Last fall, my cell phone rang while I was sitting in my office one afternoon. I didn’t recognize the number that was calling, but because it was from our area code, I answered.
“This is James.”
On the other end, there was a brief pause, long enough to be awkward but not quite long enough to be called pregnant. Finally, “Uh, what time is Devin supposed to come over?”
I froze for a moment. The voice was familiar, but I couldn’t place it. Plus, I had no idea who Devin was, much less what time he was supposed to come over. So I said, “Excuse me?”
Again: “What time is Devin supposed to come over?” Still, I hesitated. Then the breakthrough: “Mom said we were taking him home from school, but he doesn’t think so.” At last, everything clicked.
My son, Hudson, was calling, apparently from the phone on his teacher’s desk at school. He was trying to settle an urgent matter regarding his social calendar and thought that my immediate input was necessary. Normally I wouldn’t have struggled to recognize his voice, except for these facts: 1) We rarely talk on the phone, so I don’t really know his “phone voice.” 2) He called from a strange number, and I wasn’t really even aware he had access to a phone at school. 3) While I love my son, I don’t keep tabs on his social calendar – so the whole “when is Devin coming over” thing was entirely off my radar. The fact that he didn’t identify himself on the phone was the icing on the cake. For 30 seconds, I was quite confused.
Later that night, Hudson and I were in the car. As we drove along, I took a moment to explain (mansplain?) to Hudson the appropriate way to identify yourself when making a phone call. It took three minutes, and though he hasn’t yet had an opportunity to put the skill into practice, I’m confident that he has it under control.
Why do I share that story? It illustrates how growth happens in a family. In most healthy families, growth is happening all the time. Sometimes, that comes through deliberate instructional opportunities. Like when I taught Hudson how to mow the lawn. Or when he goes to a cello lesson. Sometimes we go out of our way to put our son in teaching environments that we think are important, and (hopefully) he grows through them.
But more often, he grows because we intentionally look for opportunities – moments – in everyday life through which we can instruct, encourage, and exhort him. Never would we have registered Hudson for a class on phone etiquette. But when, on an average Tuesday, it became apparent that Hudson needed to develop his phone skills, I seized a moment to make that happen.
Community Groups are more like families than classrooms.
The same principle shapes our approach to discipleship here at Capitol City. We think teaching environments in which Christians can learn key things from the Word are critical. My prayer is that every Sunday when we gather as a church to sit under the Word, the saints here are being fed, nurtured, and instructed through the Word. But as a church we also recognize that much of discipleship happens in the everyday flow of life, outside of those teaching environments. It happens when one matur(ing) believer says to another, You know, when I was facing something like your situation it really helped me to pray like this…Or, how might you apply the gospel to that desire you are feeling or habit you are struggling to overcome? Those conversations don’t happen in classrooms or sanctuaries. They happen – just like my phone etiquette conversation with Hudson – in the everyday flow of life.
That’s one reason why we think Community Groups are so important. Community Groups are more like families than classrooms. They are groups of believers sharing in life with one another, and in the everyday context of that life, stirring up one another to love and good works (Heb 10:24). They are places where believers can ask questions, offer encouragement, receive prayer, and be discipled, all in the context of life itself. A healthy family: that’s a great picture of what we hope every one of our groups is like, and what you can find if you connect with one.