Isaiah

Picking your fight

Our church wouldn’t feel like home for so many if it wasn’t for our collection of diverse and engaging small groups. It’s within these small groups that people find family. In our fast-growing church community, they are a wonderful way for members of our congregation to make friends that last a lifetime, pray together, disciple each other and walk with each other through the joy, tough stuff and curveballs life can throw at us all.

But if in fast-growing and larger church communities small groups are where ‘church’ really happens – how do we ensure and facilitate our groups becoming and staying outward looking too?

The call in Isaiah 58 and 61 to serve the poor, bind up the broken hearted and serve those around us so that they might know the love of God is a call for us in our small groups too – and what a great place to start!

In our church, we are planning to encourage small group leaders to rally their groups together and ‘Pick a Fight’. We are going to suggest that each small group adopts a cause and devotes some of their time to make a difference in that area, whether that’s locally, or nationally!

For example, a small group that is mostly young families might choose to ‘Pick a Fight’ for their local primary school. They might decide to regularly pray for those that work and attend the school, attend PTA events and maybe become governors – anything they believe will bring a bit more of the kingdom of God to that part of the world!

Different small groups made up of those from different demographics will come up will come up with brilliant and diverse ideas. Some might want to focus on reaching out to those involved in local nightlife, supporting local refugees or even devoting their time to a local home for older adults – the possibilities are endless.

When we focus on loving our neighbour, the most beautiful miracles happen, and small groups seem like the perfect place for these miracles to begin. Having the support of loving friends and the prayers of a small group will encourage vision and help us take those first steps into action into loving our communities better.

So let’s go out there, and encourage our small groups to change the world!

By Jazz Crowne
Jazz Crowne co-ordinates the community outreach work for Emmaus Road church Guildford and oversees the churches midweek small groups. She loves a good coffee, a good joke and a good book, regardless of what it’s about.

Every member is important

‘Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!

See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.’

Isaiah 49:15–16

There is a story of a middle aged man who began to fear that his mother might be losing her memory. So he asked her a test question: ‘What’s my name, Mother?’ With a soothing voice and a sympathetic smile, she replied: ‘Just stand there quietly for a minute or two, dear – it will come to you.’

Remembering names can be difficult, but most of us remember the names of people we love, and certainly most of us remember our responsibilities as parents and carers or small group members.

However, even the best of us can have lapses. I know a mother who reached home to realise with horror that her baby was still in the pram outside the butcher’s shop! I also remember the relief that came to the face of one young father as I handed over the toddler he had left behind at church that morning.

‘Can a mother forget?’ asks the scripture. Well, to be honest, parents can sometimes have lapses of memory – the love is still there but the concentration has slipped out of gear for a moment.

But God promises faithfully, ‘I will not forget you.’

One of the most comforting truths of Scripture is that we are individually known and loved by God. The Good Shepherd knows His sheep by name, even the hairs on our head are numbered. He cares for the sparrow and cares much more for us.

‘I have engraved you on the palms of my hands’ He says. What Christian could hear those words without sensing the thud of the Roman hammer and the searing pain as nails were driven into the hands of Jesus? Did you notice that it is plural? Not the palm of my hand, but the palms of my hands.

Perhaps you think me fanciful but I like to think that my name is written twice over. Once on His left hand and once on His right! How can so many names be written there? That’s no problem for an infinite and almighty God.

‘He holds the whole world in His hands.’ But that world is made up of individuals like you and me, and His love is settled on each one of us. To Him we are unique, we have a name, and He died for us as though we were the only one who mattered. Today, as Jesus prays for us in heaven before His Father, He prays specific prayers. He knows our names, and every situation that is troubling each of us. We don’t know everything that He prays for us, but one thing is certain: He prays that we may realise how deeply we are loved. He never forgets about you. Never! Just think of that!

 

About Norman Moss

Norman and Margaret Moss commenced ministry together in 1957. After 9 years in Chiswick, they pastored a church in Wimbledon for 31 years, and since then have been widely engaged in travelling ministry. Margaret contributed to the Dictionary of Christian Ethics (IVP) and Norman has written several children’s books. Both have wide experience with small groups.