I remember some time ago — it must have been about 11 or 12 years ago now, I wanted to start a Bible Study in the Philippines, where I was studying. I had it in my mind to collect together a few seminary students, and get together about once a week in order to pray and study the Bible. In my heart, I knew that this was God’s will. He wanted people to get together. He wanted people to study his word. It was his expressed will in the Bible. We were not to forsake the gathering together of his people as was the habit of some (Hebrews). We were to enjoy fellowship (Acts). We were to show ourselves approved, a workman who need not be ashamed (Timothy). The passages were almost endless.
Day one was a loner. I simply went to the room that I planned to meet with my new found small group (it was an empty seminary room), and there I was at about 5:30 in the morning, praying all alone. “Lord, bring people to this room and fill it!” was my cry. I did that for about three weeks before, lo and behold, the Lord answered my prayer. You see, I didn’t know who to invite, and I didn’t want to “barge in” on anybody in too rash a manner. I felt in my spirit that, if this Bible Study/Prayer Meeting was really to be successful, that God had to be the One to make it successful. It couldn’t be of the flesh. It had to be of the Spirit. So I appealed to the Lord for help. In my heart, I believed that he would lead me to the right people.
After about three weeks, something “unsual” happened in that I met someone who said to me, “I would like to meet with you to get together and pray and to study the Bible”. It was exactly the thing I had requested of God … to bring along those people who were interested. There was absolutely no petitioning in this one. This was God “all the way.” So, knowing that I had been praying for the last three weeks, and feeling that this “surely” must be God’s answer to my prayer, I invited the person to meet with me for prayer at that same room, at the same time as I had met there all alone for those three weeks. Days passed, and, before you knew it, two, and three, and even four and five and six more people were added to our group. As happens, not everone was able to make it on each session, but people always showed up after that, to be encouraged and to pray together. It worked out well, and the primary purpose of our getting together seemed to be this “building up” process that came as a result of God’s people getting together in a small group.
Now the thought comes, “How do I get together and form a small group like this at my workplace, or in my own environment (eg school).” I would like to suggest the same pattern I used, as a least a starting point, since it did work for me, and, has really “proven” to be a good working model for me throughout the years. For example, today, I am an active member with the Nortel Networks Christian Fellowship, which meets once a week at my place of work. There are many such fellowships that meet in and around the various Nortel buildings scattered throughout the world, in fact. But here again, I would like to ask you (so that you will be prepared when it happens to you), “What does a person do when NO ONE COMES?” (Ah … I thought you would ask that!) My solution has always been, DO NOT RELY ON THE “LEADER” IN SUCH CIRCUMSTANCES, BUT TAKE IT UPON YOURSELF AS A PRIEST UNTO GOD TO “BE” THE LEADER IN SUCH A CIRCUMSTANCE.
Now you can’t imagine how this piece of advice will help both you and those with whom you meet. For example, suppose that no one is “able” to make it one day, and you find yourself “there” at the meeting “all alone.” What should you do? Well, you are, as the Bible says, a “priest” unto God (Peter). You are called by God to minister unto him. As such, you have the ability to pray for those who are not able to make it; you can intercede for them, you can say, something like, “Dear Lord, may you prompt those who are thinking of NOT coming right now to COME to the fellowship meeting today!” That one prayer could actually be used to bring others. Now, suppose, after waiting a bit, still, no one comes. What should you do? Well, you can SIT STILL and OPEN THE BIBLE and begin reading it in the quietness of your heart, and meditating on it. You can say, “Lord, please speak to me through this word, and help me to understand it better.” Now you might be surprised, that, in some cases, someone will actually show up a few minutes later to say that they have now “arrived” at the meeting, and they were glad you stayed. In other cases, you may find yourself “all alone” for the duration of the meeting. My advice to you is, don’t consider it a “downer” but a time to spend alone with God, on behalf of you peers.
I would like to tell you the end of the story, as far as the small group that I started in the Philippines is concerned. That small group became a time of intimacy, a time of sharing, a time of getting together, and, especially, a time of “burden bearing.” We were really able to help one another, as we lifted each others burdens up to the Lord for the other person in our group. We were even writing down what God had did, each and every week — on the left hand side of the page was the request that we were “burdened with” and had prayed over the week (or weeks) before, while on the right hand side of the page was the specific answer that God gave. And you would be AMAZED at how every single one of those requests that we put on the left hand side of the page, sooner or later, got filled in on the right. We could see things progressing. We could see that God was answering our prayers. In time, I left the Philippines, and went back to Canada, where I am from. I will never forget the letter that I received from one of the girls that attended that small fellowship meeting, faithfully, each and every week after that initial three week period. In the letter, it said that she her “cancer” had reoccured. She was very sick. And, in time, she died and went to be with the Lord. She was only about 25 (or so). But I remember how wonderful she felt when we got together during those weeks, for our weekly time of “burden caring, bearing, and sharing.” She was truly changed by it, and thanked me profusely.
That is why I say, “Don’t do it in the flesh, but let God be the One to choose who will be the ones to attend the prayer meeting. And the meeting may be very small … for many months … or for as long as it takes, because God wants to accomplish a special purpose for you meeting like that. He has a will, and an expressed purpose in it all.”
In all honesty, her cancer was something that she never shared once the whole time that we got together. We never “got to that point” but shared, instead, about things that, generally speaking, tend to deeply affect individuals, like relationships in general, and how school was going, and a visit to the doctor (the reasons she never told me at the time).
She is now in heaven. And I am “much the glader” for having established that special, once a week, meeting time. It has made “all the difference in the world” to me. And those really, were the very same sentiments expressed by those who atteneded. By the way, this is just my word of advice, but don’t be disappointed when no one comes, and don’t expect anything greater from the leaders than you yourself are able to, and have proven yourself willing to, deliver. When no one comes, don’t be quick to rush off and “get on with your work.” That would be tantatmount to saying, “I expect the leader to do everything, and to set the standards.” But no, instead, make it your decision to establish good and holy standards as the leader that you were called to be. Settle down, and be a leader, and pray the rest in. They’ll come … one by one, as the Spirit leads. And when they do, they’ll be grateful for the “work” that you put in on their behalf, praying them in. You’ll all be grateful for that, and, in the end, the Lord’s kingdom will be established on the earth.