GroupLink: Leave Space for God

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Please, don't end up in my group. Be honest. If you're a leader and you've been to GroupLink to start a new group or add members to an existing group, you've probably had that thought about someone. I know I have.

Sometimes you bump into people who rub you the wrong way. Maybe they're too stand-offish or too clingy; maybe everything that comes out of their mouths is biting and sarcastic; maybe they avoid eye contact; maybe they just seem to have trouble picking up on social cues. For whatever reason, it's hard to connect with them. You're not even sure if you like them. As groups begin to form and people fill out the Group Contact forms, you cross your fingers and hope (maybe even pray) that that person or couple finds community somewhere else . . . anywhere else.

There's no point beating yourself up over that kind of reaction. It's human nature. We all do it. Besides, relational connection is important in group, right? We say it all the time: to grow spiritually, people need to be connected relationally. And personal chemistry is part of connection. We just feel it when we're going to bond well with someone, and we feel it when we aren't. Is it even a good idea to be in group with someone you don't have that chemistry with?

While chemistry is important in the makeup of a group, it isn't the driving force in all of our group relationships the way it is in many of our other relationships. Your group is made up of intentional relationships — people coming together because they have a shared objective: following Jesus more closely. You'll have great chemistry with some of those people, and not-so-great with others.

Here's what you need to know: God gets right up in that mix. He prods you to connect with people you'd normally resist. Why? Because those are the people who often help you grow . . . and whom you can help to grow. Sometimes, you discover your first impressions were wrong; you end up connecting with someone you thought you'd dislike. Sometimes, your first impressions were dead-on but God uses that intentional relationship to teach you about patience, tolerance, and strength in diversity. He may teach you that his creative expression in the way he's designed people is more vast and intricate than your specific set of gifts or your particular wiring.

After leading groups for a lot of years, I can honestly say that it's a privilege to get an inside look into the lives of people with whom I wouldn't otherwise connect. It's gone from being one of the worst parts of group to one of the best. It's helped me to better love those who are different than me. It's helped me to avoid shrinking God down into a manageable little deity who thinks, acts, believes, and values the same things I do. And it's given me a practical understanding of Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 12:27:

All of you together are Christ's body, and each of you is a part of it.

So, if you're going to GroupLink this weekend to start a new group or to add members to an existing group, sure, look for people you have chemistry with. There's nothing wrong with that. But if you run into that difficult person or couple, I urge you to pause. Instead of thinking:

Please don't end up in my group,

pray:

Father in heaven, give me patience. Help me to be humble and hospitable. If this person ends up in my group, help me to lead everyone in my group well.

Believe it or not, that humility and hospitality might make the difference between a good group experience and a great one.