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Why I Love Small Group | Laura Taylor

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Living life together. This is how the early Christians lived while devoting their lives to Jesus Christ and this is how Integrity promotes community for their church body. Community was not something I was interested in before I became a believer. I am naturally an introvert and independent. I would rather curl up on the couch and read a good book, than go out and meet new people; and the thought of asking for help makes me uncomfortable. I had the introverted mindset when I was asked to accompany one of my friends to Small Group (now called Small Group). I immediately said no, especially since I had never been to Integrity and did not know a soul, other than my very enthusiastic friend. I was also skeptical because the Lord had not yet changed my heart and being in a room of believers scared me. I gave in to my friend’s pleads and, little did I know, God changed my life as soon as I walked into the Hammell’s home. The first thing I noticed was how warm and welcoming people were with someone they had never met before. I know it is a cliché, but coming from a true introvert, I felt like I had known these people my whole life. They sat with me and took an interest in my life by asking questions and genuinely listening to what I had to say. God opened my eyes and softened my heart during my first experience with Small Group, which led to God changing my heart and me surrendering myself to Christ. 

When I devoted myself to Christ on a cool November evening, my Small Group members were the first people I wanted to tell. I had never felt this enthusiasm before and I realized that, in Christ, I found what community truly means and was experiencing the community in which God intended me to live. They have walked with me in my journey with Christ, from the first group gathering, to my baptism, to the current season God has provided me. The Book of Acts describes the early Church and how their community was centered around Christ and His teachings. Acts 2:42-47 and 4:32-37 discuss how Christ’s grace and love encouraged them to care for and act generously toward one another, without fear, worry, or resentment. This is how Small Groups are at Integrity. The people you meet live a Christ-centered life and they would lay their life down for you, the way Christ did. That is what makes a community of true believers. One of the wisest women in our group told me an analogy about Christ-centered relationships: “When Christ is at the center of your relationships, nothing can pull the relationship apart. It’s like when you link your fingers in prayer – you can pull as hard as you want, but nothing can break that bond.” The relationships made in Small Group are the most authentic and wholesome I will ever have.

Authentic is not a common word used to describe relationships in today’s society. Most people ask how you are and the typical reply is “fine” or “okay” and they move on. In Small Group, this is not the case. True relationships are formed. Love and compassion for each other is evident with each greeting and goodbye. Emotions and encouragement are revealed in raw form through accountability and prayer. Laughter, stories, and recipes are shared and swapped with delight, gratitude, and eagerness. Growth and heart changes unfold before us. God’s joy shines brightly in each conversation. Life is lived together.

Come and experience God’s gift. Come and live life with us.

Living The Mission: Noelle Sessions

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Noelle Sessions has been serving for the past year in Serbia. The organization she is a part of sets out to share the gospel with the people in Serbia and train them to start house churches. Please read Noelle's story and learn more about what she's doing and how you can be a part of helping her serve!

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Serbia is a relatively small country in Eastern Europe. As the center of former Yugoslavia, it has a history of war and oppression from other nations like the Ottoman Turks and Hapsburg Empire throughout its history. In the latter part of the 1900s, Serbia suffered from communism and civil wars. Today, the economy leaves people with little hope for the future and they refer to the days under communism as the  "Golden days". It is predominantly Eastern Orthodox with a small Muslim population. To be Serbian is to be Orthodox and to be Orthodox is to be Serbian. Most people claim Christianity, but the younger generations are more post modern and atheistic. Much of it is similar to Catholicism with a strong focus on rituals and praying to the saints.

     In a country with 7 million people, less than 0.5% are evangelical Christian. There are 7 evangelical churches in a city of 2.5 million people, and most churches are inward focused. The numbers can be very depressing, however we see God working in small ways everyday. My team in Belgrade connects with the community through teaching English and hosting cultural connecting events such as Salsa making night, Karaoke, American Pancake night, etc. Teaching English provides a real need for Serbians as they try to find jobs, as well as introducing them to the Bible. At the beginning of each English class, the students practice their reading and comprehension skills by reading different Bible stories. Outside of this job, we spend a lot of time building relationships with university aged students (18-30), because we have seen them be the most open to the gospel. Our sole focus for being here is to plant reproducing churches throughout the city. We believe that the church is the central to God and gospel-centered cultures and nations. I arrived in January, and in February I had the privilege of sending out a couple from our first house church to go start their own church that meets in their home. Also since arriving, two people have come to faith and we are in relationship with some who are close to following Jesus. Currently, our long term team is hosting college students from America who are helping us with broad gospel sowing and intercession for the city. God is working and has given us friendships with 5 people who are in Bible studies with us and are asking more about the gospel. We hope to start another house group in October that will grow into a church, if it is God's will. Serbian culture is a slow moving one, so likewise the spiritual culture is also slow. However, we trust in God's timing and the promises in His Word that He is building His church in Serbia, even when we cannot see anything happening.

       Our strategy is to evangelize, train leaders, and start groups that turn into house churches. Please pray for the lost people we are in relationship with, that God would save them. Pray that local believers would take ownership of their faith and rise up to be leaders and disciples who make disciples. Pray for my team to continue to be unified and to be faithful to proclaim the Gospel in truth and love. Lastly, please pray that God's Spirit would be poured out on Belgrade and the country of Serbia and that many churches would be planted and reproduced. 

If you would like to know more or be added to my monthly update list, please contact the Integrity Staff. Thank you Integrity for your prayers and your partnership in the Gospel.

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