Our Thursday Night Group: The Lord Can Do This Anywhere
Editor’s Note: Jacob Moorman is a student and a tax preparer with plans to attend seminary after graduation. This is his second article for CORE. Click here to read his first article.
Recently, I was honored to be asked to write about River’s Edge Ministries’ (REM) young adult Bible study and outreach group. I believe my generation is asking two questions: “Who am I?” and “What’s my purpose?” Answering these questions together as a group has been key to our spiritual growth.
I decided to share the backstory of how we formed, what we do, how we have grown, and where we are headed. We began with God’s grace and promise, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20, RSV)
From a personal perspective, our “group” began over four years ago at a local IHOP restaurant. Fresh out of high school, my good friend Ben and I felt a little unsure of what to do next in our lives. During the summer of 2016 we both took jobs in construction and we both had friends heading off in various directions. Some moved and some, like us, stayed behind. We noticed a significant void in our lives and in the lives of many around us. We couldn’t find a strong young adult Bible study or community gathering taking place in our area. There were high school groups, but we had phased out of that. There were groups for couples, groups for the married, but the twenty to thirtyish age group seemed relatively overlooked, at least in our area. So the two of us decided to start meeting every Monday evening at IHOP. We resolved to study God’s Word together and be intentional in prayer. That first summer we read through the Book of Acts.
We met there so often we became regulars. We befriended the waiters and waitresses. It was a special time and a memory I hold dear. We began to talk about revival and envision what the Lord was doing and what He would do one day. Our yearning to see unity in the Body of Christ was a big part of those initial conversations. We then began to talk about reaching out to our peers who hail from many different denominations. The Lord lit a fire under us! He helped us lay a framework — what seemed to us to be a good model for study. I can remember one specific moment in the parking lot when Ben said something along the lines of “This is where revival begins.” He was right.
While Ben and I were meeting and talking about all these things, ironically my dad and younger brother also felt prompted by the Lord to launch a young adult group; they, too, saw that there was a great need for a post-high school group. So, together we officially launched the Bible study in 2017. My father was integral in its structure and form. Our goal was to be strongly grounded in the Word, Christ-centered, Kingdom-oriented, and mission-focused. Clearly, our backbone is Lutheran, but our young adults come from many different denominational backgrounds. We genuinely wanted to witness and experience “His Kingdom come, and His Will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.”
REM was not designed to be a regular Sunday morning church. Part of our vision is calling the Church to be His Church for such a time as this, with a primary focus on discipling and equipping God’s people so they may be sent out into the world. We actively seek to work with other churches and reach across the denominational divide for the sake of the Kingdom, yet simultaneously retain our Lutheran identity and orthodoxy. We do our best to seek first His Kingdom and Righteousness (Matthew 6:33) and strive for unity in Christ. It is time for the church to live out the prayer of John 17, when Christ prayed for us, His church, and His unblemished Bride:
“I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word, that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. The glory which thou hast given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and thou in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that thou hast sent me and hast loved them even as thou hast loved me.” (John 17:20-23, RSV)
We need unity in these difficult, divided times. How can the church be effective in evangelism if it is just as divided as the world? Our group is a small scale “experiment” of this unity. We all come from very different backgrounds: Lutheran, Catholic, Nazarene, Baptist, Presbyterian, Non-denominational, Pentecostal, Charismatic, Anglican and others.
My dad helped design and establish our foundational studies. We began with a solid first course of study called Alpha. It was extremely helpful in grounding us in the basic tenets of our faith while fostering an environment in which the Spirit can move easily. The first book we studied was Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. If you’re familiar with Bonhoeffer, you will know he was very much about living in community but not in isolation as the Body of Christ. He faced great evil, like the evil we see today. In the midst of this, he remained steadfast. Life Together is a great study in how to be the Church. Next, we studied 1 and 2 Peter, then many other books/letters of the Bible.
Our typical Thursday night flow is fellowship, meal, worship and study. We always end in prayer. We ask for prayer requests. We encourage and pray for each other.
I am amazed to look back and see what the Lord did with such humble beginnings. The “Thursday Night Group” exists because of God’s sovereign leading — not our exceptionally great leadership or dynamic teaching. It’s not about being super high tech or having spectacular multi-media presentations, etc. In other words, the Lord can do this anywhere.
So, how did this happen? The Lord’s moving “in and through” the prayer and the fellowship of a few. The Lord gave us a vision. We wrote it down, as my father often quotes from Habakkuk, “And the Lord answered me: “Write the vision; make it plain upon tablets, so he may run who reads it …” (RSV) Once the idea formed, we had to take action. Practically speaking, we had to start reaching out to people. We reached friends first. From there, it took patience, persistence, and perseverance. In our non-committal culture, it is too easy to avoid groups and events. Gathering this group together involved texting people individually (and consistently) many times. It took “in person” communication and phone conversations. It required countless group texts to even begin to build a base. People came and went, especially during the first two years, so I was constantly adapting. I learned that this is what it means to be organic and fluid in mission work.
We currently average anywhere from 10 to 15 young adults every week. We’ve had over 30, maybe upwards of 40 young adults involved with the group over the span of 3 years. Prepare for the ‘ebb and flow’ of doing life together! We have experienced seasons of growth as well as decline … and then regrowth. In the beginning, there were many times we would only have 2 or 3 — discouraging! But we kept at it. We peaked one summer averaging 15-20, then our numbers dropped as people went back to school. When we went down to 5 or less, I was again discouraged. It was then that the Lord stirred me up with these words, “Why do you have this study?” The answer was to glorify and honor Him! Therefore, if He is present and He is glorified, then it is worth it — whether you have 3 or 300.
Oddly enough, we are currently about halfway through studying the Book of Acts again. This is incredibly helpful as we are facing difficult and disconcerting days. This time we have been very intentional in inviting many pastors/leaders from a variety of denominational backgrounds to guide us through the Book of Acts. I have worked directly with my dad in connecting with these invaluable missional partners and have had only positive experiences. It has taught all of us to respect and stand under the umbrella of the previous generations’ wisdom and teaching. The Holy Spirit has taught us a deeper love for His Kingdom and a greater appreciation for the larger Church by introducing us to the different strengths that come from a variety of denominations within the Body.
In years past, REM has done mission outreach to Baltimore and Frederick, Maryland. We’d like to do more of that, but we ran into some obstacles because of COVID lockdown measures. But over the winter we made blankets for the homeless. We also gathered some funds to purchase items from Childfund’s Real Gifts Catalog, an organization which provides families in need with farm animals and clean water. We recently connected with someone at the Frederick Rescue Mission who encouraged us with new ideas on how we can serve as we wait for things to reopen. We are excited about these possibilities and look forward to growing as a community of faith.
We also held a night of prayer and worship on the night of the presidential election. It was a powerful time of communal worship and coming together to seek the Lord’s face for the future of our nation. We are still praying and believe that revival is coming to America and that our nation will begin to seek the face of Christ, starting with individuals and small groups. We’ve been inspired as we read through the Book of Acts — for such a time as this — to develop a deeper understanding of what it means to be the Church and to be the hands and feet of Christ. How can we actively make a difference during this time? How can we better be light and salt to those around us? These are challenging questions at any time, but especially now when tensions run high.
Our prayer as a young adult group is that we would have a clear vision of what God wants to do during this time. We pray for an extra measure of grace so that He would fill us with courage, passion, and humility so we can join Him where he is already working. Our hope is that we will see the Spirit move in a powerful way across denominational lines by bringing believers together from all types of backgrounds in His name. May He call the remnant of His people to unite in America and the world.
I have discovered that it’s not easy to faithfully document a movement of God. I hope these words encourage you to simply step into it, however small that step may seem. Clearly, this movement is God’s not ours. Begin to gather with two or more around His Word and watch to see what God does. I sincerely believe that what we’ve done can be replicated around the nation. My prayer is the Church would arise. I pray each of us would “keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5) where He leads … “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:23-25) May the Peace of Christ rest on you as we share this life together. Amen.