January 30 | Receiving

Text: Ephesians 5.21

Loving, serving, accepting, and instructing each other are necessary elements for a small group to be successful. But receiving this kind of love can be challenging. Sometimes people in small groups think their group doesn’t do enough for them. And sometimes group members are uncomfortable with others knowing their business and helping them.

The Bible teaches us to “submit to one another out of reverence to Christ” (Ephesians 5.21). In other words, we need to want to be like Christ so much, we’re willing to receive his love through the serving and teaching of those in our small group. In love we’re to both give and receive warnings, encouragement, and help.

Take some time with God and ask him to show you where you land in the area of receiving from your small group. Maybe you take advantage of your group, feeling entitled to get their help with every need you have. Maybe you’re unwilling to receive their help or instruction out of pride. Listen to the words of the song “Keep Making Me” by Sidewalk Prophets, that encourage us to welcome godly change with openness and gratitude.

January 29 | Truth in Love

Text: Ephesians 4.1-16

Giving needed spiritual direction (an instruction or warning) can be one of the most loving (and most difficult!) things you can do for someone in your small group. We’re not talking about the “I know better than you” kind of instruction, but instruction that is kind, true to Scripture, and given in a manner where the recipient has a chance to hear and respond without being told what to do.

Because becoming like Christ is the goal of The Circle, any instruction we give should be to move toward faith and obedience. Spiritual direction needs to be given in an atmosphere of trust and biblical truth.

Jan 29(4)

Today, because it’s easy to get off track in our faith, memorize Ephesians 4.15 in the New Living Translation: “Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.” Use this verse as a reminder of how we’re to speak into the lives of others as we help them be like the Christ.

 

January 28 | Acceptance

Final_Finals_Email Header_600x185

Text: Romans 15.7

It’s okay if not everyone in your small group is alike. Jesus’ disciples certainly weren’t: they had different backgrounds, experiences, and personalities. The only thing they had in common was believing in Jesus and accepting his call. Jesus’ goal wasn’t to make them buddies, but to change and equip them to partner with him in his mission.

Maybe not everyone in your small group is like you. That’s okay: being different allows us to “sharpen” each other spiritually (Proverbs 27.17). This “sharpening” allows us to live in harmony and “accept one another” (Romans 15.7). It probably won’t come naturally, which is why we need to learn to be like Christ and love unconditionally. Jesus doesn’t say, “change and then I’ll love you.” He accepts us, loves us, and then changes us.

Smooth sailing doesn’t make a good sailor, but learning how to navigate the waves does. We can experience these “waves” when we have someone in our circle who’s different from us.

Today, as you open your hands to receive from God, pray about those “waves” you need help navigating and ask God to help you accept them as they are, and to be like Christ toward that person.

 

January 27 | Love and Serve

Text: Romans 12.10-12

Because “life happens,” we need the love of our small group to help carry us through. We can’t carry ourselves. Like the childhood game “Red Rover,” we need to link arms to deflect the things in life running at us. We’re stronger in the bad times and the good times when we use our God-given gifts to link arms with each other.

God uses our love and devotion for one another to change us—and those we’re loving—to be like the Christ. Small groups are designed to be a safe place to rejoice over God’s blessings, mourn over loss, and help each other in times of need. When they are, we’re “devoted to one another in love” (Romans 12.10). The Greek word used here for love is” philadelphia,” or brotherly love. Small group members are to extend the kind of love seen in a healthy family unit.Jan 27(3)

Today, pray for everyone in your group and ask God to show you someone in one of your circles who has a need you can meet perhaps by: sending a note of encouragement, offering friendship by doing an activity, or even praying together. Be creative as you love and serve someone in your small group family.

 

January 26 | One Anothers

Final_Finals_Email Header_600x185

Text: John 13.34-35

“The Circle,” a smaller community of Christians with the goal of helping each other become like the Christ, is what we at Ada Bible Church call “small groups.” By loving, serving, accepting, and instructing each other, the members of a small group help move one another toward Christ-likeness.

Because Jesus and his disciples taught very specifically what it means to live a one another-focused life, we don’t have to guess. There are 59 “one another” verses in the New Testament teachings. All fall under the central theme of loving each other to be “like the Christ.”

Today, as you welcome Jesus into your day, read John 13.34-35 and then look at the 59 “one another” verses in light of yourself and your small group.

The One Big Question to discuss with your circle is . . . How well does your small group (or other circle) do the “one anothers,” and what does your group need to work on?

January 23 | Anything

Text: Galatians 6.2

When we “carry each other’s burdens” (Galatians 6.2), we step into each other’s lives in some incredibly challenging situations: job loss, death of a loved one, marital strife, and financial struggles. We move alongside someone and “bear with the failings of the weak” (Romans 15.1) in the same way they do for us when we are in need.

When we’re not quite sure what to do, we can say, “If you need anything, call me.” As Senior Teaching Pastor Jeff Manion writes, “With these truly heartfelt words, I have just offered everything but not yet done anything. I have now handed my friend a blank check, but it is neither dated nor signed” (Satisfied, p.128).

Pastor Manion reminds us “that doing something is often better than promising everything.” Today memorize Galatians 6.2 and use it as motivation to do something rather than promise everything.

January 22 | Challenges

Text: Ephesians 4.2

Helping each other become like the Christ, in the relational environment of a small group, will be difficult. Those in our group will present challenges in the same way we present challenges to them. As Pastor Jeff Manion said, “People are annoying.”

Perhaps this is why Paul, in writing to Jesus-followers in Ephesians 4.2, reminded them of four important interpersonal characteristics: humility (seeing ourselves as we really are), gentleness (self-control), patient (long-tempered), and forebearing love (continuous and unconditional).

All four of these Spirit-empowered characteristics will be necessary as God uses each of us in our movement to be like the Christ.

Jan 22(1)

As you open your hands and welcome Jesus into your day, remind yourself of these characteristics by listening to Matt Maher’s “Hold Us Together.” When you pray, offer again to God your gifts, talents, and abilities as he uses you in the lives of those in your circles.

January 21 | Better

Text: Philippians 1.3-11

The Circle of an Ada Bible Church small group provides a great opportunity for two things to happen: for you to be like Jesus to those in your group and for them to be like Jesus to you. Often this happens when we, and those in our group, experience crises and challenges. While these experiences provide opportunities for group members to demonstrate friendship and help physically, which is certainly needed, the goal needs to be “discipleship” (like the Christ) rather than just friendship.

We help people through difficult times and we help them become like Jesus in the process.

It’s in a small group where we can ask better questions and pray better prayers. Rather than just “How are you doing?” we can ask, “How are you seeing God work?” Instead of just praying for someone who’s suffering, we need to pray for how God wants us to help (and then do it!).

Today, use Paul’s prayer in Philippians 1.3-11 as a model for how to view, and use, life’s circumstances to make us, and those in our group, more like Jesus.

January 20 | Traveling Partners

Text: Ecclesiastes 4.9-12

A small group at Ada Bible Church is just one of several “circles” in our life. Other circles include friends, work teams, sports teams, classes we attend, our neighborhood, and people with whom we volunteer. Each circle has the potential to influence us in one of two directions: toward or away from living like the Christ. No circle is neutral in this respect; each one moves us one way or the other.

This makes The Circle of the Ada Bible Church small group especially important. It may be the only one in your life with the specific goal of helping you to become more like Jesus. Because of the challenges we face along the road (Ecclesiastes 4.9-12), it’s critical we “travel” with others who not only help, but move us toward Jesus in the midst of the challenges. It’s also important we build relationships before we need others and others need us.

Jan 20(1)

Today, as you welcome God into your day, evaluate your circles and their role in moving you toward or away from being like the Christ. This might require you to step out of one circle and move into another. If you’re not currently in The Circle of an ABC small group, tomorrow is your last chance to signup for Group Launch on Sunday, January 25. Register here by noon for the event at your campus.

January 19 | Relational Discipleship

Text: Luke 6.12-13

Jesus’ strategy to teach the world what it means to be “like the Christ” began with his selection of 12 men (Luke 6.12-13). For the next three years these men would see him, hear him, be taught by him, and be encouraged and rebuked by him, all in a deliberate effort to prepare them to carry out his command to “make disciples of all nations…and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded” (Matthew 28.19-20).

Within this highly relational environment, Jesus was preparing his disciples to do exactly what he did.

It was “community with a purpose,” the purpose being to be like the Christ. It’s the reason we’re so passionate about small groups at Ada Bible Church. While we can make friends and enjoy common experiences in a variety of ways—sports teams, civic groups, book clubs, and hobbies—only a small group has the goal to help each other become more like the Christ. In an Ada Bible Church small group, you partner with 8-10 others who desire to grow in their walk with Jesus.

This leads to this week’s One Big Question . . . When did another Christian help you grow in your faith? Discuss this question in your small group or with a trusted friend, possibly the one who helped you grow spiritually!