Our new Connect Groups aren’t really new anymore. We’ve just finished the series called Aim To Connect (did you know it was called that?) looking at each of the four aims for Connect Groups. If you missed those or wanted a refresher on what we looked at together, you can see all the study notes here.
We’ve also come to the end of this short series of posts on the blog about Connect Groups. If you haven’t read those, you can catch upon the rest of the series at the links below:
But even though the introduction phase is finished, now’s the time to really start working on our groups. The honeymoon is over; let’s enjoy the marriage. One way to do that would be to look again at the Connect Groups leaflet that we gave out at the end of last term. (The leaflet that Royal Mail didn’t want you to see…) If you’ve lost it, you can download it here, print it out and fold it in half.
On the back, there is a box for each of the four aims of Connect Groups: listening to God together, talking to God together, caring for one another, and reaching the lost together. The leaflet invites you to write down ways in which YOU could be more involved in serving and making the most of your Connect Group in each of these aims.
Have you filled in those boxes? Now that we’ve done some thinking together in our groups about each aim, why not crystallise that by taking time to fill them in for yourself.
How might you aim to connect more in your group?
Here’s praying that God grows our groups together in love for Him, each other and the world.
This is the last in a short series about Connect Groups. Do keep checking the blog though, as it’s updated regularly and always tries to be challenging and relevant to our life together as a church in the modern world.
Sometimes when thinking about what our Connect Groups could be like, especially with our fourth aim of ‘reaching the lost together’, it’s helpful to get some insight into how other people do it. That’s why I found this video so useful.
Over the last few years I’ve really appreciated following what’s happening at Soma Communities in Tacoma, Washington. I’ve learnt a lot from their approach to church and mission as they ask the question, “What would it look like to live like missionaries here versus thinking missionaries only go somewhere else?”
They are very much like Emmanuel in their commitment to teaching the Bible well in the context of loving relationships and a desire to get the gospel out to those who don’t yet know Jesus. They call their groups Missional Communities, and one of those groups put together this short film about what life looks like for them living together on a mission. I hope you find it sparks off ideas for your group.
What did you find encouraging from this video? What challenged you? Anything you could use in your Connect Group?
This is the sixth of a short series of posts about our new Connect Groups. Keep checking back for more.
In our old Homegroup I often used to address my weekly email to “My Homegroup Homies”.* Someone came up with the name one time when we were together and the name stuck.
Now that our new groups are called Connect Groups, that begs the question, “What should we call each other?” I’ve tried “Connect Groupers”. Someone suggested “Connect Crew”. I might try “Connectors” next time. It’s a big decision. I’ll keep you posted.
I recently went through 3 John in my quiet times. There’s a lot packed into those 15 verses. But one thing struck me as I came to the end of it. The final verse. What they call each other.
“Peace be with you. The friends greet you. Greet the friends, every one of them.”
(3 John 15)
I never would have thought to describe my church as “the friends”. I mean, we are friends! I love Emmanuel and I love the people who make up Emmanuel. But to call the church “the friends” like this is very striking.
We often talk about Emmanuel as being like a family but perhaps we can get over familiar (excuse the pun) with the family language and it loses it’s impact. After all, Great Auntie Maud is family but you’ve only met her once at your second-cousin’s wedding. But our friends? They’re the people we see a lot because we enjoy their company. We share life together and do fun things. We cry with them and help them when they’re struggling. And not just cos we have to but because we’re friends.
This week in Connect Groups, we’ve thought about the third aim for the groups: Caring For One Another. What difference would it make if we took those people in our group out of the category of ‘church people’ in our minds, and firmly put them in the special box marked ‘friends’? Would we see them more often? Would we invite them round to watch a film? Would we see if they needed anything from the shops? Would we pop round or drop them a text to see if they’re ok? Would we lean our heads together and inexplicably share two milkshakes between all of us? (Well, maybe scrap that last one.)
There are ways we need to care for one another which will be distinctively Christian. We saw that in our Connect Group study in Colossians 3 this week – helping each other be godly, being totally honest, forgiving each other like Christ forgives us, letting the Word dwell among us richly, singing praise together. But at the same time, those relationships shouldn’t look a million miles away from, oh I don’t know… actual normal human relationships!
So whatever it is that friends do, do it with your Connect Group. Do it this week.
QUESTION: Who is it you can’t wait to spend time with? How could you cultivate that in your group?
This is the fifth of a short series of posts about our new Connect Groups. Keep checking back for more.
* Click here if you’re not sure what a ‘homie’ is. You’re welcome, my friend.
When Lib first discovered that I could whistle through my eyes (what? you’re only discovering now?) she must have thought I was very strange indeed. She would be correct. But after a while she’s accepted it as an odd party trick and no longer bats a non-whistling eyelid. Something which stood out as different and unique is now just a thing that sometimes happens.
I’ve had a similar experience at Emmanuel. When we first moved here from London I was struck by the name we give to our prayer meetings. I was used to them being called Prayer Meetings or, at our previous church, Prayer Gatherings. But at Emmanuel those meetings are called First Priority Meetings. Think about that for a moment. First Priority. Really?! But what about… And yet now in my mind it’s just what those meetings are called. They’re called First Priority Meetings, I can whistle through my eyes. So what?
First Priority is actually a very daring name to give something. It’s hard to miss that meeting because something more important came up. “More important than our first priority?” It raises the issue of the importance of prayer; what we say we believe about prayer and what we actually do believe as evidenced by what we do.
This week in our Connect Groups we’re thinking about the second of our Connect Group aims: Talking To God Together. This is meant to be mainly about our prayer life as a group, not just as individuals. Why is it that prayer gets squeezed out? Squeezed out of our day so that prayer time coincides with bed time. Squeezed out of our Connect Groups so people need to leave before we’ve started cos it’s been left so late. It has to be because prayer is not our first priority. Not really.
One reason it might not be our first priority is because of a lack of faith in God’s ability to hear and answer prayer. It could be because we don’t believe that we are accepted in Christ and that as our Father He is willing to hear and answer prayer. But it could also be a theological reason which sounds very holy and good but isn’t; the idea that the other three Connect Group aims are actually more of a priority.
So we’d say that Listening To God Together is more important because we should pray in response to what God says and what He says is more important than what we say. True, but do you think you can even understand the Bible on the most basic level without God’s help? We need to pray for the inclination towards, understanding of, delight in and obedience to God’s Word. Or it won’t happen.
Or we’d say that Caring For One Another is more important because you mustn’t just wish someone well, you have to do them good. True, but do you think that there are more ‘practical’ things you can do to help somebody than call on the Lord God Almighty to give them a hand? If we care for people, we will pray for them. And if we don’t then whatever we try to do to help them won’t bear fruit.
Or we’d say that Reaching The Lost Together is more important because God is the missionary God sending out His people with the good news to speak to people who will go to Hell if nobody tells them about Jesus, whereas my attendance at a prayer meeting isn’t as directly correlated to people’s eternal destiny. True, but who’s going to give you the boldness to speak and how will your words bring a dead person back to life again unless you have the Lord’s help? If we want to see people saved, we will pray for them.
God is the power behind anything good that happens in these groups. Prayer is when we ask Him to act. It runs through all the rest so, yes, it really is our first priority. And if we’re still not convinced, let’s let Jesus have the last word on this one:
“Apart from me, you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
QUESTION: Is prayer my first priority? How can I encourage this in my new group?
This is the fourth of a short series of posts about our new Connect Groups. Keep checking back for more.
This week in Connect Groups we’re thinking about Listening To God Together, the first of our Connect Group aims. It’s a great way to kick off the new groups by laying out from the start how we’ll approach the Bible. And there’s a lot at stake.
Over at the Proclamation Trust’s blog, there’s a quote from somebody who left evangelical churches like Emmanuel behind to become a Roman Catholic instead. One of his big problems was how small group Bible studies worked. He said:
“I’m sure there are a lot of good Bible studies out there, and a lot of well intentioned people, so I don’t want to go overboard. But it’s not only my opinion [that evangelicalism tends to be self-help rather than Christ-centred]. There have been some recent academic studies by anthropologists who have examined evangelical Bible studies. They report that people don’t pay too much attention to what the text actually says. People search around in their heads, their memories, and their feelings for something that seems to connect to the text. And then, they conclude “Oh yeah, that makes me fee like..” or “What I think is that….” or “In my opinion, what it means is…” Usually the text is serving as a pretext to affirm something they already believe, rather than as an authoritative text to challenge what they already believe. There’s no other way to put it. There’s a lot of sharing of ignorance.”
Isn’t that tragic? Especially after what we heard on Sunday about the life-and-death importance of listening to God when He speaks. We’ve all been in those Bible studies where people are staring at the ceiling rather than at their Bibles when questions are asked. But as Adrian Reynolds at the Proc Trust rightly points out, “the answer to these kind of Bible studies (though they cannot really claim that title) is not to move to Catholicism, but to have better Bible studies.”
QUESTION: What can we do to make sure that our Connect Groups really get to grips with the Bible when we get together?
This is the third of a short series of posts about our new Connect Groups. Keep checking back for more.