Circles are Better than Rows

In 2005 if someone would have told me the significance of being in a Small Group I would first have asked, “What’s a Small Group?” Followed by my protest question, “What do I have to do that I don’t want to do?” Truth be told, I would have asked the second question first. I am an introvert, so being in a small setting with a bunch of folks I didn’t know, where I wouldn’t go unnoticed, didn’t seem very appealing to me. However, my extrovert spouse Tim overruled any excuses I had rolling around in my head for not participating and we began “The Journey.” Thank goodness for the extroverts!

Quite honestly I wasn’t sure what “The Journey” was all about when we started, but what I did discover is that that I enjoyed being in this group of people and surprisingly found myself not wanting to miss a week. So over the course of many month we came to church once a week during the work week and gathered with exploring, new and “mature”  Christians. I will admit, because of where I was (or wasn’t) in my walk, most of what was taught seemed over my head. This was all new … small groups and studying the Bible, but community came out of these classes for me.

So significant was one Spiritual Development class within the Journey that I actually remember where I was sitting in the room. Greg Corral was teaching on the Holy Spirit and I remember thinking during that class, “Please don’t call on me, please don’t call on me.” I was participating enough in the other classes, so maybe if I didn’t make eye contact he wouldn’t call on me. Perhaps it was a prompting by the Holy Spirit because just like Greg, it was like he could read my thoughts and wanting to challenge me, proceeded to ask me what I thought the Holy Spirit was. I opened my mouth, but at first nothing came out. I paused a moment and blurted out, “I got nothing.” I was being truthful at the time. I had never really thought about the Holy Spirit. I am happy to report that during that class, I learned a lot about this very important part of the Trinity.  Personally, the Holy Spirit is my conscience. It’s what prompted me to go online and discover a teaching by Andy Stanley on Small Groups called “Preventative Circles”.

Although the Journey is just one of the Small Groups that Crossroads offers, it was a huge part of what was to come for me. I have learned since those first small group classes in 2005 that we were not designed to be alone, but rather in community with one another. If Tim hadn’t “encouraged” me to go through the Journey with him, I never would have had the opportunity to share that experience with my sister and her husband who were also new and going through the classes at the same time. I never would have met my best girlfriend (another sanguine in my life, go figure), someone who would not too long after, become like another sister to me and later yet, re-introduce me to tent camping, something I vowed 27 years ago never to do again. I never would have taken part 2 of the Journey and learned why I am the way I am through the gifting course, taught by someone who I consider my mentor and fellow melancholy sympathizer.

The Journey was not only a catalyst for me but also for my family. When we first came to Crossroads almost 12 years ago, Sunday youth group was meeting at Pastor Pat’s house. Josh, our oldest, didn’t attend that first week, but the second week came and as he started to protest going, that same sanguine from the beginning of this message, “encouraged” him to go; meaning he said, “you’re going.”  Josh would soon make friends that he is still friends with today, making new ones along the way, moving from Youth on to the Young Adults group after graduating college. Emily, our second born, would be welcomed to the Youth Group simply by the Youth leader at the time, Paul Payette, letting her come to the High School Thursday night Bible study as a middle schooler. I recall dropping them off in the front parking lot before she went the first time and her nervously asking Josh, “are you sure he said it was okay”? Well, she was hooked and would be a member of Youth Group through high school. Now graduated from college, she is married and serving in the Youth and Children’s Ministry with her new husband. She has shared that she would like to go back to Mexico as a young adult leader when Pastor Todd takes the youth back on a mission trip. Sarah and Abby are currently coming up through high school and we hope that they can have those same opportunities for friendship and community as their older siblings.

There are stories like this for each of us who have come here, joining a group not knowing what to expect, but coming out on the other side blessed beyond measure.

In this sermon I was listening to, Andy Stanley encourages children, youth, singles, marrieds, “mature” adults, etc. and explains the importance of being part of small groups (or circles) at all stages of life.  He sums it up with this …

“Let’s say that something happens to me, all the staff, and all the buildings simultaneously explode. Let’s make it worst case scenario. There’s no staff. There’s no buildings. And there’s no me. Here’s what would happen. On Monday, Tuesday and Thursday of the following week, thousands and thousands of adults would gather in homes all over the city and pray together, and do Bible study together and take care of whatever family members are left over and the church is going to go on.

Because at the end of the day, circles are better than rows. And from day one, we’ve been committed to creating a culture that’s all about circles and not rows. We are famous for our rows. But the strength of our churches is what happens in circles.”

We don’t have thousands of attenders or multiple churches, but those “circles” at Crossroads are pretty significant to me and my family. So thank you to Pastor Pat for standing in the field at the corner of Jamison and Girdle all those years ago and seeing the vision … the vision of rows, circles and maybe even a future Family Life Center. How exciting would that be?

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