Circles and Rows

“We don’t grow in rows, we grow in circles.”

This is a phrase that we’ve grown really attached to around here. While this statement can be a little confusing at times, we believe that there is some truth to what Andy Stanley is getting at here. 

What exactly does he mean? Rows? Circles? 

When he refers to “rows,” Andy is speaking of the weekend experience at church.

Any weekend, communal gathering of believers that follows the traditional “method” of how church is done. This is when we gather together not only as friends and families, but as the Body of Christ, the Church. When we gather together as one in body and spirit, something powerful happens. When we worship, when we engage in acknowledging God’s presence with us, we bring that life-transforming power into our own lives and into our world. 

The weekend is vitally important to us. If anyone has been around River Valley Church for any period of time, often words like “life-changing,” “powerful,” or “powerful” get thrown around when talking about weekend services. There is no denying that powerful, life-changing moments happen all the time in a River Valley Church service. 

But what if there was more than that? What if the growth and change that occurs in rows was meant to go further? What if there was a place for that growth to continue and deepen? 

When Andy Stanley speaks of “circles,” he is referring to our community. The people we spend our days and nights around. These are the people who are actively involved in our lives week in and week out. When we are celebrating, these are the people who are cheering with us. When we are hurting, these are the people who sit with us, cry with us, and pray with us. 

Circles are a beautiful thing. What happens in circles is not wholly different from what happens in rows, but supplementary to it. Something happens in circles that we desperately need as people. 

Circles are not a place to hear from perfect people, but a place to engage in relationship with other imperfect, messy, growing people. It’s in circles that we can bare our hearts to one another. In circles, we can be truly vulnerable without fear of being hurt. We can voice our questions and thoughts without fear of rejection. It’s in circles that we can encourage others, and in return be encouraged. It’s in this environment that we truly can grow. We can learn and grow with one another when we see each other face to face. When we listen, those around us grow as well. 

As you read this, perhaps you began to think of a Lifegroup or Lifeteam that you are a part of. Maybe one that you are leading. The next time you find yourselves gathered together, remember this: 

What you are taking part of is something that enables yourself, as well as those around you, to grow. Your community with one another helps everyone begin to look more and more like Jesus. Sometimes, group may seem shallow and look like there’s not much deep, spiritual conversation happening. Sometimes that’s what the start of growth looks like.