Staying Power: Week 4, Small Groups
This feast of all Saints ties in beautifully with the fourth week of our message series we call Staying Power. You see the saints had what we call great staying power, because they made certain commitments to grow in their spiritual lives and followed through on those commitments. We too get staying power to grow in our spiritual lives through the commitments we make to grow spiritually. Having a great spiritual life will help you tremendously in having a great life! It is not just about getting to heaven; it is also about having a great life now. As you grow as a follower of Christ, you will experience great blessings. We heard Jesus say nine times in the gospel today, blessed are you who make commitments to grow as a follower of Christ.
We have identified five essential commitments through which you will grow as a follower of Christ. They are Serving in Ministry, Engaging in a Small Group, Practicing Prayer, Tithing, and Sharing your Faith.
This week we are talking about getting you some support on your faith journey, some others to help you grow spiritually. All of us need healthy support on our journey.
Many times people in our lives influence us, either for the good or the bad. Peer pressure is not just a reality for middle and high school students. Peer pressure isn’t a teenage thing. It’s a people thing. In fact, there’s an old adage,“Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.”
Your friends will influence, if not determine, the quality and direction of your life. If you want to grow as a follower of Jesus Christ, you need people who walk with you in your walk with the Lord.
Where is your faith support? Without this pandemic most of us would come to Mass once per week, some of us maybe once per month or so. Now many of us are not able to come to Mass in person but do engage online.
For many of us the only contact we have with other Christians is once a week, a few times a month, here at church. We come to Mass. We sit. We listen. Maybe we sing. We receive communion, and we leave. Or we watch our live streamed Mass and that’s it. The rest of the week, you are immersed in a completely secularized, post-Christian culture that is often hostile to your faith. You are more or less trying to live your faith all alone, and on your own, and that is a very difficult thing to do.
It’s vitally important to belong to a church, to be a part of something significant to support you on your journey. It is especially easy during this pandemic to become lost at home alone, or with just a few family members, as you try to stay closely connected to God and others who share your faith.
As we celebrate the Feast of All Saints we are reminded that saints are role models we can look up to who nurture and sustain our faith journey and spiritual growth. We are also reminded that we have people living now who can do the same for us and we can do the same for others.
Our scripture readings remind us of the need for support. Consider this passage from our first reading: “I had a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue.” Christians are that great Multitude, but sometimes we feel like we are alone on our faith journey. The people in this great Christian multitude are the ones who have survived times of great distress, distress like this pandemic, and feeling alone and isolated or frustrated. We are not alone. . . There are many people right here in our own parish who would like to support you and who would like to also feel supported by you.
Our second reading tells us we are children of God which is so important. You and I are loved by God as children of God. Then Jesus reminds us in the gospel that we are blessed by God in times of trial and tribulation in many ways. As his followers, he names nine specific ways we are blessed when life becomes difficult. However, it can be so hard to remember those blessings when life gets tough. Surrounding ourselves with others of our faith, other children of God, other Catholic Christians, will help us tremendously to remember we are blessed.
For your faith journey and spiritual growth to have staying power, you need to be known and loved and supported by others who are also trying to live out their faith. Without Christ-centered friendships, our walk of faith will most certainly be a slower, less steady one, and we’re far more likely to fall and fail.
When we have friendships, in which Christ is a central part, we connect with him in a way we’re far less likely to on our own. That’s because your faith is personal but it is not private. Your faith is personal, not private. We grow in faith through relationships, so we need friends in faith because growing in faith is a relational experience. Growing in our spiritual life involves relating to others and to God.
Our strategy for helping you to develop friends in faith is small conversation groups. I’m talking about our 3 Conversation Groups.
For sure one of the basic steps in spiritual growth is getting into a group. A small 3 Conversation group is just that. It is a small group of people who meet on a regular basis, once a week, or twice a month, online, on our church campus, or in your homes. To start it is only a 3 week commitment.
Our 3 Conversation groups have a very simple template. There is some time to gather and catch up. We have intentional prayer, discussions about our faith journey, and discussions over how we can lead others to Christ.
On Sundays you sit in church, or home, and listen to me. In our 3 Conversation Groups it’s your turn to talk. It is so incredibly simple, and yet they help to form connections and relationships that are tremendously helpful to growing spiritually as a follower of Jesus Christ.
We all come at faith with different perspectives, backgrounds, and experiences. My relationship with God is different from your relationship with God. All of us have some unique perspective we can share. Whether you grew up in church and have taken your faith seriously for years or are just getting into it, you have something to offer others about faith. And as you contribute your prayer, insights, and questions and others contribute theirs, mutual growth will happen.
Our 3 Conversation groups are not adult education. They’re about life change. Our lives change as we share three basic conversations with each other.
These groups are an opportunity to share the wins and losses, the troubles and challenges and the blessings you’re experiencing right now. When you share a joy with others, the joy is doubled. When you help carry another’s hurt or heartache, you lighten their load. And besides their immediate value, small groups are like insurance. You invest in them, so that when you hit the storms of life, you have the support and friendships you need to weather the storm.
We encourage you to sign up for a 3 conversation group after Mass today. This round of 3 Conversation groups will meet after our 9:30 and 11:30 Sunday morning Masses. Some will meet here in person, and some will meet online. So your group can meet with a staff member after Mass or online from home. But don’t delay signing up because we will be finalizing the groups tomorrow.
Just see one of our staff in the entryway to church today, and we will help you sign up. You can also sign up online from home by going to our website saintmary.life and look for the 3 Conversations link.
One of the great things about these groups is that you will benefit and feel supported; however, and this is a big deal, you will help us lead a culture of change in our parish by helping to share Jesus with the world.
We encourage you to find the support you need and help us lead this culture of change by signing up today for a 3 Conversation group right after Mass. It is a basic commitment toward your spiritual growth. Will you do it? Yes or no? We heard Jesus say nine times in the gospel today, blessed are you who make commitments to grow as a follower of Christ.