The following is a testimony from our sister Michelle Neves about our ladies’ Side by Side ministry this past year. I believe you will find it encouraging.
Side by Side is our beloved women’s ministry where we come together to uplift one another. After spending most of 2020 not so side by side, we were all looking forward to the day we started to meet again, but this time with a new addition. Now, I’m not referring to the masks, restrictions, or Zoom meetings, but to the start of having small groups—a smaller and more intimate gathering on alternate weeks of our study. After a year filled with hardship, losses, and anxiety, this has become a wonderful blessing to the women of our church.
We kicked off the fall with an incredible introduction to Romans, which was led by Jayne, Cheryl, and Sherrian. These ladies faithfully devoted their time to bring forth such a rich and well-rounded study of this book, which discusses the essence of Christianity and what it means to be “Jesus-like” people. In saying that, I’d like to commend Jayne, Cheryl, and Sherrian for modeling this example to us. Romans is not an easy book, yet they sacrificially took on this task to make sure we are getting nourished and encouraged through our walk. On top of that, they prayed for us, listened to us, and extended themselves to see how we are all doing and growing in the Lord.
With our large group setting, we really gleaned a lot from Scripture, grew in our understanding of the gospel, and reflected on how the gospel still applies to our culture today and in our personal lives. As we grew in our understanding of the gospel, we also grew in obedience to the word of God. We learned each meeting what it means to live out the two greatest commands: to love God and His people. Romans really brings these two commands to life in the following ways:
In loving God—we learned that the gospel message is Jesus and His work on the cross for those He has called. We are saved and justified by faith and faith alone. We cannot attain righteousness with God through works, nor can we attain the goodness of God through sin. Romans also teaches us that amid troubles, we have hope in our Redeemer, who is also our Intercessor. We have this hope because we have been justified by faith, and we know that God is working all things together for good and for His glory. We also have hope because a new creation is coming where we will no longer be separated from God.
In loving His people—we learned that we are to present ourselves as a living sacrifice to God, so we are to be humble, use the gifts the Lord has given us to serve the church body, and not seek revenge. In addition, we are to obey our government and those in authority over us. We are to be mindful of our brothers and sisters, whether they are weak or strong in the faith. We are to rejoice with them in good times and weep with them in days of sorrow. We are to have grace with our new family as the Lord was gracious to us and to accept one another just as the Lord has accepted us. After all, what we owe to others is love.
In supplement to the large group meetings, we came together in our small group setting to encourage the above truths, express how they apply to us, share our struggles, and pray for one another. When I was asked to lead, I was a new mom to a baby boy. I was incredibly exhausted and in need of encouragement. After prayerful consideration, I decided to take on the task and we began our first small group. I really put myself in the Lord’s hands because, let’s be frank, what good is being sleep deprived in any situation?
My group had some women I already knew and some I had yet to get to know, so naturally, I was nervous. After our first gathering, I walked away saying, “Lord, I don’t know what these women think about today’s meeting, but I am incredibly encouraged, so for that alone, I’m grateful.” From that moment on, we grew in the Word and in our relationships, and we were always uplifting one another.
In our small group, the book of Romans was our guide for discussion. Through each lesson, we shared how Romans applied to our daily lives and our struggles. We touched on very meaningful topics such as having courage to share the gospel, dealing with discord among the brethren, growing in and using our spiritual gifts, and even being gracious to our spouses. In addition, we prayed, recited Scripture, and meditated on some verses together. Our friendships are continually growing, with Christ as the center of our group. Personally, I think about my sisters often, which the Lord has used to grow me closer to Him in prayer. We shared many laughs, too, and enjoyed a nice “Romans” Bingo game on Zoom—it was fun and a great review!
Oh, Zoom…I’d like to take a moment to show my appreciation for Zoom and its role for maintaining consistency. Zoom has been a blessing and has made meeting regularly accessible. This made it convenient for those who were being mindful of Covid-19, the women working late hours, and the new moms like myself. Though gathering in person is always sweeter, Zoom has made meeting often lighter on the commuters. I can see where Zoom, or any other face chatting platform, will always serve a purpose in the church going forward.
Overall, the small groups have been so wonderful and have displayed how much we truly rely on one another in this marathon we all run. The two greatest commands come to life when we meditate on God’s Word together, regularly meet with each other, pray for each other, and consider each other throughout our daily lives. There is something significantly beautiful when we do walk side by side.
Bear in mind: walking side by side isn’t natural. It requires commitment, consistency, and an understanding that we cannot be a full, functioning body when one of our sisters is missing. Otherwise, we are limping through this marathon. Every single person of the church body is essential—you need me just as I need you.
That is why my deepest desire is for us to grow in our love for the Lord and His people. That we would learn to understand what it means to be committed, “Jesus-like” people who serve the Lord with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. That we would continue to grow in the new man and be present in the lives of our new family. That we would be eager to serve and use the gifts the Lord has given us. After all, who isn’t eager to open a gift on their birthday, cherish it, and put it immediately to use? How much more willing should we be to serve the Lord after receiving the greatest gift of all—salvation.
I also desire that we would rejoice or weep with one another in times of joy or sorrow. That we would take each moment we have here seriously knowing that we live before a gracious and caring Heavenly Father. That we would also seek to live in unity with our brothers and sisters, submit to our elders because it is good for us, and hold others in high regard just as the Lord commands us to do. Ladies, here is my admonition to you: love the Lord, love your sisters. Commit to Christ, commit to the body. Let’s stand side by side.