Monthly Archives: November 2013

The Christian Thanksgiving Story You Didn’t Learn in School

Most of us were taught the Thanksgiving story about the Pilgrims and the Indians in grade school. However, a significant part of this story was (and still is) left out (intentionally).

The Pilgrims were obviously not the first to arrive in Plymouth, Massachusetts. In 1605 Captain George Weymouth landed there, and captured several Indians (including a young boy named Squanto), and took them to England. Some accounts have Squanto going voluntarily. Regardless, he learned English and returned to the New World with Caption John Smith in 1614. He was subsequently captured (again) by Thomas Hunt, taken to Spain, and sold as a slave.

Here’s where story takes an interesting twist – and God intervenes.

Squanto was rescued by a group of Catholic Dominican Friars, who taught him the gospel of Christ, converting Squanto to Christianity. The Friars eventually (c. 1616) agreed to let him return to America, and sent him to England to journey back there (this is where secular textbooks say “he somehow escaped to England”). He lived in England for a period, where he learned more English (and more about Christ).  He was finally was able to return to America in 1619.

When the Pilgrims (who were Christian Puritans fleeing persecution by the Anglican Church England – the textbooks just call them “separatists”) arrived at Plymouth Rock in 1620 they were shocked when they ultimately encountered this Christian Indian speaking perfect English. After nearly dying during the harsh winter, it was Squanto, the Christian Indian, who taught the Pilgrims how to farm – planting corn and other vegetables using fish as fertilizer. The Pilgrim governor William Bradford called Squanto a “spetiall instrument sent of God for their good.”

The Thanksgiving feast with the Pilgrims and Indians we read about in school was actually a meal of Christian Thanksgiving celebration! The deeply devout Puritan Pilgrims (Christians), and Squanto, knew who the thanks was to be given – God. That, and the part about Squanto being a Christian, are the part of the story secular textbooks (and other sources, like the History Channel) won’t tell you about.

Squanto reportedly taught other Indians about Jesus Christ.  In 1622, Squanto became sick and on his dying bed reportedly said, he now wished to “go to the Englishmen’s God in Heaven.” My guess is he did.

As Paul Harvey would say – now you know the rest of the story….

Have a blessed Thanksgiving Holiday.

Blessings all…

Tim Revis

Group Life Deacon

tim.revis@firstdecatur.org 217.725.9089

Nothing New Under The Sun

We often think that the idea of small groups are a recently new phenomena that grew out of the 20th century evangelical church. Aha…. not so fast!

Many of you know that I’m a student at Lincoln Christian University (majoring in Christian Ministry). Well, I happened to run across something in my studies this week that I thought was fascinating and would share.

We sometimes like to think there’s nothing new under the sun. However, in this week’s studies of the Protestant Reformation (which you may or may not have hear of (or care about)), I unexpectedly encountered this…   In 1546 a Dominican Friar named Martin Bucer (1491-1551) (a contemporary of Martin Luther – sometimes thought of as the father of Protestantism) proposed the introduction of home-based “small groups within the congregation, for spiritual edification.”

To appreciate the gravity of this idea, you need to understand that anything and everything spiritual was solely and completely the domain (and under the control) of the Roman Catholic church (the only church in Europe in those days). Challenging the church like this could get you burned at the stake as a heretic! Also, priests were the only people who had access to and could read the Bible back then (the laity weren’t allowed to read it).

Almost a century later, a gentleman named Philip Jakob Spener (1635-1705) would go on to stress the importance of Bible study (by now the Bible had become more available to common people (laity)). Spener thought the Bible needed to be read (by everyone) and preached in a devotional way that would lead to a changed lifestyle.

As such, he introduced an early form of home Bible study groups to further these aims. Groups would meet on Wednesdays and Sundays in homes to pray, discuss the previous week’s sermon, and apply passages from Scripture and devotional writings to their lives.

Sound familiar? That’s extremely close to the idea behind small groups today.

The idea is built on the idea of the priesthood of all believers (a topic for another day – but you’ve heard that term from the pastors at First at times), and would later get picked up by John Wesley in the mid 1700’s and (with slight modification) become a hallmark of Methodism.

So, while we tend to think of small groups as a fairly new idea (and an evangelical one at that), the concept goes way back. The idea that growing together sitting in a circle (in the home) is equally as important as growing in Christ sitting should-to-shoulder in church on the weekend (which Pastor Brian touched on today) has a long history! Actually, it can be argued that the concept of home-based small groups goes all the way back to the very beginnings of the 1st century church. So here we are, in the 21st century, carrying on the tradition of Growing Together – sitting in a circle.

There’s your Christian history (and trivia) lesson for the week! Hope you found it at least somewhat interesting. As always – feel free to call or email me anytime you need any help of have any questions.

Blessings all…
Tim Revis
Group Life Deacon

tim.revis@firstdecatur.org
217.725.9089

Mission focus

Why do we have small groups, what’s the purpose? Some may answer, “to develop relationships with like minded people (i.e., other Christians).” Others may say, “to support and encourage each other (within our group) through bad times and good.” Another may answer, “to learn more about God’s Word (the Bible) and how to apply it in our daily lives.”

Those would all be good (and correct) answers.

The one thing each of these have in common, however, is that they are all focused inward towards the group. That, in and of itself, is not necessarily a bad thing. But I would like to challenge you to also think about how Grow Together groups can impact others (outside the group).

In addition to helping ourselves (grow in Christ), how can you (your group) help other people? What can we do to be more mission focused? I encourage you to start thinking about how you can incorporate a mission focused mindset into your group’s DNA. How can your group, as Pastor Wayne says, be the tangible touch of Christ in other peoples lives in our community? What can your group due to impact the kingdom of God and the lives of others in our community? How can our group be more mission minded?

This might involve your group also getting involved in one of the existing Serve Together ministries. It might also mean coming up with ideas of your own. These ideas can be short-term projects or ongoing positive community action. Pastor BJ would love to help you explore where your group can be effective or offer ideas or help you further work through ideas you come up with.

In any case, this is the perfect time of year (approaching Thanksgiving and then Christmas) to start thinking about what your group can do to show the love of Christ to others in our community. Give it a try and let us know what you come up with!

Blessings all….
Tim Revis
Group Life Deacon

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another” 
Hebrews 10:24-25 (NIV)

Ten Ways to Facilitate Better Small Group Discussion

I (Brian) am an avid podcast*  listener. One person I listen to fairly regularly is Michael Hyatt (he is the former CEO of Thomas Nelson, a Christian publishing company). He speaks on various issues of leadership and productivity.

Anyway, to the point and the lure of the title–I listened to his podcast the other day entitled,  “How to Have Better Dinner Conversations.”  As I listened, all I could think of was “how great this info is for facilitating small groups!”  His content was directly transferable to those of us facilitating small group studies and conversations.

I hope you find it as helpful as I did.

You can listen to it directly on his Blog by clicking here or through iTunes by clicking here.

Again, you’ll be looking for the podcast entitled “How to have Better Dinner Conversations” episode, #067

*for those unfamiliar, a podcast is a short audio presentation that you can listen too on your computer or smart phone