I am a small group facilitator at my church. While it sounds like it just means I lead the group through the lessons, it really takes on a much deeper meaning. My co-facilitators are a couple from my church, and we spend a great deal of time in discussion & prayer for our group. We want to ensure that we are speaking God’s truth over their lives, that we are listening to His guidance and inspiring proper behaviors.
The small group consists of a wide variety of backgrounds, personalities, and faith levels. Some have church backgrounds that did not lead to a relationship with Christ, some came to church and went away, and some have been walking with God for years and are quite solid. As Paul states in 2 Thessalonians 1:3 this group exhibits the sentiment that “the love [they] all have for one another is increasing” - this group has referred to themselves as a family since day one.
To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his poweR
-2 tHESSALONIANS 1:11
We often find ourselves discussing the various aspects of the lives of the people among our group. As facilitators, we attempt to guide the group into Christ-centered behaviors. We encourage seeking God amid the storms they face. This reminds me of Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians. He encourages them to stay the course in 1 Thess. ch. 1 by reminding them of their previous examples in the faith (Paul, Silas & Timothy). Paul states that he and his ministry colleagues continually thank God for them, for their faithfulness. In 1 Thessalonians ch. 3, Timothy brought the good report back to Paul regarding the church at Thessalonica’s faithful love. Each of these is a precious example of the church loving on one another. Why? So that they may be brought to a place of security and trust in each other and in Christ.
We, too, have opportunities to encourage or breakdown one another through a newer avenue - social media. Following Paul’s example, rather than hiding behind the anonymity of the screens, we should find the beauty within others. We should be available to others in their times of need and be guiding them back to the Word of God for hope and instruction. As in 2 Thessalonians 1:11, we need to pray constantly for those within our influence, whether that be children, siblings, friends, or small groups we are leading. The Word of God does not return void, seeking the truth from God changes us. We begin to lose the sense of despair that hovers over us like a storm cloud. Instead we see the light of God, bringing hope to what may otherwise be a dark situation. We must remember that God uses all our experiences for His good, allows us to see these moments as just that, a moment in time. We can encourage our believing family to trust that God’s plans always prevail. As people see this time and time again throughout their lives, their mindset can begin to shift from reacting with desperation to responding with “God’s got this, He and only He will carry me through this and every day.” This begins to radiate out from us. Our authenticity to God’s faithfulness to us begins to make others around us question how we can possibly maintain such a spirit of courage during trials and tribulations. When we are able to proclaim “God is good” in any given scenario, those words place a seed of hope amongst anyone in earshot or readership.
I find my role as a facilitator both rewarding and challenging. As someone who has walked my share of fires, without always seeking the Word of God before I bury my face under the covers for a few weeks, I try to encourage the group to spend time in God’s Word, worship, praise and pray as their knee-jerk responses. I know first hand how these habits are truly the best path that God has given us to walk through any fire. However, as the precious people in my life continue through their lives, both beautiful and difficult, many are overwhelmed and easily resort to the comfortable habitual ways of coping. I find myself battling their logic and reasons for not seeking Christ, for not having time, energy, or motivation. While I was once that girl, I now want to jump up on top of my chair and shout “YOU JUST DON’T UNDERSTAND!! THIS WORKS!! GOD IS THE ANSWER!!” As their teacher, I want to see revelation and change in their lives. I don’t want to see the enemy continue to defeat what God is trying so hard to reveal to them.
The Word of God does not return void, seeking the truth from God changes us
But I’ve learned that beating people over the head with my Bible is not the answer to changing their habits. This only causes them to feel judgment and conditional acceptance. Instead, we issue challenges to worship, to spend time in prayer, to spend time in the Word. We check in on them throughout the week, we post encouraging Scriptures and love to them in the private Facebook group. We hold them in prayer every day, praying for God’s mighty love to break the shackles of their past. We pray for their hearts to develop a desire to seek Him that is so strong, they run for their prayer closets every free minute of their days. And I listen. I listen intently to the words God gives me to share with them each week. I thank God for trusting me with their precious lives and their journeys to find a deeper relationship with Him when not so long ago, I was the girl hiding under the covers with excuses oozing out of me for why God didn’t love me or had abandoned me. I find it such an honor to be given the blessing of pouring into their lives.
I was so greatly encouraged by my reading of Paul’s letters. I was reminded that the love of God showing through us, as His heart on earth, is so powerful. I was reminded that human nature has been the same as far back as Adam and Eve. We are profoundly in need of encouragement and grace to move beyond the mistakes and the broken places within us that we believe keep God far from us. Yet in reality, those mistakes and broken places are what should drive our hearts to seek Him with a fervor - so much so that we jump up on top of those chairs shouting for all to hear: “GOD IS THE ANSWER!!”
Sonya Gentry wants to live in a world where being kind and loving means that when we encounter a need or brokenness, we say yes first and think about it second. This would be a world where walking with Jesus means trying to act like Jesus through loving, relevant acts of service; where Christians put their hands and feet in the dirty situations of the world in order to show people God’s love and grace; where we understand that comfort zones are meant to be broken because people need us to show up and be be the best portrayal of God’s love we can be. When she's not working, you can find her being silly with friends and family, playing games with her nephews, volunteering for various organizations and events with her church, or relaxing with a movie.