Posts tagged ‘small groups’

June 6, 2012

Cliques

by pastortimfowler

http://www.flickr.com/photos/maandag/2881628357/

I am not sure why I am blogging about a word that I had to look up in order to spell it properly. I want to spell it the way it sounds, click, but NOOOOO, it has to be spelled like a french word or something. Anyway, I was reading in 1 Corinthians chapter 11 today about a problem that the early church was having when people got together in small groups and started being exclusive to the point of being snobbish. This is how the Apostle Paul states it, 1 Corinthians 11:18, In the first place, I hear that when you gather as a church you split up into opposing groups. I believe some of what I hear. I hear from people all the time about their dislike of cliques, especially in the church and how rude they think it can be. So I got to thinking about what this really is and how did it come to be in an organization like the church where we are to love each other as brothers and sisters.
There is a huge difference in a clique and a small group, as most churches call there Bible studies and fellowship groups. Small groups are very biblical and are important to the Christian life. The average Sunday morning church attendance in the US is 75 people. That sounds low, but there are far more small churches than there are mega churches. It is not uncommon in many rural areas to have only 10 to 20 in attendance on any give Sunday. From that, the average small group consists of 5-8 people. Many try to make their small group the largest in a church, but that begins to get into the topic that Paul wrote about in the verse above.
Most people only have between 2 and 8 people in their lives that they can call real friends. I am talking about people that they socialize with on a regular basis and have more than a casual relationship like you see in most churches. Most people who attend church together only see each other on Sunday morning. Fewer than half of the people who attend on Sunday morning will attend a small group of any type related to the church. It is one of the reasons for the decline of church attendance if you ask me. Before every family had a car and most lately 2 and 3 cars per household, it was most likely that someone attending church was going to a local house of worship with fellow family members and folks that farmed or worked in the same community. This meant that they really knew each other and were able to better help in times of need. It also meant that relationships were more than superficial.
So the small group was started by Jesus who picked 12 disciples to teach and hang out with regularly. Then the modern church started Sunday school classes for age appropriate classes and even had male and female and married couples and singles classes. It was very common to have one class have the patriarchal family members in it that class and it became the class that had the most pull when it came to decisions in the church. This was never the intent of Jesus when He started a small group, but that is how we came to the point of having cliques. It is those cliques that cause people to become divisive and others to feel like they don’t fit in, not only to a small group, but to a church.
I love small groups. It is a great place to hang out with people who I can get close to. People who share my struggles as a parent, husband, or whatever my uniqueness is that draws us to that group. It is not a clique to have a group of guys who like to fish, hanging out together on a regular basis. It is a clique if those guys think that they are more special than another group and begin to make it impossible for anyone else to ever fit in with them.
I have been able to bring people to my small group who did not yet feel comfortable coming to Sunday morning worship. Through the small group they have made friends and found it easier to then come for the regular worship time. That is one of the great purposes that every small group should be striving for. We do have some groups that are a little more exclusive by the nature of what they are talking about. Our recovery classes help people with addictions and although I think that they would make someone feel welcome, it would just not be appropriate for someone who does not have an addiction they need help with. That is not a clique.
So if you have small groups in your church, use them as a tool to welcome others and never to exclude. If your small group is excluding others just because they don’t want new people, it might be time to change groups or even churches. There are a lot of great churches out there and we should never let a bad experience stop us from making friends or attending worship on a regular basis.

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September 23, 2011

Looking For A Church

by pastortimfowler

I know that looking for a church to attend can be frustration no matter if you are looking for the first time as a new Christian or you are looking again as a more seasoned believer. I hear of people who look and stop because of one bad experience or that don’t look enough because they are easily frustrate. So I thought about giving some tips to help if you ever find yourself looking for a new church. Here are a few things that will help if you are looking for a good church to attend.
1. If you are a new Christian, I always encourage people to stay in the same church for at least a year. This gives you time to develop the basics of your new faith and therefore be able to decide whether or not you even need to find a new church. If you are in a church that preaches Jesus and His word and even if you don’t feel like it is where you need to be, hold off looking until you understand better what God’s desire in you life is. It may be that you are right where you need to be for any number of reasons. Get yourself rooted and grounded in your faith first.
2. Pray. This is the obvious answer, I know. But too many times our search begins with emotions not prayer. God may want you stay right where you and we not have allowed Him to convey that to us. Be specific about your motives, your needs, and your family’s needs, but also be sensitive about the fact that God knows our needs and He will never confuse them with our wants. You want to be sure that God is not keeping you where you can be the solution if there is a problem or might be using a situation to teach you patience. The church should be your family and family doesn’t run away just because you are not happy.
3. Do your homework. Too many times people just drive to the next nearest church or go to the latest big thing in churches. Not that either is wrong, but this is not how to find anything else you are looking for and should not be the way you find a church. Decide what you need and are looking for in a church. If you want a large church with lots of stuff, you don’t need to go to a small country church. Visit websites of churches that you think you might want to visit. Be sure that their doctrine and beliefs are close to yours. Look at style of worship, children’s activity, and small group classes.
4. Pick 2 or 3 to visit. Too many times we bounce from church to church to church and after the third or fourth one we are confused and frustrated. But if you have done your homework you should have a better feel of the ones in your area that meets your needs and can narrow it down to 2 or 3. Visit the first one at least 3 times. Attend a small group and go to the evening and or mid-week service. Get a good feel for who they really are and don’t be afraid to let that church know of your intentions. You want to see if they treat people different if they are just visiting than they do people who have been there a while. Make notes of what you like and don’t like. And then visit the next one and do the same. Do not make these visits on major holidays like Easter and Christmas, because most churches ramp up everything during these times and you are looking for what is normal activity.
5. Try to meet with the pastor privately. This will let you see how interactive he is with his congregation. If you are looking for a very personable pastor and one is hard to reach it might not be for you. This doesn’t mean that the pastor is not caring, it may just be that he is busy, so use common sense there. When you get with him, ask questions about his vision, leadership style, and core beliefs. Most congregations are a reflection of the pastor, so see if they match up. Ask him what his policies are for people getting involved in the type ministry that you are interested in serving in. See if he is someone you can follow because he is the shepherd of that flock.
6. Take a day to talk. If you are married, this would mean you and your spouse, involve the kids if they are old enough but they should not be the deciding factor. If you are single, find a good Christian friend to talk to. Pray for wisdom and seek God’s will for this. I would suggest that this time be a Sunday morning. Yep, don’t go to church that day, but rather seek God’s will for this major decision that you are about to make. I believe if God is leading you that there will be an agreement that happens rather easily. Don’t let a minor thing become a stumbling block, because Satan wants you confused and discouraged. Once you have decided which church that you want to make your home, share that decision with they whole family and or friend.
7. Began to attend regularly. Don’t join immediately, although some churches won’t allow membership until you attend a class for new members, some will let you join right away. Hold off for a month or so just to be sure of your decision. Give, serve, and participate as much as they will allow until you join, but let God confirm this in your heart. Once you decide to join, ask for another meeting with the pastor to let him know your decision and ask the best way to make it public. This does vary from church to church and he will give you the best way to make it public. Tell him that you are ready to serve in the capacity as a member and will follow his leader as he sees fit.
This can be a tough time in a Christians life, but can be very rewarding. You can learn how to hear from God more clearly and strengthen your faith. The local church is important to God and you are an important part of that local church. So follow these things and I believe that you will know God’s place for you and be ready to take part in growing the Body of Christ in your new church family.