Author Archives: timothyrevis

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)

Crazy Love – Review

We love new stuff! Right?!

Well, in our never ending quest to find new ways to leverage technology (like this blog) to enhance our ministry efforts (meaning – equip our Grow Together leaders like you … in this case), we’re going to occasionally review small group resources for you. These may be DVD small group curriculum, books, websites, and anything else that comes to mind.

This week’s review is in video format (easy… all you have to do is sit back and watch)!

Here’s our first review – Crazy Love, by Francis Chan….

Hope you find it useful.

Blessings…

Tim Revis
Group Life Deacon
trevis@firstdecatur.org

Staying On Point

You have a plan for your meeting, an agenda, which at some point includes discussing the night’s study topic.

Discussion is moving along nicely, but then…  one comment leads to the next … none of which are related to the topic at hand … and suddenly the train has gone off the tracks. It’s the dreaded “off-topictangent that derails the discussion and sends it off into left field. It happens to in all groups to all leaders at times.

How do you deal with this scenario as a Grow Together group leader?

Here are some tips that will help get the train back on the tracks:

  • Act quickly – be bold (but not rude), do not let the off-topic discussion continue on and on…
  • Go directly to one of the tactics below…
  • Redirect back to the topic – ex. “That’s interesting, but it’s not what we’re focusing on here, let’s get back to the real question we’re discussing right now is …”
  • Ask a direct question – ex. “Great, Sandra, but what do you think about [insert real topic here]…”
  • Private conversation – if this happens regularly with a specific person, have a private conversation with him/her about it, being sure to provide gentle reassurance of the value of their contribution but importance of staying on track

There are other methods of dealing with this, but one of the best ways to avoid this problem is to set and communicate guidelines and expectations for discussion ahead of time with the entire group. If this continues to be an issue, review those guidelines/expectations for discussion time with the group. Reviewing this periodically will automatically lessen or eliminate this problem during your study time discussions!

Lastly, please keep in mind that if a person’s “off-topic” discussion is about a personal problem or deep concern or struggle someone is dealing with, that is something different from what we’re talking about here (and a topic for another day).

Blessings…

Tim Revis
Group Life Deacon
trevis@firstdecatur.com

Grow Together Leader Handbook Updated

The “Grow Together Leader Handbook” is a document many of you may already have, but has now been updated. If you don’t have it already, the ‘Handbook’ provides information on what small (Grow Together) groups are, and why we have (i.e., why they’re important). The section on prayer in groups is also important to note. You will also find information on how groups are structured and setup, and other helpful information. There’s also a section on dealing with the different personality types you may encounter in a group. Check it out on the ‘Documents/Resources’ page!

As always, we welcome your feedback on this and other resources. If there are other topics you would like us to discuss – PLEASE throw them out there (i.e., let us know) and we’ll jump in help out in those areas as well….

Blessings…
Tim Revis
Group Life Deacon

Thinking about prayer as your next study?

Thinking about your next study… here’s some advice about studies on prayer…

Churchteams Help (& other fun stuff)

By now you probably know what “Churchteams” is because you get an email from the system day asking you to complete your meeting reports shortly after your regularly scheduled meeting (BTW – please do fill out these reports, we really do read them and really are interested in what’s going on in ‘group land’).

Beyond that, it’s likely that you’re confused about what Churchteams (“CT”) means to you and/or how to use it.

Well… you’re in luck!

There’s now a new page on the Grow Together blog site called “Documents/Resources.”

On that page you’ll find documents and other resources you’ll find useful as a group leader. The first document posted is the “Churchteams User Guide.” This will explain how you can use CT to manage and maintain information about your group and the members in it. This is important because much of that information is what shows up in the “Group Browse” page on the iPads on the Get Connected wall at the church (aka, The Wall). This same page is also available on the church’s website (www.firstdecatur.org). We will continue to add other documents and resources designed to help you as a leader – so please check back periodically.

So, check it out… if you have any questions or need additional help, send an email to smallgroups@firstdecatur.org. Either myself, Pastor Brian, or Rayla Cass (Group Life Administrator) will respond back as quickly as possible to help you out!

Blessings all…

Tim Revis
Group Life Deacon
217.725.9089
trevis@firstdecatur.org