My wife Jeannie and I have moved 40 times. Most of them were across the U.S., but several were overseas. One of the adventures in moving is settling into a new church community - my least favorite thing to do. After developing friends and relationships, we now have to start over again.
We retired in January of 2014 after 55 years in ministry with both the Christian and Missionary Alliance and Cru. We chose, by God’s direction, Johnson City, TN, ending up in Unicoi. We visited around the church community in the Tri-Cities and came up flat. Friends of ours from many years back, Earle and Cara Chute (Earle is actually an elder at GFC), gave us an invite to their church, Grace Fellowship Church. We visited with them, and GFC ended our search. That is the beginning of our story.
We were asked last fall if we would consider being facilitators of a re|engage marriage small group. At first our pride said, “Why of course - with 50 years of marriage under our belt, we have lots to offer.”* God quickly rebuked us in our spirits to remind us that we all are learners, and maybe He has lessons yet unlearned to teach us. Of course He was correct about that!
Re|engage started with a selection process that allowed participants three weeks to determine which facilitators they would feel would best address their life situations. Our group turned out to be of similar age and experience. We began to learn and grow together.
Re|engage is a mutual-learning growth process on the Ultimate Journey of maturing in our Christian faith. As a group, we learned ways to encourage our spouses and understand the true meaning of the marriage relationship, which is not about competition or changing our partners but rather learning to accept each other as unique individuals endowed with spiritual gifts that bring unity to the body of Christ here at GFC.
In January, our group had dinner together at the conclusion of our re|engage time- 16 weeks of growing in the Ultimate Journey.
The question of the night was: can we keep going as a small group? None of us lived in the same city, so it seemed like it might be hard to pull off. We approached GFC leadership, and their answer was,“This is exactly what we would hope would happen!" Because we were scattered across the Tri-Cities, GFC gave us some space to meet at church, which allowed us to move forward as a small group after re|engage.
The end of the story continues to play out to this day. In fact, our group met this past Tuesday! When asked how often they wanted to meet, our group was emphatic that they wanted to meet weekly. We are diverse in our job sets, education, and life styles, but we share a love for one another that Jesus alone can give to His children. We laugh together, cry together, and support each other in prayer.
We aren’t perfect, but we have shared in the Ultimate Journey, without pretense. We have met each week with an anticipation of being together with our friends; no competition, no gossip, no anger, just redeemed believers who are seeing what grace-lived fellowship looks like lived out as we grow in Christ in the real world we live in.
* Jeannie and I have been married 53 years; we love each other deeply and enjoy ministering together.
If you're thinking about joining a GFC Grace Group or would like to learn more, check our our group options or learn more about re|engage.
Posted on Tue, August 18, 2015
by Paul McKean