leading you through the discovery process of Bible study, (3) teaching you what the text says, (4) helping you interpret the text for yourself, and then (5) making sure we are all thinking deeply at the heart level on how the truths in the passage apply to our lives. And on any given week, we probably need the help and encouragement of others to accomplish all of those really well.
That is part of the purpose and design of growth groups. We are helping one another learn Christ, and grow spiritually, and live out the truth. We often forget that the Great Commission to make disciples applies to all of us. While you may not be a preacher or teacher, every believer has a heart that loves God and a mind that is sanctified and illumined through the Holy Spirit. When you share your insights and applications from God’s Word at your growth group, you are actually part of the discipleship process for everyone who attends. We all learn from one another and grow in the process.
I love how the prolific teacher, the Apostle Paul himself, had a yearning to spend time with the people in the church of Rome for this very reason. He said, “I long to see you so that … I may be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by the other’s faith, both yours and mine” (Romans 1:11-12, NAS). God has designed us all to need one another for encouragement and edification—even those as gifted, as knowledgeable, and as Spirit-filled as the Apostle Paul.
I’m extremely thankful for the high level of confidence I have in the pursuit of spiritual growth and of living life together in our growth groups. My confidence extends beyond the level of learning and growing in our knowledge and pursuit of Christ. We need practical help and encouragement in specific struggles too. At times, I have pointed people who have come to us through the counseling center to simply engage in life together in one of our excellent growth groups. The help of godly saints, a good shepherd, and the regular spiritual food they get has been enough for them to be encouraged, challenged, strengthened, and built up. I have even witnessed growth groups take ownership of young mothers in dire straits due to an unsafe or failing marriage, and be able to support, encourage, and provide practically for the many needs that arise in those tough situations.
There is no doubt about it. We need one another in the body of Christ!
“It is both foolish and wicked to suppose that we will make much progress in sanctification if we isolate ourselves from the visible church. Indeed, it is commonplace to hear people declare that they don’t need to unite with a church to be a Christian. They claim that their devotion is personal and private, not institutional or corporate. This is not the testimony of the great saints of history; it is the confession of fools” (R. C. Sproul, The Soul’s Quest for God, p. 151).
Last May we talked about the importance of membership. Perhaps it may have been lost on some that it is not “more members” that we desire at FBC. It is more “life together,” more faithful application of the “one another’s” of Scripture, more of the mutual encouragement that Paul talks about. As we see that happening and developing, it should be obvious to those participating that this life is the essence of membership in the local church. Taking the class and filling out the application is simply recognizing and making public and mutual the very commitments you are already living out in your life and heart. Membership isn’t about numbers. It is about recognizing the vital union we share in the life of Christ that is lived out in real fellowship with one another in the local church.
“Fellowship is a uniquely Christian relational experience. No one but those born of the Spirit of God can have fellowship—which makes its neglect all the more tragic … What is fellowship as defined in the New Testament? Just this: participating together in the life and truth made possible by the Holy Spirit through our union with Christ. Fellowship is sharing something in common on the deepest possible level of human relationship—our experience of God himself” (John Loftness, Why Small Groups, p. 19).
God has revealed Himself to us progressively in the Scripture. This fall we are taking a tour back into the older testament, to learn and be changed by the “Decalogue,” the Ten Commandments. (You can pick up a Growth Guide at the Information Center on Sunday or Download here.) I’m excited about this study in our growth groups here at Faith Bible Church. My prayer is that it will help cultivate a culture of learning together how to obey God from the heart. Understanding and applying the Old Testament is important, and perhaps something many of us haven’t done very well, or maybe very consistently. Focusing on how deeply God’s Law reaches into the heart is vital. So if you haven’t already found and committed yourself to a growth group this year, check out the options at fbchurch.org/findagroup