As part of our goal of bringing the message and mission of Jesus out of the building and into the harvest, we thought you might enjoy reading some of the personal thoughts of someone trying to do just that. We hope it encourages you as you labor where you are. You can read previous Harvest Diary entries (which we highly recommend) here.
The Need for “One More Thing”
As we continued in community, Brett and I saw that with our own church there was a need for more than just the one meeting a week. More connection with one another. More encouraging. More living by example. It just didn’t all fit into a 2 hour time slot! We knew that we had to go deeper if we wanted to see true transformation in the lives of our church and ourselves.
So we started meeting with our church family more, but this time it was just me and the ladies and Brett and the men. We knew there was only so much depth we could get to with all of us together. And during those times with just the ladies I was learning that there had to be this perfect balance of relationship and intentionality.
I say “perfect balance”. I’m just assuming there is such a thing! I’ve swung my little pendulum back and forth trying to find the balance over the years. Probably the best thing to do, since this is called “Harvest Diaries” after all, is to confess my two major swings. Maybe if all goes well, together we can meet up in the middle at the end.
When we went looking for answers in how to help our church go deeper, we did what we’d been taught. I am so thankful for our teachers. The way they put fluff and butterflies aside and went for our very heart of hearts, inspiring and spurring us to higher standards in our walk with Christ. There was definitely fun and we for sure talked about other things, but when it came to the spiritual side there was not much wiggle room. Things were black and white.
We were given a very ‘simple’ list of questions. You’d make time in your week to sit down with the ladies in your church and you’d walk through those questions:
- “Are you reading 5 chapters of the Bible every day?”
- “Did you share the gospel with 5 people this week?”
- “Do you have sin to confess?”
These are three of the questions on that first list. I remember them really clearly because they struck dread in my heart. The first one because I had a brand new baby and I would sometimes eeek out 5 verses of reading. Five chapters was straight up unattainable for a new mom. The second one because sometimes I didn’t see five people in the week! And then the last one…well…isn’t it obvious why that one struck fear in my heart? I mean, whoa.
But, Brett and I knew there were benefits to this method of going deeper because we’d seen it in our own lives. I’d been meeting with 2 prophets and another girl (I don’t know what her giftings were to be quite honest, she didn’t last long enough for me to find out) to go through these questions every few weeks. Full disclosure: I also have some “prophetic tendencies” so as you might imagine that poor other girl didn’t last long. I remember someone saying, “Well, these questions definitely weed out the weak.” And I remember thinking, “But aren’t we all a little weak?” But I also love a good Type-A structure so I was happy to get back to the list of questions. I’m a doer. I will strive for success. For me, the list of questions were definitely “working” in my spiritual life.
While some of the questions might seem ridiculously arbitrary in nature (who said 5 chapters was the perfect number?), they were all aimed at shedding light on our spiritual health. Even the “sin to confess” question, which could seem theologically unsound if taken the wrong way, I found had it’s value. Sins we’d much rather keep in the dark have less power when they have been brought out and shared. Sometimes we need to have the voices of other believers spurring us on in this daily fight to be followers of Jesus.
I started to really like feeling like I was being rung over coals (seriously, it wasn’t that dramatic, we’d usually meet at Starbucks or something so there was coffee to help you through the hard questions!) so when our own little church began I was ready to introduce them to these deep-dive questions too!
I admit this system did not go over super well with our church ladies!
It was a bit of a shock for all of them. Come to find out 3 non-touchy-feely ladies might be able to hang with a list of questions and some lattes, but bring in a bunch of other ladies-some brand new to their faith, some super charismatic and ultra-feelers. It did not go great. What I learned: that not everyone is Type-A and likes a list sitting in front of them over coffee. Some people straight up don’t love it.
I learned to commit the questions to memory and instead I tried to fit them into conversation as we went. Sort of all “casual like.” But you can probably imagine how hard it is to keep a lot of ladies on task when being “casual.”
So here I was. Faced with the challenge of trying to help these ladies grow and deepen in their walk with Jesus, but also not scare them off or totally alienate them with my practical, analytical approach to life and problems. Thankfully, enough of my Shepherd husband had rubbed off on me that, “This will weed out the weak.” was not quite acceptable anymore!
The first thing that helped a lot was adding in significant prayer time. There is nothing like praying over each other and with each other, to bring people together and also bring the Spirit of Christ into the situation. The next was being a little less intense with the questions. I started to take the original questions and really dig under the intent of them. The intent, I knew, was really good! That’s why I’d gotten so much out of them myself! It is how I had grown and deepened in my commitment to being a disciple of Jesus.
Asking how people’s time in the Word was going (maybe skipping over the exact number of chapters consumed) was important! It gave a really great read (pun!) on whether they were healthy in that area or not, without putting my own self-imposed ideals onto someone else. Each question, it turned out, had a really great Biblical truth hidden under the structure. And some…like the sin to confess one…just couldn’t be glossed over. It had to be asked. It was hard, but it was so, so good. It turns out even the most sensitive girl in the room could meet that question head on when she was surrounded by supportive and loving friends who wanted to see her have victory in her life.
I was starting to learn there could be a balance.
Balance Is Worth Sharing
I had now been leading these times with ladies for several years. I had learned how to “seamlessly” ask the right questions, in the right way to keep our conversations fruitful and challenging, without scaring everyone away. I was pretty confident that I would never go back to the archaic list of questions. I honestly sort of scoffed at those who still did it such a dry and un-relational way! But then something happened.
I met an awesome lady who was starting her own church! She wanted to know how she could go deeper, get closer to the heart of her ladies. Hmmm….I thought, well, for sure I’ll just bring her along to one of our group sessions! But then our schedules didn’t line up, timing never seemed to be right. I tried telling her what she should talk about. My sentences would trail off as I tried to explain what topics to cover.
And just like that, I was reminded of another really simple truth behind analytical ways of doing things. For all their relational faults, they are easy to pass on! And if there is anything we want to be as Disciples of Jesus, it’s definitely reproducible! I wanted to be able to help my new friend minister to her church ladies and the best way to do that was to share the questions that helped the most.
And so I wrote them down. With the help of my friend Tina (who also happens to be a rock-star designer), we tweaked and adjusted the questions until we had a happy medium between the intentional and the relational. And with Tina’s help the questions actually looked good too! The great thing was that I knew that even those questions could be adjusted! This was just a starting point to help others in their own groups. There was no one perfect order of saying the questions, or the perfect length of time to cover them all. I was finally realizing that we could pass on good information without it become a hard-nosed, letter of the law informational!
(If you’re curious, the “Did you read five chapters?” question is now, “Share what you’re getting out of the Word this week.” I may be partial, but I think we made some good changes!)
If you’re interested, Tina and I are sharing our “Accountability Questions” card with you! If you’d like to use them, enter your email below and we’ll send them to you!