Ben Edwards

Get cape, wear cape, fly!

Behind every superhero there is an origin story, a reason, a drive. Whether it’s a dark time in their life that sparked change or standing up for the downtrodden against an unbeatable force, there is always a point where their path of greatness begins. You may be at that point right now. Maybe you’ve heard a sermon, read a Bible passage or ended a small group session with an unquenchable desire to make the world a better place. There is no denying that the gospel of Jesus Christ challenges us to change not just ourselves but the world around us for the better. Could your small group origin story be beginning today?

But before we start jumping over buildings or shooting lazer beams out of our eyes let’s start with the basics.

 

Show kindness

Kindness is a power that Jesus modelled frequently throughout His life. Unlike a superpower, it has almost no boundaries. It can be used on the ones closest to us, but can also change the lives of complete strangers. Here are a few ways your small group can use kindness to crush the darkness around you:

Be a good neighbour

Perhaps this is only true of my street, but I feel like the closest we ever get to our neighbours is a nod in the mornings or a two sentence conversation while trimming the lawn. Wouldn’t it be great if the people around us could see our superpowers in action. We may lack the psychic abilities to check how our neighbour’s week has been, but with the right amount of empathy and respect we can delve a little deeper into their lives. Maybe there are issues that needs prayer, needs a good listener or maybe just a kind word. Spend some time in your small group praying for your neighbours. Maybe you don’t know anything about them yet, in which case this could be a chance to ask God to spark conversations. ‘Love thy neighbor…’ it’s where Jesus suggested we start.

Share the love

It’s a wonderful thing when a small group completely clicks! Everyone knows each other and you’re sessions just seem to flow. For some of you this may be a reality, and others a dream that seems a long way off. Either way, it might be time to consider sharing your small group with others. Spend a few weeks praying for those around you that would benefit from a little extra kindness in their lives. Come up with a few people (depending on the size of your venue) who you could invite to a social. This could include food and maybe some games but at the heart would be about supporting and uplifting your guests. If your small group is still finding its place, you may find a few new members and who knows – an evening of kindness may have had a bigger impact than you will ever know.

 

Get a costume

Whether it’s Roxxon Oil or Oscorp, the comic book world has its fair share of evil companies set on world domination. Unfortunately, this is one area where the comic book world collides with our own. A great exercise for a small group is to take a few weeks looking a the products you buy, clothes you wear and items you use. Although we may not directly back global inhumanities like slavery, pollution or tax evasion, each pound we spend is essentially a vote for the type of world we want to live in. Would a superhero stand idly by and watch the less fortunate be mistreated just to get a cheaper t-shirt… probably not. The good shopping guide is a great resource to use. Here the companies and products are ethically compared and graded so you and your small group can make informed decisions on which brands you choose to support.

 

Don’t get brainwashed

I wonder how many of us wake up in the morning, and before we have even got out of bed and put on our cape find ourselves reading a magazine, checking a news website or scrolling through our Facebook feed. Information and opinions are not only easily accessible, but often blasted in our faces. Issues come when the trend is to use negative news, the worse the better, to grab the attention of the reader. Now I understand that bad things happen and staying up to date with current affairs is an important part of life. But maybe tomorrow morning when you wake up and reach over for your phone you could give it a second thought and look at one of these websites instead:

www.positive.news/

www.goodnewsnetwork.org/

www.gimundo.com/

These websites promote ‘good journalism’ and try to find everyday heroes and news stories that should be celebrated. In your small group try and remember that it is not all doom and gloom. Why not start a session by bringing positive news stories to discuss? And focus your prayers on the positive events from that week. God is moving and changing our world in unbelievable ways, far more exciting than who has the best summer bod.

 

Protect my city

The are tons of ways to look after the city you live in without putting on a mask and roaming alleyways late at night. Why not take your small group for a walk around your city, town or village. As you walk around pray for areas or buildings you feel God is drawing you to. If this is something you haven’t done before a good place to start would be a school, library or council offices where you can pray for teachers, council workers and leaders in your community. The every day heroes. You could also take a few bin bags with you and use this time to pick up litter, showing good stewardship of the world God has gifted you.

A mark of a true superhero is to save the day and then disappear into the night before they can take credit for their good deed. This is a trait I think we can all learn from. Look out for every day opportunities to leave something good behind. Like leaving change in a vending machine as a surprise for the next person, or leaving a box of doughnuts in the kitchen. Praise is great, but it’s important to remember that our treasure is not found in the praise we get on earth, but in the rewards we reap in heaven.

 

Change the world

‘What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?’ It’s a good question to start off a small group discussion. But the truth is that even superheroes fail sometimes and unfortunately so does the human race. Evil comes in many forms sometimes of our own creation. I’m sure we can all think of a global issues that we would eradicate if we had the chance. Maybe they directly affected us or have just always weighed heavy our hearts. As a small group spend some time gathering your thoughts and come up with a global issue that you feel needs to change. Over the course of the next few weeks take it in turns to highlight this issue. This can be done in many different ways:

  • Write a letter to your local MP
  • Find and share blogs that highlight the issue
  • Write blogs on the issue
  • Discuss with friends and family their thoughts on the issue
  • Support a charity/organisation that is dealing with the issue

Equip your small group to bring about change in our world. You may not see the issue eradicated in your lifetime and it may be unclear what impact you have had but when it comes to changing the world there are two things that I believe. Margaret Mead said this:

Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have. - Margaret Mead

Small groups of people getting together to make things happen whether it is a group of superheroes or apostles are what have always changed to the world. More importantly than that in Romans it reads:

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

Romans 8:28 (NLT)

God brings together all things to work for His good and the good of those who love Him.

So even on the days when you may feel like you are fighting and loosing battle. You may feel like you’re Superman holding kryptonite and everything is going wrong. Remember that God has a purpose for you. If you love Him and work for Him – He is on your side. And years from now they may tell the story of the small group who teamed up with God and eradicated evil with prayer and perseverance. Now that’s an origin story I would love to hear.

 

About Ben Edwards

Ben is worship leader, youth work volunteer and small group member in his local church in Farnborough. He recently joined CWR as a graphic designer. In his free time he enjoys five a side football and DIY.

6 things to remember when choosing songs for worship in your small group

Music by its very nature is vast and diverse. An unimaginable number of different styles and techniques came long before I was born and many more will be formed long after I’m gone. With that being said it’s important to remember that all music has context. As a guy in my late 20’s living in the UK, my music tastes have been heavily influenced by the culture I am a part of. It would be wrong for me to assume that we are all the same. One of the wonders of the Christian faith is that God meets us where we are. We are all different and unique and yet we can all join together to worship one God. Just remember every small group is different, stay true to the people you are and the purpose God has for you when choosing worship songs.

1. SIMPLICITY

Don’t get me wrong, I love nothing more than going to a gig to hear music performed by a full band of professional musicians. But realistically this is not what small group worship is about. Maybe you have a guitar or a keyboard; perhaps some of you have downloaded instrument apps on your phones. Your small group may prefer acapella worship. The worship style is up to you, but always keep in mind that worship has never been about complexity. Yes, it can be a full choir accompanied by an orchestra but it can also be a single voice and an honest heart. For me one of the best songs to encapsulate this is The Rend Collective’s – Come on my soul. Lyrically the song only contains 15 different words but through these simple lyrics the song calls us to redirect our focus to God, a great way to start any worship session.

2. FREEDOM

A few years ago my family and I were at a wedding. The service started with worship songs played by a band, and a good time was had by all. At this point I should explain that my Dad has a very loud voice. Seriously, imagine the loudest singing voice you have ever heard and then turn the volume dial up one more. At the end of the service a woman in her mid-20’s in the row in front of us turned around and thanked my Dad for singing so loudly. It was clear that she was quite emotional and later I found out why. It turned out the volume of my Dad’s voice had drowned out her own and that had really given her the freedom to not worry about how she sounded, and she had connected with God in a way she hadn’t before. Those of us who are in the UK are free to worship Christ. We do not face the same persecutions as our brothers and sisters in places like North Korea or Somalia. So if you are worried about the place you are in, physically or emotionally, remember that you are FREE to worship. There should be no safer space for you to express that freedom than within your small group. When I lead worship with my wife Abbie, we like to use Worship Central – Spirit Break Out. With a few instrumental verses we give the congregation the freedom to go off script; sing their own lyrics and melodies, and lift prayers while we worship.

 3. BEAUTY & TRUTH

A problem I often encounter when leading worship is finding a good balance between beauty and truth. One of the marvels of Worship is that it comes in so many different forms. An artist who creates a beautiful sculpture as an act of worship is performing the same act as a poet creating a sonnet for God. Sung worship is somewhere in the middle. Both words and melody have been created for God. The bible is a great place to start to keep your worship song rooted in truth. Find songs that have beautiful melodies but also have lyrics based on scripture. One of my favourite hymns is ‘The Lord’s my shepherd I’ll not want’. A few years ago Stuart Townend reimagined the hymn for a new generation. The song had a beautiful melody and it’s truthful lyrics are based closely on Psalm 23. The perfect combination of beauty and truth.

 4. CONTEXT

The setting of your small group can have huge implications for the style of worship you can use. If you are in a small living room, in a terraced house, leading a group late into the evening, volume may be an issue. If this is the case don’t view this as a reason not to use sung worship, but instead challenge yourself to try new things. Maybe take a walk as a group to a noisier or more secluded place, where worshiping loudly will not be a problem. Perhaps use this as a chance to sing quiet reflective songs. On the other hand, if your small group is set in a large space don’t feel like you always have to strive for more instruments and louder music. Stripping back the worship can often be the best way to understand what God is saying to your small group. The song Cornerstone by Hillsong has been used within worship for around 5 years now, and in that time there have been many incarnations of the song. From full band stadium style to intimate and minimal. One of my favourite recordings of the song is from RELEVANTS YouTube page, a much quieter version with only two vocalists. Don’t let your context stop your worship, but instead use this as an opportunity to revisit songs in a different style, finding different ways to worship.

5. FOCUS

No matter when your small group gathers, some of you will always bring stresses and distractions with you. Whether it’s disagreements from work that have followed you home, the children’s behaviour that could have been better or even just traffic that brought out anger you didn’t know was there. Whatever it may be we can all lose focus on God. For me, starting a small group session with worship is the best way to refocus on God… wiping the slate clean of the troubles that distract you. Try and remember, that unlike so many things we experience in today’s society, worship is not about being a consumer it is about being a participant. We can only truly participate when we are focused. Way back in 1999 while songs like ‘Mambo number 5’ and’ Hit me baby one more time’ topped the pop charts, Matt Redman released Heart of worship. A powerful reminder of where our focus should be, it is still a worship favourite after almost two decades.

6. NEW

Just to be clear, by NEW I don’t mean always chase the newest releases. This certainly isn’t what the writer of Psalm 96 meant when they wrote:” Sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth”. For me a NEW song refers to bringing to God the things that matter to you right now in this new day. Play a simple four chord structure and talk to God as a group. Maybe in prayer, maybe in song. For me this is where some of the best worship songs are born, in an honest moment, bringing the day’s challenges and triumphs to God.

A great example of this is John Mark Macmillan – How He Loves Us. John tells the story of working in a recording studio and getting a phone call to let him know several of his friends had been in a serious car accident. As a result of this accident, his close friend Stephen had died from his injuries. With no idea of how to deal with his sadness, anger and frustration, John starts to write a song about his relationship with God in that moment. A song that talks about a God that still loves us through our hate, our doubt and our wandering.

Every day with God is NEW. New challenges, new blessings, new chances… and what better way to worship than to invite him into every situation, to be alongside you facing and understanding them. What is your song to God today?

 

About Ben Edwards

Ben is worship leader, youth work volunteer and small group member in his local church in Farnborough. He recently joined CWR as a graphic designer. In his free time he enjoys five a side football and DIY.