Friday, January 18, 2013

My FIRST Community Group! John 15:1-6 Revisited

So the church I go to now has community groups, small groups that meet throughout the week to discuss the scripture that was touched on during worship service.  This is awesome, and to me, a vital way to stay focused and encouraged in the Spirit throughout the week.  I think it's also an excellent opportunity for God to speak through us to one another.

One interesting fact that you probably should know about me...I've been going to church alone, yes alone...for about the past year.  I by no means wish to go alone. I love people.  However, after college I somehow found myself in a place and situation where the only way I would be able to go was if I went by myself.  Growing up, I always pitied the people that sat alone in church.  I felt bad that they had no one with whom to share the experience.  At first I wasn't going at all, and really struggled because I knew I had such a desire for it in my heart. However, for a period of time I was successful at filling myself with excuses to not be brave enough to venture out to a new church full of unfamiliar faces, and not just do that, but do it alone.  I would listen to sermons from my old church online, take notes, read my bible, but it wasn't the same as going to a place of worship on Sunday morning.  I stalked out churches in the area online, prayed about it, but wasn't making much progress in my search.  You know when you hear people say, "I didn't find _____.  _____ found me."?  The same is true with the church I am now beginning to call "home".  As I went to check my mail in the apartment complex in which I was currently living, I came across a flyer in my mailbox.  Just as with any other mass produced flyer, there were several of them in the nearby trash can.  I wasn't sure why it caught my eye, but I know now that it was indeed God who had found this church for me. My prayer had been answered.  That Sunday, I gathered up enough courage to venture the very few short miles to the middle school auditorium where this still very young church was meeting.  From the people to the Word, the music to the sermon, it was everything I had prayed for.  Thank you, God! :)

While I had definitely fallen in love, I was not in attendance every Sunday.  I am just now beginning to regularly stay in the area on weekends.  Up until recently, I often used weekends to venture home to visit my family and attend church with them.  

Just a few weeks ago, my church was able to move into its very first own building.  God is so good!  I have been attending more regularly, and with that God had been putting on my heart the need to grow once again and make an effort to get involved in a community group.  Again, I was faced with the fear of venturing into a more intimate setting alone.  Although I had spoken to countless friendly faces in passing, I hadn't developed a strong relationship with anyone at the church. This was definitely my fault.  I would attend service and then pretty much leave as soon as everyone began to make efforts to enjoy fellowship.  Sad, I know, but for me I guess this was baby steps.

So, finally this week, I took that next step! I attended a community group, and it could not have been better!  Everyone was super awesome and welcoming! :) The craziest part about it was that a girl I know showed up!  This is crazy because I still basically know no one where I live except for my roommate.  This girl actually works with my roommate and has been to my apartment a couple of times. Obviously, we were both shocked! She is unable to attend regularly because of a crazy work schedule, so that's why we hadn't seen one another.  Anddd, we had ice cream at this gathering. cream.

The bible study/discussion was awesome.  I like that it's called community group instead of bible study because there shouldn't have to be a specific time to study the Bible, but instead the Bible should be studied, discussed and referenced frequently through community. I love it.  :)  Just as I do during worship service, I feel God working through this small group and it is truly tremendous.  

We covered John 15: 1-6 in this group.  We talked about what is means to remain in the vine, to abide in Him.  We also asked ourselves if it was possible to bear bad fruit in addition to good fruit.  I do not believe this is possible.  However, I do believe it is possible to trick ourselves into thinking that we are bearing fruit, when really we are not.  We are able to tell if we are abiding in Him by whether or not we do work for Him or for ourselves, just as an attached branch works for the vine.  We are clearly able to tell  if we are working for Him or for ourselves by our tendency to be frustrated or burnt out.  If we are burnt out, we are working for ourselves.  

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