“God’s work is accomplished by a combination of human and divine effort, said one of my seminary professors, Dr. Joe Ellis. “We cannot do it without Him; He has ordained not to do it without us. We depend on each other.”¹
I love this quote. I’m amazed by the reality that we actually get to partner with God in his mission to redeem the people he loves and desires to draw to himself. But we often err by either taking on the assignment ourselves as if it’s our mission, not his, or irresponsibly sitting on the sidelines believing God will carry out the mission without us. With either extreme, we miss out on being partners with God. It’s a human-divine collaboration.
More often than not, I think, we err on the side of leaving God out of it. “Sometimes the voice of Jesus saying, ‘I will build my church,’ can hardly be heard amid the babble of human voices affirming, ‘We will build the church. Our plans, our organizations, our resources will accomplish it, and we will have it the way we want it,'” Ellis wrote. “God is sometimes boxed out of His own enterprise by His self-centered and self-sufficient partners.”²
Does that happen in your small group? Do you ever move forward with a plan of your own volition? Chances are you have. I hope this is not your regular pattern, however. I believe there are two vital things your group–and you as a leader–must do in order to partner with God:
- Pray. The key factor is prayer. Prayer puts the power of ministry where it belongs: in God’s hands. Evangelism without prayer has been compared to explosives without a detonator. Prayer without evangelism is said to be like a detonator without explosives.
- Plan. I speak about the importance of planning in Chapter 4 of Small Group Vital Signs, so I won’t try to discuss it at length here. But I’ve found that many groups are more reactive than proactive. And when you live by default rather than design, I believe you tend to go with your gut rather than the leading of the Holy Spirit. Plan how you will partner with God and collaborate with him in his mission and specific calling for your group.
¹ Joe Ellis, The Church on Target (Cincinnati: Standard Publishing, 1986), 34.
² ibid., 30.