January 18, 2024

Small Group Leadership Brunch Speech

The following is a written draft of a speech I gave to a gathering of small group leaders at my church several months ago. After running across the file, I felt it might be encouraging for others to read.

One cold February evening a couple of years ago, as folks were saying their goodbyes after small group, the leaders approached me and asked if I’d be interested in learning to lead, as they both had other commitments and callings taking them elsewhere over the coming months. Excited by the opportunity, I accepted.

Just a few weeks later, a pandemic swept the globe, and the small group’s meetings for the remainder of the semester were reduced to Jack-box games on Zoom. With all the chaos, we decided to put the group on hold for the summer and, as new leaders, we’d circle back in the fall when things calmed down a bit.

As you all might recall, things didn’t calm down. For the next nine months, my small group leadership experience was inaugurated on conference calls, many of which were taken from the same room where my diapers were changed a quarter of a century ago.

It was awkward; it was confusing; despite us all doing everything we thought was good to build community, we had never felt more alone.

If you’re anything like me, you hear a story like that, and your God-given instinct for redemption and justice says, “Wow! Those were some tough times: clearly God was working miracles for the devil to be fighting so hard!” You’re looking forward to me turning the page and describing transformation. “Isn’t it such a joy going through those trials, watching Satan squirm before the inevitable fall?”

I want to be transparent with you all. We talk to each other about these battles as though every move is choreographed, every attack hits armor. But the enemy plays dirty; the enemy isn’t ashamed to hit low; why would he do otherwise?

By April of 2021 I didn’t have hope. My eyes were dim, only able to see my own life stagnating as the world—even others in the small group—seemed to move on. I talked to Micah, handed off the leadership, and stepped away for a few months. Even upon returning, I was a passive and hesitant member of Marshall’s group. It was only through his unprecedented patience, encouragement, and example that I started leading again.

So why do we lead? Why do I? Not every sun rises, when it comes to our own perspective and desires. Sometimes things fall apart, and no matter who you talk to and how much you pray, nothing tells you where you might have gone wrong.

I was encouraged by Lee’s sermon on Rahab last Sunday. The question stuck with me: would Rahab’s actions have been any more or less faithful if Jericho’s outcome were different? Surely there was a bakery in that city she loved to visit. She never got to taste that bread again. A lively street corner, a rooftop with a serene view of the sunset, all was wiped out—despite Rahab doing everything in her power to live out faith in a God she had only heard rumors of.

Was she content with that outcome?

God is a God of miracles, yes. But I often forget that God’s miracles span generations, even millennia. Rahab became part of the earthly lineage of Jesus. But in the moment of her walking away from the ruins of Jericho, she could not possibly turn to that reality for comfort. But she could turn to her father, her family, alive by her side.

I do not have a sublime miracle to point to that justifies the difficult times. But I do have a conversation with a friend who was struggling with lying to a family member, and decided to come clean. I do have the piercing and loving advice from co-leaders, guidance that has led me through battles with anxiety and lust.

They may not be big things. They may not be what we want in the next month, or next year. But even if we never see the grand outcome in this lifetime, we can rest knowing that God—the God who loves us, pays our debt for us—he delights in seeing our faith. He’s writing an awesome story, spanning generations, and he’s glad we’re taking a part in it.

That’s why I lead.

personal spiritual speech

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