Week after week, you gather, and every time, you wonder if anything meaningful transpired in the last few hours. You tell yourself it takes time to build strong community life, but it’s been months, and it doesn’t seem like lives are being changed and meaningful relationships built. No spiritual fireworks. There doesn’t seem to be a spark to light a fire.
Jesus had this awesome ability to move forward with Luke 19:10“>his mission despite the Matthew 26:36-46“>lack of belief and motivation he was seeing from his disciples. The gospels record some pretty exciting events during their three years of ministry with one another. Could you imagine helping to miraculously feed more than 5,000 people, casting out demons with your own words, and seeing the dead raised on multiple occasions? These are EXTREME events! Sure, the disciples were wowed and wooed. But these events were never the direct cause of the disciples’ spiritual transformation. Miracles are manure—they only help prep the soil because life is contained John 12:24“>in the seed. After all these huge, electrifying events, Thomas still doubted the mission of Jesus, Peter still denied Christ, and Judas still betrayed Jesus.
Here are a few things I think Jesus told himself during the mundane moments of trying to build his small group called The Twelve:
1. *facepalm* “Don’t yell at them…John 17“>just go pray for them now.”
Jesus prayed early in the morning every day because he stayed connected with the Father. But he also prayed for his disciples. He definitely felt frustration with them at times. He knew their transformation was impossible without the Father’s help.
2. “I love them, I believe in them and I know they can do it.”
Jesus had Matthew 16:18“>hopes and dreams for his disciples even when he knew they would fail and deny him. He would never say, “They will NEVER change.” He saw their potential, choosing not to be cynical. Cynicism is either from our experience of failure or from the lies of the Enemy. Jesus does not condemn. He provides John 14:12“>hope and encouragement, not cynicism and condemnation.
3. “Here’s our opportunity to grow.”
A few months ago, a child of one of our young married couples died. This was hard. You can imagine how utterly inadequate our young cell group felt in ministering to our brother and sister. But it was an opportunity for us to grow. We had a chance to prove our love. Jesus saw John 2“>life events, Luke 9:46-48“>conflict, and John 21:15-19“>failures as opportunities, not as setbacks.
4. “They won’t understand until they’ve tried it.”
Jesus didn’t just spend time talking at his disciples. Jesus was a teacher not because he was an academic but because he was able to impart himself to his group members. He knew learning often happens by doing. He sent people out to do both crazy challenging things as well as mundane tasks. Our cell group is in the process of sponsoring a refugee family, and we are super excited at how God will move through us with this opportunity. There will be a lot of little assignments that will grow us as individuals and as a team.
5. “They’ll get it after John 7:33“>I’m gone.”
Jesus had a different timetable than we do. He has a long perspective. He didn’t have the need to see total transformation right away. He prepped the seed, planted the seed, worked as hard as he could (even to the point of death), and then he went away. He was humble and John 14:12“>TRUSTED in them. He didn’t force it.
6. “It’s OK if this guy doesn’t get it.”
Jesus loves everyone equally, but the truth is John 13:10-11“>not everyone will get it. It hurts when we know that. We don’t have the same kind of foresight Jesus has. We can always hope the ones who leave or the ones who never grow will one day find the right soil to grow in. But at the end of the day, we need to let go of personal responsibility for someone else who refuses to grow the way Jesus wants them to grow.
Sin has a direct correlation to our inability to grow spiritually as a community. Sin is a showstopper. If people are prideful, selfish, immoral and unsubmissive to leadership—spiritual growth is impossible. IMPOSSIBLE! That’s why Jesus’ message to his disciples started with the act of repentance—changing the way we think and our personal agenda.
Repentance from sin as a group is absolutely necessary for growth.
Here are some practical ways to facilitate repentance for your group: