Many years ago, I was meeting with a confirmand. She had shared with me some of her struggles with the girls in her class, how she didn’t fit in. How she was always feeling left out.
I was heartbroken and wanted to say something to encourage her. I had not yet learned circumstances would arise in which there would be no answer. So, in reply to her pain, I blurted out that Jesus was with her even in these difficult times. I will never forget her look or her answer, “Sure I know that, but Jesus was not all that good at sleepovers.”
In his book Face to Face, Steve Wilkins writes: “Friends are not a luxury, the bible will show us that. Friends are a necessity, not optional, but vital.” He shares that God does not save us in isolation from other people but instead in community with others. Friends are a crucial part of our spiritual journey.
Parents are so aware of that, they set up opportunities for their children to make friends even at a very young age. We teach them the importance of friends, and that doesn’t end at childhood or the teenage years, but it is important for all people of all ages to have friends, especially friends in faith.
Too often our church relationships are guarded because our experiences together are just not that strong. We are casual acquaintances. We know people are part of the church of God, and therefore we share the title of Christians, however our relationships are not that deep.
It is hard to put ourselves out there and possibly be rejected. Often, it is easier to go to church, do our thing and then go home where it is safe. Sadly, when we take cover, we are not the only one that loses out, but the people of the church also miss out. Each of you have something unique that you bring to this body, and without you fully engaged, spirit, mind, and your heart, things won’t be complete.
John Wesley used to ask, “How is it with your soul?” That is a good starting point for a spiritual friendship. In spiritual friendship people agree to share about their spiritual lives in a way that encourages each one’s growth in God. They might set aside a regular time to talk about what is happening in their prayer lives, how the words of a sermon struck them, or an image that came during a period of silence. Some groups might walk, others will work on mission. These small groups don’t need to be complicated. A few people coming together to share life.
This spring, throughout GNJ, there will be all kinds of small groups hosted in our local congregations. Small Groups are a wonderful opportunity to come together to share and build relationships in the name of Jesus. I encourage you, especially if you have never done so in the past, take a chance and join a small group.
If your congregation offers small groups that are open to persons outside your congregation, please email me your info (firstname.lastname@example.org).
If you are looking for small group opportunities, I will post all small group opportunities at gnjumc.org/smallgroups.
Let’s start this spring connected to God, connect to one another.