We were blessed to have Tui and Kiera Vae’ena visit from the Oahu Church of Christ this past weekend. Through a series of meetings there was a lot of discussion about the creation of effective small groups, and much encouragement for our congregation. Tui gave an inspiring and very encouraging sermon last Sunday that we highly recommend you listen to online if you weren’t there.
This was our big take away from the weekend: Making disciples will happen naturally if the Body is at optimum health. How do we make sure the body is healthy? By extending grace, by valuing, nurturing and encouraging each and every part of the body and being patient with the process!
“But I also want you to think about how this keeps your significance from getting blown up into self-importance. For no matter how significant you are, it is only because of what you are a part of. An enormous eye or a gigantic hand wouldn’t be a body, but a monster. What we have is one body with many parts, each its proper size and in its proper place. No part is important on its own. Can you imagine Eye telling Hand, “Get lost; I don’t need you”? Or, Head telling Foot, “You’re fired; your job has been phased out”? As a matter of fact, in practice it works the other way—the “lower” the part, the more basic, and therefore necessary. You can live without an eye, for instance, but not without a stomach. When it’s a part of your own body you are concerned with, it makes no difference whether the part is visible or clothed, higher or lower. You give it dignity and honor just as it is, without comparisons. If anything, you have more concern for the lower parts than the higher. If you had to choose, wouldn’t you prefer good digestion to full-bodied hair? The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don’t, the parts we see and the parts we don’t. If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance.” –1 Corinthians 12:19-26 The Message
When we became Christians over 16 years ago, one of the most attractive components of our new church family was its small group structure, we called them family groups or house churches. Outside of our whole church Sunday services and Wednesday midweek services, we also met regularly in our homes to study out the Bible amongst ourselves and with our neighbors and friends. We also quite regularly shared Sunday communion in a small group setting as well. What we loved about this small group setting was not only did we get to know a small group of people really well, but in that small group setting, felt valued, like we had something to contribute, that others were grateful for our input even as baby Christians who were just learning how to walk. This model has continued in various forms to this day.
The Bible encourages constant renewal (Romans 12:2) and to that end, the Westside region of the Seattle Church of Christ is changing up the way we do small groups. We are modeling this new direction on the Oahu Church of Christ’s “Ohana Group” after an inspiring conversation that Jay Kelly had with Tui Vae’ena during the International Leadership Conference this past year in Singapore. Last weekend’s meetings were inspired by that conversation.
What encourages us most about the proposed new small group model is that there will be more opportunity than ever before to nurture, add value to and encourage each other as a body. There is, in this change, an emphasis on making sure that each person is a highly valued participant in the body (that the bible clearly says that we are). Members will have the freedom to choose the time, place and with whom they want to join in their group study. The flexibility of schedule will allow members to connect with others from different ministries and areas of the city. This creates new opportunities to diversify friendships within the fellowship and and to renew our investment in the whole community of disciples.
There also will be opportunities for those so inclined to teach a class and suggest the content! Bible Talk leaders, some who have been leading most of their Christian walk, can take an opportunity to rest and refresh their spirit, by taking sabbaticals from leading. Into that gap, new leaders and teachers can be raised up, each following their God-given abilities and strengths.
We heard Tui stress that baptisms have not been their primary objective, rather the goal is first and foremost to love and build each other up. Baptisms are simply an overflow of that restoration and re-building of love. “It’s about principles not process” – a focus on structure is not as important as the goal of inspiring each other to true devotion to God. Nevertheless, the Oahu Church in the past 2 years has seen 100 baptisms and restorations which is phenomenal growth!
We are not the Oahu Church; our make-up, personalities, present needs and culture are unique to Seattle. But what we do have in common is our Christian values; love for each other, love for the word and love for the lost. We believe that this new way of being together as family will serve to build the body in ways we’ve not seen in a long time and that the overflow of that will be Spirit-led growth and maturity as a church body.
We all need each other; all of us need all of each other. We’re excited to be used in a new way to serve the church, but what we’re most excited about it to see how God will grow the hearts of all the disciples of the Seattle Church of Christ.
~ Steve & Kelly Keyser
Ohana/Family Group Schedule:
Sign up for your group at our congregational midweek Wednesday night, January 21st (7:30) or the following Sunday, January 25 before or after our 9 & 11am services.
Groups start on February 1st and will run through the end of March.
To review, download or forward a PDF of our most current list of available Ohana groups click attachment: Ohana Group List as of 1/22