Running Grace Groups

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rggthumbYou don’t have to join a Grace Group in 2015—but you’d be far worse off, and so would the rest of us, if you didn’t.

It is our earnest desire that, in this brief encouragement and plug for church-wide participation in Grace Groups, you will be given cause to consider your involvement in, and contribution to, this vital aspect of BBC church life. As many will attest, the benefits of joining and participating really are out of this world, and we want you to share in those blessings.

To do so, allow the indulgence of using a running metaphor. The Apostle Paul frequently draws comparisons between the Christian life and athletic activities. Running, wrestling, boxing and overall pursuit of a prize are given as tangible examples of intentional Christian living. Likewise, we have just set out on another lap around the sun; the course has been set out and the various activities, tasks, hurdles and obstacles have been and are being factored in. At the start of the season, most of us have probably taken the opportunity to assess our fitness for this race. If you’re like any athlete returning from an “off-season” period of rest and nutritional replenishment, you’re probably a little anxious about the season ahead. Will you handle the scheduled events? Will the training prove too arduous? What about the inevitable unexpected detour or injury that will waylay you for a while?

As any successful athlete will tell you, you have to start with the basics in place. Core strength, absence of injury, proper nutrition and the correct equipment ensure that the harder tasks of speed, stamina and strength work can follow. How are your basics? Have you embarked on a Bible-reading program? Do you have any plans to commit Scripture to memory? What techniques do you use to pray specifically and systematically for the myriad of needs that surround us? How are you arranging your days to facilitate worship?

As you benefit from laying that groundwork, your body will get stronger and you’ll find yourself with a desire to put those gains to good use. In the secular sporting realm, some people may pursue solo activities to release this built up energy, but that is not the norm. Generally, one aims to participate and compete with other people; it provides a measurement of form, encourages social cohesion and provides purpose to all preparations. So, too, with Grace Groups. The weekly meeting with fellow athletes provides the means for assessing your developing spiritual form. As a small group, you make and strengthen bonds that have eternal kingdom value, and which in turn strengthen the wider body. In contrast to the more passive receiving of instruction through your devotional life and corporate worship attendance, Grace Groups provide active opportunity for expression and participation in the Spirit’s work in your life. Just those reasons provide enough reason to willingly and joyfully become an active participant in a Grace Group.

A word about a coach: Having recently personally benefitted from the expertise of a running coach, I see great similarities between the coach and the Grace Group leader. Here is an experienced man, someone who has “been there, done that,” someone who has gained experiential knowledge of the activities you are pursuing, and has made himself available to assist you in achieving your goals and targets. Clearly, the coach doesn’t do the running for you; you’ve got to put in the preparation and do your homework so that, when you meet up with the coach, he can take all those efforts and direct them towards achieving the goal. There is no value in you meeting your coach at the track for an interval session so that you can watch him do sprints and repeats while you sit on your towel sipping your water bottle.

A coach should regularly assess his athletes and modify their training to optimise their performance. But to do this he needs their feedback; he needs to know how the training is going. Grace Groups allow this dynamic to occur. Having done his own homework in preparation, the Grace Group leader will come trackside to lead group members towards their individual and collective goals. Allow him to lead the discussion, but don’t force him to do all the talking by having nothing to contribute. Allow him to prompt you to consider aspects of your training and racing so that you can be better, and then provide feedback to him and the rest of your training group.

Finally, please consider your role in your Grace Group in conjunction with your role in the wider church body. Your participation in a Grace Group does not only make you a better runner of the Christian life, but it has a far wider positive effect on the whole church. The “fitter” the individuals in the body, the “fitter” the whole body. The more “fit” groups we have, the further and faster we can get the Word to the World. It is true in running that the enemy of progress and achievement is often complacency and lack of stimulation. If you always run the same routes, at the same pace, with the same people, you’re likely to get bored and stop running and you certainly won’t get any faster. So, be strategic in who you decide to train with. Is it time for a change of running partners? If you’re a naturally gifted runner, which group could your talents be utilised in best? If you’re a weaker runner, then be deliberate and intentional in your commitment to a group that will guide you and lead you toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

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