I once heard Dr. James Houston comment that in the North American Church:
we have spiritual maps and mapmakers, ad nausea, when what we really need is a few mountain guides who have been there before us on the journey.
So much of what passes for adult discipleship or leadership development today lacks interpersonal investment, life upon life. Simply telling others to grow up into Christ will not cut it, no matter how articulately or creatively or loudly we state it. We desperately need leaders who befriend and guide and come alongside others; we need to provide a leadership of companionship in our contexts that actually helps others be awakened to Christ and freed up to “take hold of the life that really is life” (1 Timothy 6:19).
There are a lot of VP3 alumni folks, who care deeply about growing up and helping others grow up into Christ, who are moving back a little closer to the table, in light of Randy Reese’s passing last summer. As these people ask me the question, “How can we help VP3?” increasingly I am responding by saying — “Lead a Journey group again!”
It is such a win-win, both personally for the folks leading and for us organizationally as we seek to live out our mission of helping men and women discover more deeply who God is, who they are, and what God is desiring to do through them. Leading a Journey group is a demanding commitment, but it is such a rewarding commitment. Like few other things, one consistently gets a front row seat on God’s activity in the nitty gritty of people’s lives.
Recently I was connecting with an alumni VP3 facilitator who started a Journey group this winter after several years of not leading a group. I asked Gerry about his perspectives on this conversation. May his thoughtful responses be an encouragement to you.
Rob: What was the impetus for you returning to facilitate The Journey?
Gerry: I wanted to get back to becoming involved in the lives of people who are committed to becoming more Christlike and who are prepared to open themselves up to the working of the Holy Spirit in their lives. I needed to again see, first hand, the Holy Spirit at work and to marvel at the impact the Spirit has on our everyday lives. I needed to see this in order to keep striving and moving toward maturity myself and to fulfill my obligation to come alongside others in their journeys. I needed to again become involved at the level of real human lives to balance my inclination to live in the realm of church visions, strategies, plans and church governance issues.
Rob: What have you noticed as you have re-engaged in the process and walked with a new Journey group?
Gerry: Most clearly, I realized how much I missed the opportunity to meet and become engaged in the lives of others. I had a small but highly engaged group from a variety of denominational backgrounds that really jelled with tremendous mutual learning. I again reaffirmed for myself that the best way to learn is to facilitate a group. I noticed that the material was more effective in generating good discussion and most of all, I noticed that without becoming personally involved with other believers in deep spiritual conversations, my own spiritual formation is difficult.
Rob: What would you say to folks like yourself who are obviously juggling a lot good things and are trying to determine whether or not to return to lead a group in their context?
Gerry: I would say that while there is a need to dedicate time and energy, the rewards far exceed the “cost”. There is no substitute for engagement with other believers in purposeful, deep discussions concerning our spiritual maturity. I personally found that the year spent with others was highly beneficial to my own spiritual journey because there is no activity that I can think of except prayer, that has the same effect in drawing me closer to God and my fellow believers. If, for some reason, you need evidence that the Holy Spirit is still powerfully at work in the lives of people, facilitate a Journey group.