Elements November 2013 Feature

by Tim Dearborn, Director of the Ogilvie Institute of Preaching

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How often have we heard in calls to worship "Just leave the worries of the world at the door"? Somehow we act like the needs of the world and the presence of God don't mix. How few prayers of intercession have we heard on the issues that plague our world: immigration, domestic and urban violence, the funding of education, the cost of health care, or changes in the climate? We'll pray for healing and safety and even rain--but do we bring before God in prayer the attitudes and actions of people and governments regarding these larger issues? Our preferred media outlet has more influence on our social ethics than careful reflection through biblically shaped sermons or dynamic encounters with God in worship.

Micah Groups were started by Mark Labberton at Fuller four years ago to contribute to a movement of wise, empowered preachers who lead their congregations in doing justice, loving mercy and walking humbly with God. I attended Fuller in 1974, have been a pastor and missionary ever since, and have taught in five different theological schools (including Fuller). My calling and passion have been to see God raise up better equipped leaders to guide their congregations into more fruitful ministry in the world. In all these nearly 40 years, I've never seen anything like Micah Groups. As Mark takes on leadership as Fuller's president, it is a gift and privilege to continue to steward this movement that God launched through him.

Nearly 600 church leaders in 55 cities throughout the United States and five other countries have joined Micah Groups. These are each composed of 12 to 14 pastors from diverse denominations and ethnic backgrounds who meet together every other month for two years with a curriculum created by Fuller's Ogilvie Institute.

The two-year process creates a rich environment for church leaders to support and encourage one another in their own formation as preachers, in their leadership of their congregations, and in the enhancement of their preaching, worship, and congregation's involvement in the world. Participants work through an e-Reader that provides essays, videos, sermons, and art and worship resources--with each session exploring the heart of God, the formation of the people of God, the formation of the preacher, and the formation of the sermon. This structure provides a safe meeting place across the denominational and ethnic divisions that fragment the church in most communities. Rather than merely meeting with other clergy for an occasional cup of coffee, or a clergy association meeting that tends to be more about self-promotion than formation, these groups provide a sustained context for deep relationships.

"Our Micah Group is a ministry oasis for me! Our time together feeds my soul and our shared passion for justice energizes me to be the shepherd God has called me to be."
RENEE GASTON HOKE, DISCIPLES OF CHRIST, FT. WORTH, TX

"Micah Groups create a unique format in which preachers and leaders nurture their passion for God and kindle a fire for justice in their churches and communities together."
STEVE NORMAN, KENSINGTON CHURCH, DETROIT, MI

"I love the focus that Micah Groups place on wisdom. It's about being before doing. And I love the diverse, non-competitive relational context that my Micah Group provides for becoming a person of wisdom."
BRAD WONG, THE RIVER CHURCH COMMUNITY, SAN JOSE, CA

"What Micah Groups provide has helped me think in broader categories with my preaching and teaching ministries. Our shared connection is enlivened by a common love for God's coming kingdom and a shared vision of mobilizing God's people to compassionately serve in the name of Christ."
RAY HYLTON, FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH OF EVANSTON, EVANSTON, IL

For more information about Micah Group locations, and ways you can be involved, contact Nancy Walters at nancywalters@micahgroups.org or visit www.micahgroups.org.