“So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation . . .” (2 Corinthians 5:17-18 NRSV).
My family began worshiping together when a new church was formed in our town. My father had never belonged to or attended a church previously, and neither did the rest of the family. He was drawn into the excitement of being part of a new faith community. I remember going to Sunday School in the basement of the home where the new church start’s pastor and family lived. My parents met in their living room upstairs. Once we saw how enthused my parents were, my siblings and I were also happy to be part of the new church.
It was through small groups that this church, located in Long Island, New York, built up a constituency that led to the formation of a full congregation, and eventually, a church building. I often wondered what resources were used to start that church, which meant so much to my family.It's through small groups that new churches build up a constituency that lead to the formation of full congregations. Click To Tweet
Ten years ago, a good friend of mine helped start a new faith community in Buenos Aires, Argentina, out of the ashes of a broken and divided church. Today it has become a vibrant, healthy church. When I asked him about how they got started, he told me they used The Upper Room. He and others used it to form small groups. The Upper Room proved to be the glue that kept those broken-hearted people together. They started with one small group meeting in the home of one of the families, like the kind of meeting my mother and father attended in Long Island.
In Buenos Aires, they used the Spanish language version, El Aposento Alto. They found the daily devotions, written by everyday Christians from around the world, relatable. In the appendix of the devotional guide, there is “An Easy Plan to use The Upper Room in small groups.” Using the devotion for Wednesdays, regardless of which day of the week they met, the small groups followed the prompting questions to guide their meetings. They added songs, intercessory prayers and a time of refreshments. Soon the first group outgrew the home’s capacity. Instead of finding a larger venue, they started a second home group. Within a year they had formed eight house groups—all using the Upper Room devotional. They decided to bring all the groups together for worship on Saturday nights at a church that opened its doors to them. Now, ten years later, “Cristo Rey” has their own worship center and a tight-knit faith community with many children, youth, and young adults. And, they still use El Aposento Alto for small group study.
A similar story is told of the formation of new faith communities in Honduras. Again, using the “Easy Plan” for small groups and the Wednesday devotionals, host families invited others into their home for prayer, bible reflection, song and refreshments. Host families give testimony to the joy of providing the space where others can meet to learn, grow spiritually, and enjoy fellowship with one another. These groups, located in Río Lindo, near San Pedro Sula, Honduras, formed a new faith community, also using El Aposento Alto. The questions corresponding to Wednesday devotionals in the back of the magazine, help guide conversation. Participants deepen bonds with others as they share stories of their faith journey, their doubts, their questions, their challenges, and their yearnings to discover a pathway that leads to a meaningful life for themselves and their family.
Recently I have learned of new churches started in the United States using the same methodology: forming small groups using “The Easy Plan” in the Upper Room devotional.
My father eventually became a Sunday School teacher in that new church start, equipping young children in their own budding faith formation. Later, the new faith community helped my family through difficult times when my father suffered a stroke and lost his job. I remember, as a teenager, overhearing my parents saying together the prayer of Jesus before going to bed. The small groups they attended and the new church that they joined helped form in them a solid foundation of faith that got them through times of adversity.
Both the English and Spanish versions of The Upper Room use the “The Easy Plan” found in the back of the devotional magazine. We encourage its use to create faith formation groups, which in turn can be the building blocks for a new faith community.
In sum, here are three simple steps to start a new faith community using The Upper Room.
- Order enough copies of The Upper Room for every person you invite to your home for a small group meeting.
- Use the “An Easy Plan to Use The Upper Room in Small Groups” in the back of the devotional.
- Add prayer, song and fellowship to your meeting.