Over the course of this summer, a dozen or two people piled into my living room every Thursday night to do church in a 'small group' setting. Our small group, #MYANCHORGROUP got hot and sweaty (literally) with uncomfortable conversations at times, but it was incredibly eye-opening for a few different reasons. Through it all, here are 6 things I learned this summer from #MYANCHORGROUP that have made a huge impact on me as a pastor.

1. Church doesn't have to be comfortable all the time.

My wife, Kimmy, and I just moved into our new home this past November. A lot has happened since then with us having to put money, effort, and energy into several projects around the house. Because of this, we had to pass on a substantial air conditioning solution this year. For whatever reason, it seemed as though every Thursday night this summer was the hottest night of the whole week outside. Imagine 15-30 people crammed into a living room that's 80-90 degrees feeling hot, sticky and sweaty. But it worked, and people kept coming back.

Too many times in church we try to make everything super comfortable. We have to have the perfect temperature, the perfect lighting, comfortable chairs, the most familiar songs, a cushy feel-good sermon, etc. #MYANCHORGROUP proved to me this summer that church is more than these things. Church is people, and people love to love other people even in hot, sticky, and sweaty conditions.

2. It's ok to talk about tough stuff.

One night in particular this summer, we got into a heated debate about racial differences and tension in our country. We heard different perspectives from all sorts of different people with different opinions. Through it all, I saw the church engaging and handling social issues and conflict in a godly way. Though people were disagreeing on a few issues and getting a little heated at times, we all came together at the end of the night to prayer for each other and this issue.

I believe that church should be full of this: people from all different backgrounds and opinions coming together to discuss and debate how Jesus is the savior of the world in every situation. We can't be afraid to talk about difficult stuff in church anymore. We don't have that luxury if we take on the mission to reach people where they are at. How are we supposed to show people Jesus if we're not willing to engage? Let's lay it all on the line, and love each other in the end.

3. Some people are more comfortable worshiping in a living room than in a church.

Throughout the summer, we had a few people come through #MYANCHORGROUP who haven't attended our weekly Sunday worship service, and I think it's awesome. Some people simply enjoy the close-knit, casual atmosphere that doing church in a living room will bring rather than a larger worship service. I do believe that large corporate gatherings of believers are crucial to the spiritual health of God's people in so many ways. I also think that small gatherings are excellent opportunities to talk, discuss, and pray in ways that are not possible on Sundays. These kinds of small groups benefit Christians who are part of a larger worship experience, and are also excellent previews into grace-filled living for those who do not currently subscribe to Christianity. Either way, it's a win.

4. Prayer really, really brings people together.

At the end of each night, we took a few minutes to go around the room and give everybody a chance to give a life update and ask for prayer for a certain situation or person in their life. This was huge in so many ways. It allowed us to vent about problems, give praise to God for awesomeness happening in our lives, hear about how others are doing in their walks with God, get honest with everybody, and present all of our crazy, ugly, beautiful, raw lives to God together in prayer. Together we believed in the power of God for some major things this summer, and we saw many of these things come to pass (new jobs, living situations, physical healings, forgiveness, and more)!

5. Committing to a community is a huge win.

This point is not very profound, but it's worth mentioning. Something that I struggle with constantly is being over-extended in my obligations. I have been trying to slow down a bit, focus on the things that really matter, and devote myself to the things that God wants me to. Sometimes, being so busy means that you don't have time for a social life. However, I noticed in my life and many others' who were part of #MYANCHORGROUP that if we just commit ourselves to spending time with each other, it creates an amazingly simple avenue to love and serve other people, and to receive love in big ways. I know many people who walk through life feeling alone and unloved. If we would just commit ourselves to a community of people, especially in the context of church, these desires to love, be loved, and build meaningful relationships tend to be satisfied.

6. Don't get so wrapped up in theology that you forget what the point is.

I love to study God. Some of my most precious times with Him are when I'm thinking about Him, His character, His word, how it all pieces together, etc. As a pastor, I'm tempted way too easily to get wrapped up in having proper, perfect theology that I forget that the whole point is to love God and love people. Don't get me wrong; having a good understanding of God through the Bible is an absolutely crucial aspect of walking through this life as a Christian, but sometimes we can get too wrapped up in properly thinking about God that we forget to actually open ourselves up to joyfully experiencing God. Like our friend Justin likes to say, "It's not a religious thing, it's a Jesus thing." In a group like #MYANCHORGROUP, it's such a joy to experience God through the pieces of Godly truth that others bring to the conversation, the prayers that they offer, the different perspectives that they have, and the love that they share with the community.

-Pastor Ryan

Some honorable mentions to this list include:

  • Garlic Lover's hummus is clearly the best hummus
  • When two or more kids are gathered, total chaos ensues
  • It's always a good idea to get frozen yogurt together afterward
  • Seriously though, get a better air conditioner
  • There is no proper way to cut a watermelon