Can you remember back to your first day of middle school? The intimidation? The fear of the unknown? I was a scrawny, bucktooth, pubescent that wasn’t smart enough to be a nerd, not athletic enough to be a jock, and not cool enough to be hipster. I was in a category all of my own called awkward. I think the we can all identify with that senecio in some way, shape, or form. We all want to be considered normal, belong, and feel accepted. It was not an easy task in middle school. It’s probably why so many people love Napoleon Dynamite.
Do you remember the first time you visited your church? Did you have some of those same intimidations and reservations as when you first went to school? Perhaps your church is small and soon as you entered you felt like everyone was staring at you. Maybe your church was larger and you immediately felt lost. Hopefully someone did something right and you are still there. Someone greeted you as you walked in, helped you take your kids to the right room, and maybe even sat with you to make you feel comfortable. Every church should go the extra mile to help folks feel welcome and comfortable. If a visitor is unable to connect, they will most likely not return for a second visit.
At our church (Hope City) we strive to connect people to God and connect people to others who will then in turn connect people to God and connect people to others. Groups is one of our three core pathways to accomplish this. (The other two pathways are to serve -volunteering on campus, and missions – both local and international.) Groups has a secondary purpose written deep into the thread of that same DNA. That purpose is to move people toward spiritual growth. The word encourage in the greek means to “stimulate growth.” We desire to move people from visitor to attender, from attender to connected, from connected to community, from community to disciple, and from disciple to ministry.
“But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” (Hebrews 3:13)
There is a similar word that Paul uses often in his letters to the church, the word edification. It is a metaphor referring to spiritual growth. This word in the original Greek goes deeper and means “to increase the potential of someone with a focus on the process involved.” Edification is not focused on the outcome, but rather the process that brings about the reaching of one’s potential.
“Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” (Romans 14:19)
A final word I would like to bring to your attention is the word spur. When we hear the word “spur”, we typically think of a cowboy and his boots, complete with spurs that he uses to prod his horse as he is riding in attempts to make it go faster. In somewhat similar fashion, it is “the implication of stimulating change in motivation or attitude.” Spur seems to not only challenge growth, but also looks to bring about a change in ones attitude toward growth.
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)
Growing up wasn’t easy in middle and high school. Not all of our stories end like Napoleon Dynamite. But growth can be an amazing process if we journey through it with others. Simply attending church every weekend will most likely not bring us to place of reaching the full potential that we were created for. We need to be connected to the point where we are encouraged, edified, and spurred on to spiritual maturity. In the same respect, that connecting should lead us to opportunities to be that for others. Vote groups! Need a group to join? CLICK HERE!
1. Which of these three verses most challenges you and why?
2. What stage would you consider yourself at your church: visitor, attender, connected, community, disciple, minister? What indicators lead you to believe your answer? Would those who know you best agree?
3. How are you currently connecting to others to be encouraged, edified, and spurred on?
4. Of the three words discussed (encourage, edify, and spur), which best describes what you need? Which best describes what you are trying to provide for others?
5. According to Acts 9:31, what were the key factors to the peace and strength of the early church?
6. How can you help someone to reach their potential? What would be the process?
7. What is something that you can do to motivate others toward a change in attitude concerning their own spiritual growth?