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Two letters and a cute dog photo ...

Two letters and a cute dog photo ...

We’re a few months into the year now. The weather is starting to cool as autumn transitions to winter. Work pressures are mounting., and the gradient on the ‘life fatigue’ graph is increasing—perhaps not exponentially, but relentlessly. So … how is your Bible study group going? Here are two letters: one for group members and one for group leaders. They are largely letters to myself, but I hope they encourage you.

Dear growth group member,

I know the train of thought—I have it too.

It’s been a busy day at work, and it’s just beginning to wind down. My mind turns to the commute home and the evening ahead. Oh, that’s right: tonight is Bible study night. I was already feeling physically and mentally tired, and now I realise I’ve got to get home, do a quick turn around on dinner, then up and out in the cold to head to my home group. Or … I could stay home, get those nagging chores done, quickly watch the next episode of that Netflix series I’ve been enjoying, and get to bed at a time more in keeping with the level of fatigue I’m feeling. I’m sure my group and the leaders will understand. They always do.

Here are five quick reasons to intentionally derail that train of thought and go to growth group.

Because it’s grace, not law

Of course going to growth group is not about earning God’s approval. Being a Christian isn’t about rule-keeping: “thou shalt go to Bible study every week”. And that’s why I should go—because studying God’s word is a joyous reminder of God’s amazing grace to me.

Because showing up is a powerful ministry

When I show up at growth group, my action testifies to two things: that God and what he has to say is important to me, and that the people in my group are important to me. The fact that I gave up my comfortable (self-focused) night and made the effort to come to meet with God and you should be an incredibly encouraging thing for you, as indeed you coming to meet with God and me should be encouraging to me. When you think about it, before we even open our mouths in the group, we have encouraged each other deeply just by being there.

Because someone is giving you a gift

Have you ever given someone an expensive gift, only for them not to seem to value it at all—perhaps even leave it behind? That’s what it’s like for a Bible study leader who has invested considerable time preparing a study to help me understand the riches of God’s word, only for me not to show up at the last minute. That leader is giving me a gift; I should try to be an appreciative recipient.

Because habits matter

We all know the verse in Hebrews 10 about “not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some” (v. 25). I wonder if we tend to read that verse as being all about Sunday church? But I’m sure it’s not limited to that; it’s about meeting together to encourage each other and stir one another up to love and good works. We are doing that in our home groups, not just in our Sunday church. So don’t neglect it. Don’t make it a habit to not go; make it a habit to go.

Because it always feels better just after growth group than just before

I don’t know where they come from—although there seems to be a bit of a sulphurous smell attached to them—but the negative feelings I have just before Bible study don’t prove right. I am almost always glad I went. Don’t trust your pre-Bible study feelings.

Perhaps you can think of other or better reasons for going to growth group than my five. Whatever they are, preach them to yourself every week.


Dear growth group leader,

I call it “the 7 o’clock flurry”, i.e. the time I start to receive a flurry of emails and texts from group members: “Sorry, won’t be able to make it tonight: [insert optional lame reason]”.

Bitterness is an all-too-easy reaction to the flurry.

But it’s not an acceptable one:

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamour and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Eph 4:30-32)

Is there an alternative? Undoubtedly: kindness, tender-heartedness and forgiveness.

Perhaps it helps to think of it this way: You've done the hard work. Like Mary, you’ve metaphorically sat at the feet of Jesus listening attentively to his teaching (Luke 10:38-42) as you’ve prepared the study. You’ve extracted and tasted the meaty goodness from his Scriptures. And you’ve called out to Martha (your group member): “Hey, come and listen to this with me—this is so good!” But she’s distracted—anxious and troubled about many things. Sadly, it’s to her loss, even when some of Martha’s distractions are good things.

But don’t give up on her. Keep telling her how good it is. Catch her on Sunday or give her a call and share some of the good things you’ve learned. Let her see how it has changed you—how much joy it has brought you to sit at Jesus’ feet and listen to him. Show her the unveiled face that has recently beheld the glory of the Lord and how it is transforming you (2 Cor 3:18). Keep urging her to sit and listen with you at those same feet.

Pray for Martha; pray that God might help her choose “the good portion” too. And pray that he’ll forgive you for any trace of bitterness that still remains, and help you persevere in kindness, tender-heartedness and forgiveness.


Ian Carmichael

Ian has been with Matthias Media from its beginning (1988). In late 2020 he stepped down from the CEO role, and now works as an honourary consultant and editor for Matthias Media and Vinegrowers. Ian and his wife, Stephanie, have two adult children, two (gorgeous) grandchildren, and are part of Chatswood Presbyterian church in Sydney. Ian is one of the Vinegrowers team providing free consultations for church leaders who want to more effectively grow the disciple-making culture in their church.