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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

A Place to Build Hope

By James Meredith
Apr. 22, 2012

After 20 years, a couple fears their marriage is shattered beyond repair. A father of three has just learned his job is ending, and he feels crushed under the weight of fear for his family’s future. A young man just received a devastating diagnosis from the doctor.

Needy, hurting people are all around us. It might be a co-worker, a neighbor, a loved one or the person sitting just down the pew on Sunday morning. Yet, all too often, these individuals bury the pain deep within their hearts, not knowing where to turn for help and hope.

As Christ’s followers, we’re called to reach out to people in crisis. But how can we break down barriers created by fear and despair to minister Christ’s love into hidden needs?

It’s about relationships

Nothing’s Too Hard for God (NTHFG), the current media campaign of the Assemblies of God, has been created to help churches and believers connect with individuals at their point of crisis. This campaign is unique in that it is accompanied by a variety of small group resources to help make ministry happen at a practical level.

In hard times, it’s human nature to withdraw, or to mask the anxious feelings that grip our hearts. There’s a tendency to get lost in the crowd — even within the church. Yet that’s when we need the support of others the most.

“People need relationships, especially when facing struggles,” says Tom Bougher, adult resource consultant for the Assemblies of God Discipleship Ministries Agency. It can be difficult, even embarrassing, Bougher adds, to reveal that you or someone you love has a problem. But within the friendly confines of a small group, connections are made and trust begins to grow, creating a setting where people feel safe to share their needs.

Offering hope in the worst of times

The small group resources address eight of the most common needs people face today. Each topic conveys a reminder that God can change lives, even when all hope seems lost:

• No person is beyond forgiveness.

• No form of loneliness is too overwhelming.

• No relationship is too broken.

• No illness is too difficult.

• No fear is too great.

• No financial need is too large.

• No loss is too devastating.

• No addiction is too strong.

Everything needed to conduct an eight-part series is available in the three-CD set. The leader’s guide contains basic instructions on how to conduct a small group session, especially helpful for new leaders or those who feel intimidated by the prospect of addressing difficult topics.

Each topic also includes a collection of compelling, relevant questions to spark conversation. Combined with thoughtful video commentary, individuals are encouraged to examine their own response to needs, even as they reach out to those around them.

But perhaps the most powerful components are the videos. For each of the eight needs, a video testimony is provided that features an average person who has faced a catastrophic crisis. At their point of desperation, these individuals discovered that God was with them in their time of need. Each gripping story reminds the audience that no one is alone in their struggles — and no struggle has to leave us at a point of hopelessness.

“No fear is too great” illustrates how the NTHFG small group materials are used.

The session begins with the testimony of Stanley Praimnath, a Christian who found himself trapped on the 81st floor of the World Trade Center’s south tower on 9/11. In vivid detail, Praimnath recounts being trapped by rubble, smoke and flames after United Airlines Flight 175 hit the tower. In that moment, he found himself gripped by an overwhelming sense of fear and uncertainty, both for himself and for the future of his family.

As the story progresses, and Praimnath is saved from the building through a series of miraculous events, the audience is presented with a number of compelling questions and Scriptures. Each helps individuals grapple with their own fears and uncertainties, even as they are reminded that no problem exceeds God’s ability to help us.

The bottom line: Meeting needs

To date, over 1,500 churches have utilized the NTHFG small group resources, with tremendous results. The key feature has been the success of the materials in touching people at their point of need.

“People found it to be relevant to the challenges they face today,” says Craig Butler, discipleship pastor at Faith Assembly of God in Summerville, S.C. “It hit people where they are living.”

Nothing’s Too Hard for God resources address felt needs effectively because they help those who are hurting to keep things in perspective. People living through crisis points see others who have already been through similar pain; they find renewed confidence that God will help them as well.

While the NTHFG small groups build an effective setting for believers to help each other through hard times, they also serve as an evangelistic tool.

Steve Vinson, executive pastor at Canyon Hills Assembly of God in Bakersfield, Calif., notes that NTHFG gave the congregation a reason to invite visitors to the church. Vinson says the connections formed with the community have borne fruit both spiritually and numerically, as many were added to the church in the months following the campaign.

The resources are also useful outside of a small group setting. The eight topics form a practical sermon series, or a stand-alone topic. The video testimonies offer compelling illustrations as well.

We need each other

Scripture says, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2, NIV). God didn’t create us to navigate the difficult road of life on our own. We need each other, especially during the hard times. Believers must build connections and relationships that thrive in the toughest of times. The NTHFG small group resources help to build those connections.

JAMES MEREDITH is technical editor of the Pentecostal Evangel.

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