ENTER THE CIRCLE
If you look at the things that we do as a church, and you make it super simple, you could say that we meet in ROWS and in CIRCLES.
On Sunday morning, we meet in rows for worship, a message, a testimony and prayer. It’s an exciting event, it’s encouraging and challenging – but never meant to be your complete church experience.
Because we can easily shift into spectator mode. Sunday morning isn’t supposed to be your complete church experience – it is in the home groups that the rubber really hits the road. That’s where we meet in a circle around coffee, cookies and the Word of God.
One of the most well know circles that people have gathered in, is the Round Table in the legends of King Arthur. I have no idea how much of this is true, but in the books about him, it says he gathered with the knights in his kingdom around a round table – so that all could see each other, and to stress that everyone was equal.
In the circle –you can’t just be a spectator, but you are drawn into the discussion. The circle stresses equality, sense of team, involvement and shared ownership of a goal.
I want to give you five reasons to enter into a circle – a small group of trusted friends, to gather together on a regular basis around coffee, cookies and Christ.
1) Our need for community is part of our design
You and I weren’t created to go through life alone – but to live in community with others! And the more our world is individualizing through materialism, striving for success and real relationships are replaced with virtual relationships – the more we all crave just to have face-to-face contact with other people! Because this is how God made us.
When God looked at Adam He said: it is good…. but something is not right. And He didn't give Adam an iPhone. He gave him Eve.
And through the whole Bible we see that God doesn’t only look at individuals to bless them and to use them – but at households, families, a people or a kingdom. The church is called the family of God and the people of God.
So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family. Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord. Through him you Gentiles are also being made part of this dwelling where God lives by his Spirit.
God has saved us, not only from something, but to something. We are saved from our old ways, from this world – into the family of God. God intended for us to be connected together. And so it is essential that we live out our Christian lives in the company of others.
2) We experience God’s power when we seek Him in unity
Matthew 18:19-20 “I also tell you this: If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you. 20 For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.”
Now, how do we understand this. Would God not be there if only one person prays? Yes He will be. But the unity of believers in prayer is something that catches God’s attention, because it is fertile ground for what He wants to do.
Acts 4:23-24, 31
On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.
Peter and John, straight after their release from prison (because they preached Jesus as the risen Lord) go to their home group. They have a testimony, but they also need encouragement and prayer. Do you have a people to go to when a storm hits?
The word ‘together’ here is the word homothymadon in Greek. ‘Homo’ meaning the same and ‘thymos’ meaning passion or accord. When we share the same passion, in prayer, God can move powerfully.
3) We need to be challenged
We need to gather in circles, because we need to be challenged. I know my sermons on Sunday may be challenging (especially to sit through 30 minutes of it), but I am very well aware of the limited long-term affect. But when a friend looks us in the eye and says the exact same thing – an encouragement or a correction – it’s affect is much greater.
We all have blind-spots. And the thing with blind-spots is that you don’t know what they are – because they are blind spots! Only other people can show them to you.
Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.
We need the encouragement and motivation and correction of other people in order to live a full Christian life. I’ve always loved conversations around an open Bible. When I read my Bible, I’m being fed. I read it, I interpret it and I apply it to my life. But my insight is limited. I may emphasize the parts that I like, and avoid the parts that I don’t like, or don’t understand.
But when a group opens the Bible and starts discussing it, suddenly, there is fresh insights and you talk about the parts that make you wander, openly, giving space for new ways to apply it to your life.
I remember, being part of a men’s group. We would just gather, have coffee, and then start reading a NT chapter. And conversation would just flow, and we got in depth – sharing honestly what some of the things are that we are struggling with.
4) In a group, we can care for each other
Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important.
I think this text makes pretty clear that care for each other is everyone’s responsibility – not just of a few. Of course, it is important for a church to have a pastoral care team as well, – we don’t want the home group leaders to overburden themselves with every issue. But the first place of care is the home group.
5) In a group, we find healing and restoration
When we receive the grace of God through repentance and believing in Jesus as our Lord and Saviour – we enter into a relationship with God and He starts a work of redemption and restoration in us. Some instantaneously, some in a process.
Some of the work of restoration that God does, is through relationships with others.
Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.
It’s only when you enter into a safe circle of friends, that regularly meet, that you really find the safety to share what is really going on with you. We all need that. I need that.
And then, when you share your troubles, burdens, sins, challenges, doubts and weaknesses – the people in your home group can give you advice, pray with you and walk with you through whatever it is you are going through.
That is my heart for all of you. I want you to be connected to others, because we weren’t created to go through life alone.
If you want to join a home group at Vineyard Groningen, click here to see an overview of our available groups.