After 13 years and four months of growing together and going through thick and thin, I left my cell/home/connect group (that is the exact sequence of name change for our church small groups over the years with the last one taking effect only this year).
I visited a few other groups before I was invited to pay a visit to this particular one (A2) when I was searching for a group to be a part of all those years ago. It was disclosed to me only in recent years over casual chit-chats that at the time, almost all of the members had no high hopes of me staying with the group longer than it was necessary simply because I was the youngest and the only single person among them. I guess they were all surprised that not only did I stay, I was stuck with them for more than a decade!
Over the course of these 13 long years our friendship flourished, strong bond was forged and I, a young Christian then who accepted Christ only seven months prior to joining them, grew with them on our faith journey together. So when the pastoral team of our church approached me at the end of last year and offered me the opportunity to lead my own new connect group in 2017, a move that was going to mark the beginning of our church mission to be an intentional disciple-making church, it was understandably a very tough call.
I remember it was quite a struggle to come to a decision and I was still praying hard on the day I was due to give my answer to the pastoral team. In the end, I sensed that God was telling me to just go ahead and take up the new responsibility.
“If we are growing, we are always going to be outside our comfort zone.” — John C. Maxwell
I have grown so used to being with A2 where we are comfortable with one another. They have become a huge part of my life and they are my extended family. Besides, there were advantages of being the only single person in their midst as I was well looked-after and fussed about. The thought of leaving them to lead my own group was daunting. Racing thoughts came flooding through my mind… physically exiting the group and no longer be joining them for the routine weekly meetings or the occasional social gatherings for one, then there were the others concerning my level of confidence, ability, availability, leadership quality, knowledge of the Word of God and so on so forth… do I really have what it takes? Then God enlightened me that taking up this new position means there will be growth for me. And to grow, changes are inevitable and one must come out of one’s comfort zone. God said, “Changes do not and will not make you feel comfortable, but they are good!”
I am not an avid gardener but I do love flowers and know a little about gardening. To keep a garden of plants looking amazing it is essential to have them pruned. Pruning is a necessary stage for most plants as the process of cutting the branches and stems is to rid the plant of any unwanted or diseased parts, promote aesthetic look and beauty, improve and maintain health, strength and growth as well as to encourage the yield and quality of the fruit and blossoms. Pruning is required even when the plant appears to be healthy and strong.
With the changes and extra responsibilities that come with the new role, I realised I am in the beginning of a new season when I am experiencing the discomfort of being pruned. Had I decided to stay with A2 and be contended with the peaceful and enjoyable yet predictable and mundane life, there would still be growth in my spiritual life but the speed and ratio of growth I believe would not be the same as that when I am a connect group leader. Leading and mentoring my own small group and at the same time, being mentored by a member of the pastoral team will sure propel me to another level of growth spiritually and in my capacity as a leader.
1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.
These verses from the gospel of John on pruning made a deep impression on me and it was on my mind for a long time after I attended a breakthrough weekend conference a year ago. I guess it has come to pass, exactly a year later, for this season! Even the branch that bears fruit the vinedresser prunes it so that it will bear more fruit, which means either way I will be cut! So, I will just forge ahead and embrace it all, come what may — and may the Lord grant me courage, wisdom and strength! I am looking forward to seeing a garden full of beautiful blooms and trees heavily laden with fruit!