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About five years ago, Neil Cable finally persuaded the eldership that small groups would serve our congregation well. He was right. My only regret is that we didn’t listen to him earlier. Those committed to involvement in these weekly gatherings will testify that they are indeed part of a graced group.

This week, our church commences the third term for the year of our weekly Grace Groups. Therefore, I want to use this brief article to encourage each member of Brackenhurst Baptist Church to connect with one of these Groups.

There are fourteen Grace Groups, in various geographic locations, and each member is strongly encouraged to be a committed member of one of them. These weekly gatherings provide an opportunity for each church member to connect with other church members on a more intimate level than a larger gathering can often provide. As important as corporate worship is for the Christian—and it is!—smaller groups are enormously helpful when it comes to the important practicalities of church life.

Our Grace Groups provide opportunity for meaningful accountability. As a member of a small group, others will be prone to miss you when you are absent from worship and, of course, when you are absent from the Grace Group. This means that no one should ever simply fall through the cracks. Grace Groups protect us from invisibility in the life of the church.

Further, Grace Groups help us to grow in the grace of hospitality. The word literally means “lover of strangers.” Grace Groups provide a setting where we can get to know those with whom we are not so familiar—until they are no longer strangers! Some of us are able to open our homes to others and so we learn to use God’s gifts for the benefit of others.

In addition to accountability and hospitality, our small group ministry provides the opportunity to nurture the grace of the vulnerability of one-anothering.

Our Grace Groups are intended to foster closer relationships between one another to such an extent that we will be increasingly transparent about our struggles as well as our successes. As we learn to trust one another, we will be better positioned to openly share where we need help. And this, in turn, will grow us toward increasingly understanding one another and therefore being less critical and more constructive in our interactions.

Grace Groups are also a means toward the grace of practicality concerning the meeting of various needs of one another. When a member of our Group is ill, we can organise meals and other practical means of help. When a member is getting married, or is having a baby, our Group is well-poised to plan and organise showers and other means of celebration. Of course, a major grace of being a member of such a small Group is that of increasingly meeting one another at the throne of grace lifting one another up in prayer.

When Grace Groups take one another seriously, then the grace of spiritual maturity grows as we grow in our understanding and application of God’s word. We aim to accomplish this by supplying questions for our personal and then shared consideration centred on the previous Sunday morning sermon. As we gather each week in our designated meeting place (for most, it is a home), we do so with a view to gaining more clarity on the text from which the sermon was preached. We share our insights around prepared questions with the intention of helping each other to accurately understand and to actively apply the truth of God’s word. It is important that Christians understand that we learn biblical truth in community. As iron sharpens iron, so revisiting the text of the sermon sharpens our comprehension of the word of God. Personally, I have often found such meaningful interaction stimulating to the degree that I wish I could re-preach my own sermon!

For Grace Groups to have maximum benefit, it is essential that they are of a manageable size. We have found that a maximum of fourteen members in a small Group is a good fit. Further, giving thought to the sermon or text to be discussed before the gathering will equip you to gain from your participation with each other.

We also encourage our members to join a Group that is near you geographically. This is not a hard-and-fast rule, but we have found that the further you live from your Grace Group meeting place, the more likely you are to stay away when very tired, or when you are feeling a bit lethargic.

So, finally, let me appeal to each member of Brackenhurst Baptist Church: Sign up for a Grace Group. And then show up and speak up. If each of us will do this, then we can increasingly experience the grace to grow up together in Christ. As most church members will testify, when you connect to one of our small Groups, you will find it be a very graced Group. Don’t miss out.