I guess the best way to explain what we love about small groups is to share our experiences that we have had with the Tugwell Small Group, which we have been with for almost one year.
In late August of 2014, we started coming to Integrity Church. I remember the announcement being, “And make sure you get connected to a small group where we have Christian community and ‘DO LIFE.’” I thought to myself, “DO LIFE,” oh, he must mean you get to know people, develop relationships, etc. It’s such a large church.
With this in mind, we found the closest small group to our home and started going. What we found was a wonderful group of people from all different backgrounds, different ages, but we have a common bond--we love Jesus!
At this point in our lives we weren’t sure what we were going to do. We had just left a church and found ourselves very hurt from the ordeal. I have a daughter who chose to stay at that church and this concerned us very much, for she told us because we left, both my husband and I and the other three children at home, were all going to hell. She totally disowned us because we left.
As a parent this was a very heavy burden to carry--but we found being in this small group, we weren’t alone. You see, we pray for each other in small groups and right away we asked if everyone would please keep our daughter in their prayers.
My husband especially enjoys the nights we split up; men in one room and women in another; where we pray for each other. He said it really impressed him how open the men were with one another, not holding back anything.
As the weeks went by and we continued to go, I started hearing comments from my fourteen-year-old daughter. “I never met so many young people who are so transparent. You can really share your heart and not care who knows it because you know they won’t judge you. But they’ll pray for you and be there for you.” It thrilled me to hear her saying this and it gave me so much hope that her heart was still tender and open to the Gospel.
On one of those special prayers nights (that my husband loves), Jes Tugwell was sharing about a situation the Lord was dealing with her about and was asking us to pray for her in this area. I turned to my daughter and asked her a question pertaining to what was spoken and her answer opened my eyes to a lot I wasn’t aware of. That following Sunday Pastor Ben was preaching. He mentioned that we as Believers need to be transparent. It really connected when I saw Jes after the service; I was in tears. We talked and it truly hit me how important it is in our walks to be transparent before God and others.
Sometimes we sporadically get together, and who can make it, comes. It was Thanksgiving of last year and just before the Holiday, a group of us met for lunch at Mcalister's. Well, right there, we did “LIFE!” We were all talking, then all of a sudden, I started opening up and asked my daughter to forgive me for everything that I allowed to happen at the other church. I did this in front of everyone, but you know what, it was like a heavy burden was lifted and it really freed me being transparent. It was awesome!
There were times when we were the last to leave our small group. Our hosts being so gracious, sharing and caring for us by letting us talk and sort things through. We found a family here! People who truly cared.
On January 24, 2014, to our surprise, my husband had a brain aneurysm which burst. The doctors told us that he had a 3% chance of living. That night, friends came to support us, six of which were people from our small group. We were at Duke Hospital and they came all the way from Greenville. The fight was on and I called on the body of Christ to rally with me and pray for Bryan. Daily I would talk to so many people about prayers we needed for Bryan that day. It was an experience I will never forget. I learned a minute by minute dependence on the Lord. I know that’s how He desires His children to live. He truly carried Bryan through. We saw God’s mercy and grace poured out beyond doctor’s comprehension. I say all this because, out of the many people who continued to come and keep us encouraged and bless us with food, gifts, and candy, many were from our small group. We were at Duke till March 16th. I’m forever thankful to everyone who came and prayed for Bryan.
I remember when we moved Bryan to WakeMed for rehab, we were able to start coming back to small groups, as well as attend church on Sundays. The first Wednesday small group, we stayed late. It was Tammy Cone, myself, and April (my daughter). April started opening up and poured out her heart. I saw first hand God using Tammy to love and encourage her. Shortly after this (April 6th to be exact), April and myself were coming home from visiting Bryan. She told me she got before the Lord and was praying and repented. She asked Him to forgive her for allowing everything that happened at the other church to come between Him and her. I was slow to react, but once it sunk in, I started rejoicing. I soon called Tammy and we rejoiced together! I told her, that night we stayed late at her house after small group, we “DID LIFE!” just like Pastor Ben always says! Now one of the young ladies who attends our group meets with April and is discipling her. April also wants to be baptized!
We came to Integrity needy. I hate to admit it, but we were. BUT GOD has used our small group in a tremendous way. I see our family being restored. Remember how I told you about our daughter who wanted nothing to do with us? Well, that’s changed. She’s told us that she wants to be apart of our lives and loves us very much.
The relationships that we have developed, along with the genuine transparency, the love we have for each other are all apart of being in a small group.
I truly desire to give back and extend to others the love that is shown toward us. I’m forever thankful for our small group and thank God for each and every person in it.