As a university professor, a primary goal in most classes I taught was to encourage wonder and invite perspective change. As a pastor, my hope is to carry that goal into my Sunday message or in a few words in the Clergy View section of our local paper.
In our church-centric culture, it is much too easy for us to not recognize or be aware of the restorative work Jesus is already doing in His Kingdom Monday through Saturday. To become less church focused and more Kingdom focused, it is essential we explore and engage new ways of thinking so we are not missing out on the Kingdom work taking place beyond Sunday services.
With that stated, what comes to mind when you read the phrase empowered groups? Is there a specific story in the Bible you would reference as being an example of an empowered group? Have you been involved in what you would claim is an empowered group; and if so, what or who powered the group? My challenge to you is to take some time to reflect on these questions before reading further.
What comes to mind for me, is Margaret Mead’s infamous quote: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world, indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” What, in her studies as a cultural anthropologist, could have led her to author such a statement?
Biblically, there are many examples of empowered groups. Gideon’s army was dwindled down from 32,000 to 300 and the Midianites were defeated (Judges chapters 6-7). Another example of an empowered group is how, under the leadership of Nehemiah, teams worked together to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem in only 52 days! (Nehemiah chapter 3)
As I think back on my experiences and involvement with groups whose purpose and focus were quite varied, my greatest blessing has been participation in empowered groups. Upon reflection, my fulfillment was rooted in these words spoken to the prophet Zechariah by the angel: “‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.”
The source of the power of any group does, indeed, matter! It is ironic that the “em” in empower is ME spelled backwards! We live in a culture that seems to idolize individuals and their accomplishments. The potency of “empowered” groups I participated in recognized and appreciated the Spirit at work by what each individual brought to the table.
Jesus frequently places emphasis on the WE in lieu of the ME! In the Gospel of John, after washing his disciples feet, He states, “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” (John 14:12-14)
“. . .and they will do even greater things than these. . .” Take a moment to contemplate on those words spoken by Jesus: THEY will do greater things! Jesus focused most of His three years of ministry on empowering a group of followers to go out to do the works He was doing, teaching and healing, promising to do whatever was asked in HIS name. Perhaps this is an area of growth for us who seek to follow Christ to investigate and embrace in our faith walk.
Now for the invitation!
Serendipitously, on Saturday, March 3rd from 8:30 a.m.-Noon, there is a groups conference to be hosted at Broadway Christian Church. The topic is Empowered Groups. At the conference, we will discuss how to empower groups to pray together and serve together; to invite others, not only to a group, but to have deeper conversations about God.
Over 100 participants are anticipated from 15 different churches most geographically located in Coles county but also from Effingham, Bloomington, Springfield, Rockford and Indiana as well. It is the 5th annual conference of its kind that seeks, in part, to break the church-centric culture. As disciples--learners of Jesus--attending a variety of churches, we come together to learn about living in the Kingdom of God. Please consider this a personal invitation to come join us, keeping in mind that we should “never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world, indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Jesus empowered a group of twelve! For those reading this, you are most likely a testament to the truth in that statement.
You can sign up for The Groups Conference at: www.thegroupsconference.com
Hope to see you there!