First… the good. Better than good. It was life-giving. There were glimpses of the Book of Acts found in the year ahead and I clung to them as the American Church facade began to crumble around me. But, for this season, the Lord extended a gift so desperately needed: to see the Church the way it was intended to be.
Immediately upon my return to church, some in the staff were quick to plug me back into ministry. I was offered opportunities to step back into Children’s Ministry, Outreach, and Worship, but my request was simple: Give me a group of young women who want to learn more about Jesus. Looking back on it now, I have to laugh. The pastor I was talking to said, “Okay, you want to lead a small group.” Um… no. I wanted to lead a discipleship group.
Some might be tempted to say, “Well, isn’t that just a matter of semantics?” But, in reality it wasn’t. We had been in small groups for years: fellowship, food, topical book studies and bible studies, conversation. All of those things are perfectly fine. But, as I sat on that hard, wooden chair, uncomfortably shifting, both in my seat and in my mind, all I could hear was this same man’s voice from the Sunday morning announcements, “I know a lot of people are apprehensive about joining a small group, but it’s the best way to plug into the church, and don’t worry, it’s not an accountability group.”
I remember sitting in between my husband and one of my best friends, who consequently, had been in our small group for years. Instinctively, we both laughed at the thought of our small group NOT being an accountability group. WHAT IN THE WORLD?!?! And before anyone thinks that maybe he misspoke or was speaking in generalities. He wasn’t. Over the next year, this idea of small groups NOT being accountability groups was reiterated over and over. I once asked why accountability had such a negative connotation. The response: People get turned off by accountability. They find it offensive. He literally used the word offensive.
The truth is simple, to the world, the gospel of Jesus Christ is offensive. It tells us there is absolutely nothing we bring to the table. There is nothing we can do to make things right with God…. something that goes against every “Americanized sensibility” instilled in us sense birth. You can’t pull yourself up from the book-straps on this one. And the thought of not providing accountability flies in direct opposition to the Great Commission. Jesus calls us to make disciples… teaching them to observe all that he commanded. I don’t know about you, but the thought of teaching someone how to do something without having the ability to offer correction would make me an absolutely deplorable and ineffective teacher.
So, no… I had no desire to lead a small group. I was called to lead a discipleship group, where accountability would be a requisite, as well as a desire to dig deep into the Word of God and a commitment to attend the group… not flake out when “something better” comes along. The Lord was gracious in immediately bringing five young women into my life and over the next few months, that group would grow to 12. Twelve. As I sit here typing, it’s a little overwhelming to think about. From the very beginning of this journey, the Lord has been consistent in showing His presence, leading, and faithfulness. And with each of these occurrences, He has embolden me to speak the truth about the call on our lives… something that, ironically, has only offended people in the church.