A few summers back, I started a Bible study at the request of several girls I was working with. We had our first meeting and it was fabulous (as most kick-off meetings are), full of energy, intimacy, and excitement.
When the following week came around and our first numbers of 15 girls dwindled to 10, I was unperturbed. It happens. People get busy. No big deal.
But when the next week came around and only 2 people showed up and one of those girls informed me that the general opinion was that the Bible study was a waste of time, I was slightly offended.
The next week, Bible study was canceled. If anyone asked what happened--why Bible study disappeared--everyone shrugged their shoulders and pretended not to know.
This was the first time that one of “my” Bible studies had completely tanked, and I blamed it on a lack of spiritual zeal, refusing to take it personally--at least on the outside. But the truth was I was embarrassed. I was also ticked at God, feeling like He set me up to fail.
If I could go back to that summer and tell myself something I learned through that experience, this is what I would say.
I would tell myself that if God calls you to lead a study or small group, you do it. It’s His responsibility to bring people. Yes, sometimes the study fails. But what is success or failure anyway? Is it a successful study when you have consistent numbers and deeply spiritual conversations? Or is it successful when you obey Jesus and get to relax from the responsibility, taking the scenic view to watch God work His magic?
Sometimes the only work He does is in your own heart. When you think about it that way, after sitting across from a girl you meet every week for Bible study (The other girls forgot to come. Again.) You’re not so concerned with “Am I encouraging her? Am I feeding her? Am I helping her?” The only thing you’re thinking about is how God is using this in your life, what He is teaching you, and “What’s in the plan today, God?”
Then, 3 years later, when you get a phone call from a girl who says, “Remember that book you gave me at the end of the summer? I am just now reading it, and it’s meant so much to me during this season of my life” you are surprised, because, well, you forgot you gave her a book. But you get to talk with her and pray with her and you learn that sometimes the fruit grows many years after the seed is planted.
And when you’re walking through the mall and one of the girls from your study grabs your hand and drags you to a store so her fiance can meet her Bible study leader, you’re glad, not because she introduced you as her “Bible study leader” but because you’re going to her wedding in a few months and you’re glad you got to be a part of her story.
I guess it took a couple of failures and several frustrating evenings to see things from God’s perspective. But it’s so much better when you realize that the study really isn’t your responsibility. God says, “I gave you the job. You serve me. You show up, even if only one other girl comes. It’s up to me to decide who comes and who doesn’t. It’s up to me to stir hearts, and to harden them as well. You, follow me.”
And then the fun begins. Because God is always at work, it just takes more focus on His work and less focus on your own to actually see it.
And He can do some pretty cool things...