I Value Circles Over Rows

I borrowed that phrase from Andy Stanley because it’s been true in my own life.

Janet and I have been happily married for 35 years and look forward to the next 35 (God willing). One of the key reasons for this is because we value circles over rows.

One of our greatest legacies is that our three children know, love and follow Jesus & actively serve Him in His church. One of the reasons for this is because we/they value circles over rows.

I have been in full-time ministry for 30 years and am grateful for this landmark. One of the key reasons for this is because I value circles over rows.

We have been blessed financially and have been a blessing to others financially. One of the key reasons for this is because we value circles over rows.

Some of the greatest friendships we’ve had in life have come because we value circles over rows.

We haven’t arrived, but we’ve sure made progress; largely because we value circles over rows.

Shortly after I made the decision to follow Christ, I made a very wise choice. That choice was to circle up with some other followers of Christ in a small group setting during the week. We would talk about God’s Word and how we could actually live it out (do what God says). That’s been the pattern of my life for over 35 years.

During my 30 years in ministry I’ve been in great churches and I’ve seen a consistent pattern. You can come to church every week – sit in a row – hear great music and a great message – feel good about what you’ve done – and never really grow as God desires. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not suggesting this isn’t important. It was sitting in a row – in a church – where I heard the truth about Christ and made a decision to follow Him. But to become all Christ desires, involves more than just coming to church and sitting in a row. By the way, I value rows too, but I believe greater life-change takes place in circles.

The author of Hebrews wrote some pretty strong words to some people who had been believers for a while. He said: 12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. Heb 5:11-14 NIV

Did you notice what he said in verse 14? Those who are mature are the ones who “by constant use” of the truth of God’s Word have trained themselves in how to live their lives.

The older brother of Jesus wrote it like this: 22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 25 But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it — he will be blessed in what he does. James 1:22,25 NIV

If we want to experience the life God desires for us, we need people around us who will point us in the right direction; people who will challenge us to do what God’s Word says. We need people who love us enough to tell us the truth when we are making important decisions about our life, family, finances, etc. The book of wisdom states: Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses. Prov. 27:6 NIV

I’ve had two close friends in ministry who lost their family and their ministry because they didn’t circle up with some people who would hold them accountable and ask them the hard questions. They both committed adultery and while God has forgiven them, the consequences of their choices are still impacting people in negative ways.

The reason I value circles over rows is because it’s in the context of circling up with a group of people in a small group allows me (and them) to wrestle honestly with the things I read and hear from God’s Word. Not every group I’ve been in has been great, but for the most part God has used every small group experience to challenge me to grow. I believe real life change happens in the context of small groups and everyone I know would benefit greatly by arranging their schedule to make a small group (LIFE GROUP at GFC) a priority.

The greatest times of growth and challenge in my life have come because I’ve chosen for over 35 years to put myself in an environment where I can be challenged to do what God says – not just hear it.

About bjrutledge

BJ & Janet were married in July 1977 They have three grown children who are all married: Jeremy & Whitney Rutledge, Chris & Julie Hurst, and Josh and Hannah Rutledge. They also have four grandsons, and a granddaughter. BJ says perhaps our greatest legacy is even though our kids are PK's, they love Jesus and are all involved in ministry in the local church. BJ has served at churches in Dallas - Bossier City, LA - Houston - and was at Fellowship of the Woodlands (Woodlands Church) in The Woodlands before coming to Grace Fellowship. BJ is the Lead Pastor at Grace Fellowship Church in Paradise, TX.
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