MMP: Dry Ground’s Over Here

September 12, 2017
Note: Each week we will have a guest writer who will share a few of their personal thoughts on Sunday’s sermon. Unlike Monday Morning Quarterbacking, from which this series gets its name, we aren’t looking to critique so much as share how we have been personally impacted. This week’s post comes from Mary Lebeau.

TITLE: Bold Cause
PASSAGE: Acts 4:18-31

 

“Only in the together do normal people become bold people. Because only in the together do we have the resources to be reminded of what we believe, but is sometimes hard to remember. Because when you’re in the middle of the storm, you need somebody on dry ground saying, ‘Hey, dry ground’s over here.’ Right?” – Pastor Mark Ott

 

I guess I just have to come out and say it – there was a time when I hated this time of year. No, I don’t mean the end of summer, back to school, here comes the fall schedule time. That’s all part of life, in my book.

No, what I hated was this time of the year in church – or, specifically, the Hope Christian Fellowship Push to Form Small Groups time. It made me feel like a failure. Sometimes, it even made me feel like I didn’t belong here.

Now, this wasn’t because I had any kind of aversion to small groups. No, quite the contrary. Once upon a time, I belonged to a wonderful small group. It’s really hard to explain it now, but once upon a time, it was just the perfect group of mismatched people coming together at the right time. We were married, single, young, middle aged, with children, childless and having babies. We were successful in business; we were out of a job.

There was no real reason this group of people came together….except, of course, the only reason that mattered – it was the hand of God. When one would stumble – as people inevitably do – the others would pick him up. When one went through a storm, the others were calling out, “The dry ground’s over here.”

Lighthouse in Storm — Image by © John Lund/Corbis

Even as our church was falling apart in an ugly, ugly way, we were together, praying and seeking God’s will for us. For a time, that meant home church, gathering each Sunday in one of our homes to worship, learn, teach our children, pray for each other and share breakfast. Finally, eventually, it meant moving on to separate churches. For some of us, that meant Hope.

I remember the first time I heard about small groups at Hope. Oh, how I wanted that connection again. I signed up for the “free agent” list and prayed that God would put us where He wanted us. But we received no invitation to small group that year.

It may have been our circumstances. At the time, our child was young and would have to accompany us to small group. It may have been our schedules. It may have been that there weren’t enough free agents to form a team (keep in mind, there were probably around 50 people back then!). It could even be that God was saying, “Slow down, take a break. It isn’t time yet.”

I even remember crying silently in my seat one Sunday while Mark talked about the importance of small groups. “If I can’t find a group, maybe this isn’t the right church for us,” I thought (or, perhaps, the enemy whispered in my ear).

But everything else was telling me differently. When I prayed, I felt led to Hope. And on Sundays, I walked away fed in a way my soul needed to be fed. So we stayed planted – and we tried again.

Like Pastor Mark said on Sunday, relationships take work. The second year, believe it or not, we didn’t find a small group either. That time around, we actively pursued people we had met, but most were already involved in a group (and none responded with, “Why don’t you join us?”). I felt defeated….but God was just saying, “Wait.” It’s all about His timing, you know?

Finally, the third year, we were invited to be a part of a small group. I’d like to say, “And we all lived happily ever after,” but it didn’t work out that way. We spent some time with that group, but things happen, lives change, people came and went. Some even left the church. Now I’ve been a part of a couple of small groups here at Hope, and each one has been just what it needed to be for that season. Sometimes people move on, but sometimes that’s just God making room for others to be invited in. Because somewhere in those seats on Sunday, there’s someone waiting for a more experienced Hoper to reach out and say, “What are you doing for small group?” Somewhere there’s someone who needs to be invited, but is waiting on His timing.

After the Acts church prayed together, the building shook with the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling among them, and they became bold. I no longer dread this season, or the changes that may occur. Instead, I feel excited to mix things up, gather with new people, and develop relationships that strengthen us enough to reach out to those sitting around us….and, more importantly, those still outside the doors, longing for a message of hope.

It’s time to let the Spirit shake things up, you know? So I took a bold move (for me, at least!) after the sermon on Sunday. I walked up to a woman I know, but not as well as I’d like, and took a deep breath. “What are you doing about small group?” I asked.