Various media outlets recently reported a story from the Antarctic. A New Zealand based charity working on a project in Adare in Antarctica found a Huntley and Palmers fruitcake wrapped up in a tin. The cake was part of the provisions taken by Captain Scott and his team on their ill-fated 1911 expedition to Antarctica.
It looked and smelled, they said, like it was still edible. After one hundred years.
Apparently the humble fruitcake is a favourite high energy food of those who are travelling to the distant south. Clearly it also has a bit of staying power! And as one of the Antarctic team remarked, it goes well with a cup of tea. Whatever your troubles, if you have tea and fruitcake…
Who would have thought that fruitcake is a kind of super food for polar explorers?
I’m sure fruitcake isn’t the only “ordinary” commodity that has hidden potential. Perhaps one of our biggest challenges is to see the hidden potential in things that have long become familiar to us.
That is true when it comes to church life as much as it is for polar exploration. There are so many things we take for granted. So many things we forget. Even in the earliest years of the church’s existence, her leaders were anxious to remind congregations in different parts of the Roman Empire of various strands of truth that they feared would be forgotten:
Writing to the Corinthians, Paul explained part of the purpose of his letter:
Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand (1 Corinthians 15.1).
And Peter had similar concerns:
So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have (2 Peter 1.12).
As church life takes a more familiar shape after the holiday season, it is no bad thing to remind ourselves of the potential and power of what we do together.
One area that I want to highlight is that of our Connect Groups. (Since it is possible that some will read this post who are not part of Glasgow Elim, just think small group when I use the term Connect Group).
For some Connect Groups are like a poor mid-week substitute for the Sunday service. For others, they are little more than a social gathering. These attitudes are, more often than not, found in those who have not tasted and seen the life that is in a Connect Group. Or they have become the attitudes of those who had a less than satisfactory experience of Connect Groups.
Let me give you four good reasons why Connect Groups are important and you should be part of one.
Firstly, Connect Groups are a place where we experience grace.
Most of us have some sort of concept of grace. We know we are saved by grace (Ephesians 2.8). And we know that we can find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4.16).
But how does that grace come into our lives? 1 Peter 4.10 says: “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”
We are stewards of grace.
Ephesians 4.29 indicates that we impart grace (New King James translation) through our words:
“Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.”
If you want to know what such grace looks like, Galatians 5.22 or Colossians 3.12 are good places to begin. Connect Groups are an environment in which we can extend grace.
Secondly, Connect Groups are a good environment to exercise gifts.
1 Corinthians 14.26 gives us an insight into the life of the early church. Clearly everyone was expected to participate in the ministry. In most Sunday gatherings of most churches of most sizes, that is simply not possible. In a Connect Group however, everyone can contribute:
“What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.”
Connect Groups are an ideal place to discover and use the gifts God has given you and wants to give you.
Thirdly, in a Connect Group, you can expect to grow.
“…let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10.25)
Connect Groups are an environment of challenge and encouragement. We need both to grow. And if you are receiving those two inputs into your life you will grow.
Finally, Connect Groups encourage us to go.
Even when the topic is not necessarily evangelism or mission, the command from Jesus to “Go” is never far from the surface. One of the encouraging developments in our Connect Groups is that some groups are beginning to reach out to the people around them and even invite them along to their meetings. That’s brilliant. Just like the early church!
Small groups might seem about as revolutionary as fruitcake. But beneath that all familiar wrapper lies a way of connecting with God and each other that has the potential to propel us into the spiritual equivalent of a polar adventure. Sometimes we need to take a second look – instead of taking for granted.