Home Improvement, Full House, Family Matters, Friends, Modern Family, Downton Abbey, Big Bang Theory, and Parenthood are stories centered around extended families that are typically biologically connected. Our obsession with these shows reflects our desire to be in a similar community. Even television shows that focus more on action and drama are held together by the cast of characters that act as an extended family. From the perspective of Scripture Christians explain this desire as part of our design of being created as image bearers of God.
As we get ready as a church to launch community groups for the first time it is important to know just why we need them. I think the simplest answer is twofold. 1. God created us to be in community and 2. God works best through community.
“Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image...’”(Genesis 1:26). This simple sentence has become a cornerstone to multiple aspects of the Christian faith. There is a hint of the Triune nature of God. That God is three persons; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and that they mutually indwell with each other, while still being separate persons. Since humans are created in the image of this God, then it follows that humans would have a strong compulsion to be in relationship with each other. This is affirmed in almost everyone’s experience, and is reiterated in Genesis chapter two when it is made clear that it is not good for Adam to be alone.
Lesslie Newbigin makes the profound observation, “It is significant that what our Lord left behind was not a book, a creed, a system of thought, nor a rule of life, but a visible community.” God has chosen throughout history to use communities to come into relationship with him and to be his agents of renewal and change in the world.
Now some may wonder if there is a need to make smaller community groups, when the church is already a community. To answer this question it is helpful to see how Jesus led. We see that sometimes he did his teaching to the masses (think the Beatitudes and the feeding of the 5,000), other times he taught just the 12, and other times he worked with just 3 disciples.
Also, smaller sized groups do the following better than large church settings. These groups can...
Foster closer relationships, especially with and for those who are new to the church, by praying for one another, and creating an atmosphere of vulnerability and trust.
More easily notice if one member is in need of any particular assistance that the group can provide, as well as deliver more personal encouragement and accountability.
Help people tangibly live out their faith instead of just hearing more preaching/teaching
Encourage better learning because in a smaller group everyone is expected to contribute, which is also helpful for those exploring Christianity.
Engage will be a key word about these Community Groups. They will be a group of people who engage with each other through conversation, friendship, and prayer, engage with God through worship, prayer, and Scripture, and engage the world through prayer and acts of service. The ultimate hope is that by participating in these groups, people would have their lives enriched, and that they would enrich the lives of others outside of their community.
I simply want to encourage all who are physically able to join one of these groups to do so. Imagine being in a community that met regularly, that was filled with people who were willing and eager to share their life with you and to have you share your life with them, while at the same time doing acts of service for our community.
Even for those of you who are still considering what Christianity means to you, these groups will be the best place for you to get a picture of Christianity. Being a Christian is much more than making some abstract mental ascent. Christianity is the true story of the whole world, that God has begun restoring the broken creation through the redemption of Jesus Christ, and invites us to be participants in that story.