It was right there in front of me the whole time—hidden in plain sight—yet another “game-changer” in the Gospel message!
I have seen this before, but I did not really get it. The Bible rarely refers to you and I as individuals, but often in the context of community. The word translated “you” is often plural—as in “ya’ll”—or, if you’re a true Southerner—”all ya’ll”!
Why is the context of “community” so important?
We tend to read the Bible from an individualistic point of view. However, recognizing that most biblical teaching concerning believers is in the context of community adds a completely different understanding to what we read.
Instead of asking, “How do I apply this scripture to my life?”, we instead ask, “How does this apply to me within the community God has provided?”, removing the “me” focus and making it “we” focused.
It is within community that we build solid relationships that allow others into our lives in a way that we can trust them to speak the hard truths to us, when needed. Psalms tells us that “the wounds of a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” In other words, people who do not really care about you will tell you whatever they think you want to hear, but true friends will tell you the truth, even when it stings.
In Bermuda, the roads are made of crushed coral and because it is a small island with narrow roads, the primary means of transportation are motorcycles and mopeds. Even in minor accidents, the rider will often get “road rash”. At the hospital, medical staff use a stiff brush to clean the open wound. Painful, right? Why use such a harsh treatment? The coral in the roads is still alive, and if they do not clean the wound completely it will never heal properly, creating even bigger problems within the body. This is an example of the “wounds of a friend” being trustworthy. The same is true within community — we can trust that our friends are not being hurtful, they are telling us a difficult truth to be helpful.
Are small groups enough?
Many within the church-world recognize that believers should attend small groups, recognizing that a vast majority of the “one another’s” in the Bible cannot be done in large groups, but…
…attending a small group is not the same as being in community!
It is possible to attend a small group and never experience biblical community. Without true community, we will miss the context for much of the New Testament. Being in community takes a lot of time and intentionality—it will not just happen. Showing up once a week will not create true community.
I recognize the value of small groups, and believe they are the most authentic environment for the church to thrive. However, we need to go deeper than just showing up, which is not much different than just attending a worship service. We may be a little more involved, but it will likely only be at an intellectual level. If we want heart-level, game-changing, life-transforming relationships, we must develop true community. We need to be in each other’s lives on an almost daily basis.
Daily? Is that even possible?
Our typical response to a statement such as, “You will need to be in each other’s lives on an almost daily basis” is, “Who has time for that?” I admit this will require that we reprioritize and make an intentional decision to create community. This is not easy, but I am personally beginning to experience true community and can see how desperately I need it and how much it brings to my life.
Probably the most difficult part of creating true community is coming to terms with the fact that we may have to decrease our circle of deep friends. This may appear to be counter-intuitive, but truly investing in the lives of others takes a lot of time, and we can only do this with a small circle of friends. This does not mean we have to abandon others, but it does mean that we will intentionally prioritize our lives to spend both quality and quantity time with those in our close community.
The opposite may also be true. Maybe you need to make more friends. It is very easy to become isolated in our society, but if you are going to experience life the way it is meant to be lived, you need to be part of a healthy community.
Let’s talk about it (reply below) –
How does your view of biblical teaching change when seeing it through the contextual lens of community?
How would your life be changed by being in true community?
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4 thoughts on “Stop Attending a Small Group!”
I dig this, and believe the concept to be true.
I was having a conversation with a non-believing friend about how to change the world, not from a platform speaking to masses, but from small relationships over time.
Not remembering where I heard this from (might have been from you, Dave), but change must first begin with us. Then, intentionally loving two other people. The next year, they do the same. All things being equal, we never leave our core two group of people- we continue to “do life” with them throughout the years. Without sounding too multi-level marketing pyramid-scheme-y, after 29 years, over 500 million people would have been reached, entering in intentional, caring, relational community with like-minded people.
It takes a large degree of honesty, transparency, and intentionality. Something we won’t find and can’t offer from the pulpit or the pew.
Hi, Phil! What you’re talking about is the power of multiplication. Greg Ogden gives this example in his book Transforming Discipleship. His point is if we build deep and lasting relationships we can help others get to the point in their spiritual journey where they can build this same type of relationship with two or three others. It can take time, it can be a slow process, but when the affect of multiplication takes over, the impact is enormous. And, for me, the best part is it’s creating life-long relationships.
This is the way Jesus started His movement – really pouring His life in three men (Peter, James, and John) for about three years. Guess what? It worked. I’m a follower of Jesus today, some 2,000 years later, because those three did the same for others and on down the line.
Of course, the power source behind all of this transformation is God’s Spirit at work within us and not our own effort. When we allow God to love through us in intentional ways like this, the results are phenomenal.