A few years ago God spoke to me about entering a new season.I was soon to hit the big `50` but also sensed that following Jesus for over 40 years and serving in leading worship,youth and a home group a change in direction was coming.He challenged me that as you mature you have a choice to be either a critic or coach.As you get older both physically and spiritually the attitudes you form have an effect and impact on both yourself and others around you.
In the `middle age` sometimes you can become `set in your ways`,critical or judgemental of the next generation.Yes and be quick to offer correction or murmur in your heart-`that`s not the way it should be done` or `they should conduct themselves in such and such a manner`.I remember Rick Godwin saying you can either be a fireman or a coach.The fireman puts fires out.You can dampen the fire of passion in the next generation by continually criticising,making judgemental remarks or corrections.The coach however while at times corrects,gives advice and does so with the purpose of encouraging,building up and getting the best out of the player.
How often do you hear the football fans shouting critical abuse from the Stands at the failure of players.The Coach however at half time will yes challenge bad play,change tactics but also encourage and motivate with the objective to see the team go out and win.The challenge for those mature is to be a coach not a critic.To draw alongside others and encourage,motivate,build up,share wisdom,pray for and be available to support.A bit like a father son relationship.The father who loves his son will do all to bring out the best in his son and see him find and fulfil his own (that is the sons own) destiny.In the New Testament Paul had such a relationship with Timothy.He also told Titus to call on the older men and women to teach younger men and women.Similiarly the coach often once a player will take the wisdom they learned from both experiences-successes and mistakes passing it on to the player.
What are you? A critic or coach? Be a Barnabas-an encourager.He took Saul who became Paul in his early days in ministry when others were suspicious of him.Barnabas worked alongside him planting churches and teaching believers.Draw alongside others and encourage them to fulfil the works God has prepared for them.
As we grow naturally our bodies change and we adapt.Similiarly as the Church,the Body of Christ grows,adjustments are made.There has to be flexibility and movememnt for expanding life.Small groups are no exception.Let`s lok at three areas where change can take place.
1.Stopping a group without feeling guilty.
As a group leader you may need to stop leadig a group due to work,family commitments or a change of direction.God may lead you into a different area of ministry.Our seasons may change and it`s important to understand what season you are in and what to do.Only lead a group if you are enjoying it and believe it is what you should be doing now.This is different than quitting a group because you are discouraged or offended.If so,you need to speak to God,a friend and the pastoral leadership.Brian Houston-`Encouragement is nourishment`.You may just need support and strength to continue to serve.However if you are entering a new season in your life,do not feel guilty stoping what you are doing now,if taking the next step in your journey is different.
2.Moving groups without offence.
Members of your group may leave and move on to another group.Don`t as a leader take offence.Sometimes people move because the night,time or location nolonger suits them as their circumstances have changed and they need to adjust.Friendships expand,people take on new interests or to progress in their walk with God some need to change groups.Do not take it personal.Remember the goal is to make disciples and encourage each to grow.It`s not about building people around you but pointing them towards Jesus.When some move from your group give them your blessing,encourage them in their next venture,keep in contact and always be available.
3.Have a health check.
There always is the danger a small group can get into a routine and fall into a rut.Continually doing the same thing,becoming tedious or stale.Our spiritual lives should not stand still and stagnate.Group members can lose interest and become apathetic.Stir or stagnate. How?
As a group leader it is good to take a spiritual health check.Get feedback from those who attend your group.This could involve a simple survey asking members to rate between 0-5 how much they benefited and enjoyed various aspects of group life eg. Worship,Teaching,Topics,Discussion,Fellowship,Outreach….
Sometimes it is good to take a break from curciculim and have a fun night or social event.
Make sure when choosing curriculim it`s` not just your pet topic,favourite Bible teacher/speaker nor just stick continually to the smae topic/speaker.Remember the purpose is to widen your vision and expand your knowledge of God taking the next steps in your journey with Him together.
Have an end goal,like do an outreach together,go on a weekend or have a day trip.
When it comes to worshipping God corporately as His church Christians have often debated on whether it should be to a set pattern and plan or left open and spontaneous.As individuals should we have set times or prayer like first thing in the morning or just pray as we live life such as when driving the car or as needs arise.Why not both? Worship which is scheduled and spontaneous.Here is a parallel…It is important for husbands and wives as their lives become busy to set aside time to be together alone.Hectic lifestyles develop with work,kids,house and hobbies so it`s necessary for couples to have time for each other.Date nights for continued friendship,fun,communication and intimacy.A time to show worth and value to the other and not allowing other things or people get in between and cause a distant relationship.Believers who love God with all their heart and follow Jesus Christ soo too should spend time alone with Him.Don`t allow others or things cause our relationship with Him become distant.God first.Show Him value and worth settting time to be alone with Him.Worship God not just in the company of others eg church but alone.Intimate fellowship with Him-speaking,hearing,seeing and sometimes just being in His presence.We call it sometimes personal devotion or `quiet time` but it`s time alone one to one.
Back to the parallel – for a couple however set date nights can become just a routine and another thing on the calendar.For couples it is so important to have those spontantaneous times when off the cuff they do something together.Seizing the moment,springing a surprise,going or doing something not been or done before.Quite often those spontaneous intimate times together are remembered and cherished as special.In our relationship with God we too will remember those spontaneous times when we get alone with God.A time when we walk in the woods and talk,lift an instrument play and sing new songs,shout aloud to God on top of a mountain or suddenly stop the car and begin to write down what He says to us.Unplanned and unsheduled but prompted by a desire within for intimate worship.
Corporately when the church meets leaders lead worship having prepared,ready and planned hymns and spiritual songs.I`ve learned God directs our plans when we invite Him to give us wisdom and direction but also we need to give Him space.There are times for the spontaneous allowing the Spirit to do as He wills,making room for gifts of the Spirit.Such moments produce new songs and a “now” Word from God.Specific for the moment.
In our worship of God both individualy and corporately make room for the scheduled and spontaneous in our lives.Enjoy the benefits and priviledge of knowing Him.
In my late teens speaking to a church group in Tilbury, East London I remember outlining valid ways in which to express praise and worship to God.I gave Biblical examples of singing,shouting,clapping,lifting hands,playing musical instruments,bowing,dancing and leaping for joy.Afterwards an elderly woman approached me and commented,`Son it was good to hear Scriptural encouragement to express praise God in various ways but….` and I waited for the `but`….she continued`when you are in love with Jesus you will automatically express praise to God in those varying ways anyway.`It hit me ! I was trying to encourage and justify ways to express praise to God.I learned a lesson not to forget `Worship flows from a love relationship`.You do not have to encourage or prompt `the Kop` at Anfield to sing,shout and clap for Liverpool.The fans do it because they are passionate about football and their team.When you fall in love with someone you want to be in their presence,praise and show acts of kindness towards them.No wonder Jesus taught that the greatest and most important commandment is `to love God with all your heart,soul and mind and to love others` Matt.22:37-40 Deut.6:5 Acts of worship are to be carried out from a heart of desire and not out of duty.Believe in Jesus?The love of God has been poured into your heart. Rom.5:5. Love Him passionately and a life of worship will follow.Worship flows from a love relationship not a routine ritual.It is easy to respond to the love of someone and God loves you with an unmeasurable , unending and unmerited love.I love Him because He first loved me. 1John4:19. Jesus desires His people to open up their hearts and have fellowship with Him. Rev.3:20 ; John14:23 In a husband and wife relationship there are planned times to be alone together and to show affection but those spontaneous intimate moments are even more special.So too in our love relationship with God there is both a place for planned and spontaneous worship.It is not about our performance but our passsionate love for Him.He is the centre of our affections.Delight in the Lord.