The Storyteller Tells a Story of Faith…
Webster’s Dictionary describes journey as “an act or instance of traveling from one place to another.” We’re all on a journey of some kind at times in our lives, but where are we going? As Saul (later to be known as Paul) taught us, journeys can be either good or bad. Saul began his extensive journeys in the lands of the Romans persecuting and killing Christians seeking to eliminate them and their religion. However, after the Holy Spirit entered Saul’s life, he became a Christian and taught about the love, grace and saving power of Jesus Christ. He then became Paul and began a journey to make disciples for Christ.
Where is God directing each of us on our personal journey? We know from the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18a) that God wants us to “go and make disciples of all nations,” but does that mean that we should travel to all points of the globe seeking converts to Christianity? If that’s what is expected of us, we would certainly need more airlines! But seriously, how do we carry out the “making disciples” mission?
For several months, some people from Barnitz and Mt. Zion churches met to discuss this very question. After much thought, prayer and discussion, the answer always seemed to return to having a program of active small groups. Small groups connect people to each other and their faith, and to the community. In his book The Sticky Church, author Larry Osborne tells us, “In our sermon-based small groups, the sermons and questions are important. They keep us focused on God.” At that point, the idea of “journey groups” began. Matt Flohr (MZ) agreed to coordinate the Journey Groups, and the sessions officially began in the fall of 2014. Matt explains, “This is a complete change in mindset for a lot of people. It is a merger of Bible study and outreach. I believe that it contains the best of both concepts…”
The following is a series of thoughts from Journey Group participants:
Tammy Eads (MZ) says, “Journey Group was the perfect name for this experience. I enjoyed the opportunity to share with a group of Christian friends. Studying and discussing how to apply the sermon provided the support to face the challenges we all experience in our lives every day. I especially enjoyed our service programs with the Upwards Sports Program. We were able to provide volunteers to run the concession stand for football during the fall session and basketball during the winter. Serving and interacting with the players, parents and many volunteers of this program was very rewarding.”
Irvin Tingle (MZ) thought the discussion of “the sermon and our viewpoints, which often led into how it affected the week each of us experienced” was important. “At times our talks became about the choices we made the past week and if we could have done better.”
“Discussing and understanding Scripture from the Pastor’s sermon; helping needy families in our community; remembering our shut-ins in our church; and discussing who we will help in our community in another way and time” are all part of Shirley Morrison’s (MZ) experiences in the Journey Group.
“I enjoyed participating in the weekly Journey Groups because it helped me understand the weekly sermons better when we discussed them in more detail and heard others’ thoughts and views,” said Trish Prosser (MZ). “I felt that I opened up more in the small group setting. It also made me read the Bible more since we had ‘homework’ for each sermon series on a weekly basis.”
Connie Eyer (MZ) said, “When thinking about the Journey Groups, I think of Mark 12:30-31, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.’ When going to Carlisle C.A.R.E.S. (to serve breakfast), I was the first to admit God was pushing me out of my comfort zone. I didn’t know what to expect, but when I got there, what a humbling experience. I have often thought we are so blessed, but until you see the need ‘in your face,’ I don’t think you can comprehend the challenges these people face every day, especially those with children. We often contemplate what to have for dinner when these individuals might not have any. God is calling our Church to reach out into the community and make a difference in His name.”
Betty Goodhart (MZ) also participated in a Journey Group, and had these comments: “It was good to discuss things about our church, have prayer and do things for our community. We filled hearts with candy near Valentine’s Day for the shut-ins.” Betty also participated in the Carlisle C.A.R.E.S. breakfast by making muffins for the guests on a cold February morning.
Jan Bear (B) offers her thoughts as well. “When I decided to participate in the Journey Group, I assumed it would be like a regular Bible study, but it turned out to be more than that for me. It made me more aware of what God was asking me to do in helping others. How much our community needed help! It’s not just a one-time thing and done because some have needs every day. When our group served a breakfast at Carlisle C.A.R.E.S., it opened my eyes to see how others with families have to live. It really tugged at my heart. It has also helped me step out of my comfort zone and do, rather than think about doing something. I started helping Patti Hughes take home Communion to our shut-ins. I encourage others who are wanting to do something with your time to come join us…”
“I don’t believe any of us think we’re accidents of nature,” says Dorcas Sherman (MZ). “We believe in God, and we know we all must answer to Him. Because we know this, we are aware it matters how we live our lives. Our Journey Groups have a way of bringing to the forefront the importance of giving a little more than what is required. Whether we’re picking the meat off the bones of chicken in preparation for our Pot Pie Supper or leading our little people through a Bible lesson in Children’s Church, we’re being faithful to His will and purpose for us.”
Matt Flohr (MZ) adds, “For several years I felt I wanted more out of church. A couple of years ago, I had an ‘a-ha’ moment that I didn’t need to get more out of church. I had to put more into church. Since then I have felt my faith growing and stretching in different ways. This ministry touches anyone who wants to be part of something bigger and greater than themselves.”
Dolores Hostetter (MZ) sums up the Journey Group experience with a few thoughtful comments. “The Journey Group is a way to read and study God’s word, to obey God’s Ten Commandments, to love God first, then go out and tell others about Jesus. We should be willing to help, give, share, show kindness, and pray – pray – pray.” We also must “ask Christ to help us go outside our comfort zone if and when need be.”
Again, the question is where does God want us to journey? He wants us to reach into the community to touch those in need and make disciples. Our faith should be put into action. All of life is a journey. It’s up to us if or how we answer Christ’s beckoning call.
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock…” (Revelation 3:20a)
Please click here for a listing of our current Journey Groups.