In my last post, I listed 4 questions I think you should ask and be asked every week. I gave some thoughts about what the first two mean. Here are some notes on the second two.
I hope you’ll see in these a spirit of prayer and support, not a time of guilt and condemnation. We know that everyone is at different places in their walk, and we don’t expect that anyone has everything just right. Our intent is to help each person, wherever he/she is, to continue growing in faith.
3 — How have you availed yourself of the means of grace?
My group has changed this to, “What Christian practices have you kept this week?” because they understand it a bit better. I think we may be losing something, though, by not always talking about these as means of God’s grace.
Either way, the intent is the same: we believe God transforms us through particular means of grace. If so, we want to encourage each other to participate in these.
Are you receiving the Lord’s Supper? Praying? Searching the Scriptures? Fasting? Participating in public worship? I believe all of these practices have the ability to transform you. For my Methodist friends, John Wesley specifically listed the first three as the “chief means of grace.” And he spoke strongly about the importance of fasting and attending the church service (regardless of how you feel about the church).
When I’m not doing well, I often don’t even realize it until my group asks me about these. There have been times that I have begun to share by describing some turmoil or restlessness or apathy in my soul. Then I get to this question and realize it may be because I haven’t availed myself of hardly any means of grace.
I’ve found that when people are keeping means of grace in their lives, they tend to be doing well, even if the circumstances around them aren’t great.
Again, the goal isn’t a spirit of judgment or shaming people. The spirit is of mutual encouragement.
4 — How can we as a group best pray for and support you?
This is pretty obvious. It also gets to the core of what we’re trying to do in these groups. They are about spiritual support.
The group’s goal is not problem-solving or advice-giving. There may be occasions where that’s appropriate, but the main goal as a group is to listen, pray and support.
I recently spoke with someone who attends a daily Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. He said it’s important for him to be there every day because they ask how he’s doing and encourage him to keep going. They realize how dangerous alcoholism is, and they fight it daily by meeting to ask each other if they’re still on track.
In some sense, Christianity is a lifelong recovery plan. We realize how dangerous the devil’s schemes are and how easily sin entangles. As part of our fight against that, we meet with each other as a chance to share how our souls are, with opportunity to mourn or celebrate with each other.
We meet to discuss celebrations or struggles with good and evil, and to encourage each other to press on.
We meet to encourage each other in things like prayer, Scripture reading, and fasting, and to hear how those practices are transforming others.
And finally, we meet to pray for each other. Because we need it.
I hope you’ll consider finding a place to ask and be asked these questions weekly. I think it will do great things for your soul. If you have questions or thoughts, please let me know.