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Multiply Disciple Makers

January 4, 2016

by Patrick McElgunn

I lead a Life Group at Midland Free. You might recognize me as one of the MCs who does the greeting and announcements before some of the services on Sunday morning or the guy that forgot to introduce his family when we lit the Advent wreath a few weeks ago. But in all seriousness, I was invited to share about the story of our Life Group journey over the past five years and how we have focused on deep relationships, growth and multiplying our group.

My wife, Shannon, and I where attenders here at Midland Free in high school and became regular attenders after we moved back to Midland once we had finished our undergraduate studies at Hope College in 2010. Even though we both had spent most of our lives growing up in Midland, trying to find a community of friends and fellow believes after college was difficult and awkward. Midland Free has a lot of great programs and ministries, but we quickly found out that there wasn’t a whole lot for our age group and life stage. Jared and Becca started the only Life Group for our age demographic. We signed up as fast as we could and started building relationships with the people in that group. It soon became apparent that there was a need for more groups like the one that Jared and Becca had started. But Shannon and I had no intention of leading a Life Group. The funny thing with God, though, is that he has His own plans. Another couple in the group, Sean and Meghan Cody, approached us to co-lead a second Life Group with them because neither of us felt like we had the time or the ability to lead a group on our own. And so the Cody/McElgunn group was born. Little did we know that this convenient model of co-leading would be the foundation for us to sustainably grow our groups. What started as an overfilled, 14-member Life Group meeting in a 700 sq.ft. apartment has today turned into three inter-dependent Life Groups made up of nearly 40 people! So in three years God multiplied our members three-fold! Praise God for He is good!!

As much as none of us could have ever anticipated that our original group would grow to what it is today, none of it happened by accident. All of this was born out of a deep desire to give our peers a community and a place to call home. We had a strong emphasis on engaging each other not only spiritually for two hours each week, but also by actually doing life together on a regular basis. Guys hosted game nights, girls got together and did girl things. We had each other over for dinner, made a conscious effort to serve the Midland community, and made phone calls and told people they were missed. All of this not because we were trying to play “Big Brother,” but because we truly cared about them, wanted to make sure everyone was ok and our group dynamic was always so different when people weren’t able to come. We made relationships the priority—our relationships with God, each other, the church, and the greater Midland community.

We had a great thing going! We had an amazing community of 14 people who loved each other, spent time together, and had more inside jokes than I can count. It would have been VERY easy for us to stop there and close ourselves off into our own holy huddle….but what good is that? I am reminded of a song that I always sing with my daughter, Piper – This Little Light of Mine. (Hide it under a bushel, NO! I’m gonna let it shine) As much as we are called to be engaged and fellowship with each other and build upon our own spiritual life, we are also called to be the light of the world. I cannot even count how many requests we received from Mary Donnelly to see if we had room in our Life Group during that first year. And that doesn’t even include the people that where naturally assimilated into our group through our members inviting people that they ran into at church, work, or any other activities they were involved in throughout the week. God was obviously calling us to grow. So we grew…..and grew again…..Never in haste, always seeking wise counsel, always partnering a leader with a co-leader who is ready and willing to spin off another group when the need arises, and always focused on the relationships that were so important to us in the beginning—our relationship with God, each other, the church, and our community. God does not call us to live our lives in holy huddles or hide our light under a bushel, but rather He calls us to let it shine! I hope this story encourages and inspires you to be that light right where He has you.

>>More about Life Groups at Midland Free

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