You may be familiar with the term “godfather”. Here is a definition: A man who is influential in a movement or organization; by providing support / through playing a leading or innovative part in it.
Last month, I had the privilege in attending a conference for small group pastors from across North America. One of the highlights was meeting with the “godfather of modern-day small groups“ – Lyman Coleman. From the 70’s and beyond he was instrumental in re-introducing churches to intentional community. I recall going to one of his training days in Waterloo during the 80’s and being amazed at how quickly he could get total strangers to be open and honest with each other (building trust ) so that God could work in their hearts through Scripture and the Holy Spirit. If you have been part of a church-based small group in your past – Lyman had a part in that!
Lyman continues to be active at 84. His heart still burns with passion for God’s people. It was his story of how he was impacted by the Navigators that struck me. He shared that he was a young Christian studying at Biola University with other Navigator young men in a small group, when Dawson Trotman, (founder of the Navigators), came to the campus. At that time, their small group was already serious about following Jesus as they were being transformed through intentionally spending time in God’s Word, being accountable to each other and through prayer. Dawson challenged each man to be a laborer in God’s harvest – and he asked Lyman to be God’s man in Oklahoma – because that is where Dawson needed someone to work. Lyman finished his year at Biola and began discipling men in Oklahoma. From there he was called to help with the Billy Graham Crusades and their follow-up of new believers. Eventually God called Lyman to equip local churches to make disciples through small groups. He has had a profound effect, a legacy that began with the influence of The Navigators.
Over the past while I have been meditating on Romans 12:4-5 – For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.
What does “belonging” mean to you? It’s human nature to want to belong to a group/family. However, this passage speaks of an interdependence that is accountable to others – that assumes others will participate in the mission. Each member is valued and cared for, but also the expectation is that you and others will speak into another’s life.
Lyman’s understanding of ‘belonging‘ included his willingness to being called out by another in the Body, to participate in the bigger story God has for each of us. When he did that – it set him on a trajectory that God used to influence and transform an amazing number of people.
That legacy continues.
Through the Small Groups Network (SGN), a ministry of The Navigators – this spring there have been multiple opportunities to equip over 200 small group leaders and ministry point leaders. More than 35 churches from as far away as Quebec attended one of three conferences we sponsored. Those leaders represent individuals who are able to speak into and influence over 6000 individuals who are traveling varying spiritual journeys.
Would you pray with me that we influence leaders to have the same vision of “belonging” as God calls us to?