“Because of God’s great love for us, we are growing in our love of Christ, in our relationships with one another, and our ministry in the world.” We have not arrived, we are growing, pressing on, moving forward to know Christ and make Him known in His world. Over the past year the Elders and I have prayed that God would open our eyes to areas of strength at Walnut Hill and areas that need growth. As your pastor, I am encouraged that God has gifted you all to accomplish works of ministry. Much like Martha, Lazarus and Mary’s sister, and a dear friend of Jesus, we go about the work of ministry as unto the Lord. Walnut Hill is also a place that warmly welcomes those who worship with us. I have not spoken to anyone who has visited that has not felt this warmth. These are strengths. Every strength has offsetting weaknesses. As a church we operate as Martha. We do many things to serve the Lord and the less fortunate. Where we need growth is in deepening relationships with one another. This could be called Mary ministry.
A healthy church ministry has a good mix of Martha and Mary ministry. Because of the need for growth in this way, the Elders and I have prayerfully decided to begin Growth Groups on Sunday evenings this Fall. Growth Groups is a hybrid of what we have been doing on Sunday nights and small groups. The purpose of Growth Groups is to provide an atmosphere in which relationships can deepen at Walnut Hill. The groups are about growing together in our love for Christ AND our relationships together. The face of our culture has changed in the past few years. Most people who enter a church are looking for connection, not so much a classroom. They long for relationships and will drive from wherever they are to wherever they can have a connection with other people. To ask someone to come back to church to a Sunday School class will sound impersonal and that visitor may not want to make a commitment to one of our excellent classes at that time. But if we extend a friendship to them over a meal or a cup of coffee, that friendship may grow into a relationship. Growth Groups are a way to develop friendships into deepening relationships. They are not Sunday School classes nor are they Bible studies in the strictest sense, instead we will meet together as a large group one week and discuss a particular theme and the following week we will divide into small groups to consider implications from the large group time. The questions will be directed more to application and integration within the group.
Again, why would we do this? Haven’t we tried small groups before? We do this to provide opportunities for our friendships in Christ to grow into deeper relationships. So that when you need someone to be there for you, you WILL have someone to call. So that you can be involved in others’ lives to a more significant degree and when they are experiencing the pains of life, you might just show up at their doorstep to be Christ to them. From what we have discussed, small groups have not had this type of focus in the past. I suspect it will be a different experience that what some may have had in the past. As we grow into a healthy place as a church, as we take our Martha church and grow her Mary qualities, we do so to deepen the relationships God has called us to participate in.
Join us the evening of September 7 at 6:30 as we begin this new part of our journey together.