Saturday, November 12, 2011

Why we join Community Groups

 In order to truly be growing in our relationship with God, experiencing Gospel-centered fellowship and participating in the Christ-exalting mission of the Church (Matt 28:18-20; John 20:21; Acts 1:8) we must be a part of a small group.

We’ve been back in town just over three weeks now and so this past Wednesday we attended our first community group with Blaze Christian Fellowship.  We would have attended sooner, but the week before was Stephanie’s birthday and I decided to take her out to dinner.    It’s important to get plugged into the local church right away, and I fundamentally believe being part of a community group is the best and most effective way to do that.   Since being back in town we have consistently attended the worship services as well as a large outreach/service event.  When we were around this summer, we went to the annual church picnic.   Those are all very important venues for connection, but I am convinced that in order to truly be growing in our relationship with God, experiencing Gospel-centered fellowship and participating in the Christ-exalting mission of the Church (Matt 28:18-20; John 20:21; Acts 1:8) we must be a part of a small group.   In our CRU ministry at Cornell, we uphold Community Groups as our primary vehicle for both discipleship and evangelism. 

We picked a great week to start because it was Frito-Pie week!  Once a month the group eats together and has a more informal hang out time.   We all gathered in one of the members homes and I chowed three full bowls of fantastic red chile and beans while talking and getting to know other people.  Our kids were with us, and they too got to eat and make new friends.   It was fun and familial and everybody seemed really cool  -as people usually do when you first meet them;)  After eating we simply chilled and eventually someone started up a game of Mad Gab.  I don’t like games really, and I would have preferred to remain on the couch talking about trucks and chainsaws with some of the other guys, but playing together is a great way to get to know others and have a shared experience, so I jumped in with both feet.   Sadly my team got destroyed! 

A more typical meeting will include time studying the Bible, sharing about life and praying together.  Joining this new small group I have some specific hopes, desires and things I want to see.   

First of all, we are joining a small group for our spiritual health.  A Small group is a place where we are reminded of the good news and enabled to live in light of it.  

Our God is a glorious and amazing God.  He loves us and he has created us to live life intimately connected to him.  He is the source of life and joy and satisfaction.   He also created us to live in fellowship with all the other people he loves.  The Christian life is meant to be lived in community, like a family, with God as our father. 

We are created in God’s image and that is why we are such relational beings.   Our Trinitarian God himself dwells in community; God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit exist within a loving fellowship and he made us to do the same.   God is a loving community and he created us to live life in loving community and he has declared plainly that it is not good for man to live alone.   Sin decimated our relationship with God and completely jacks up our relationships with others, but Jesus’ death on the cross conquers sin, and thru him and with him we can experience the joy-filled fellowship with God and others that we were made for.   In a small group, we get together with others to live rightly remember the truth and worship our amazing God. 

In a small group you get to sit with people who know you and who know you who can help you apply the gospel to your life.  It’s easy to show up to a worship service, sing some songs and hear some good teaching, but we need more than that.   I heard one teacher explain that we can experience conviction at a church service, but it’s in a small group that we experience repentance and thus real transformation.  I think we can receive exhortation during corporate worship, but in order to really live Christ-like we need the encouragement that comes in the small group setting.  

A small group is a place where we can be around older wiser Christians who can help us follow Jesus and experience his power in our lives.   
We really want to be a part of a group with some older married couples.  I asked to be in this one because I know one of the couples and I think we could really benefit from some time with them.  Not only are we currently walking thru difficult times, but Stephanie and I are in sort of a difficult and complex stage of life!  We need role-models and people around us who can support us and coach us and help us.  Words like discipleship, accountability, challenge and discipline all come to mind, but it all boils down to truth and grace.  We need people around us pointing us to God’s words of life and we need kind, loving, help –even when we don’t deserve it.

A small group is a place where we can participate in mission.   
Jesus has called and commissioned and empowered us as his followers to spread his name and advance his kingdom all over the earth.  A month ago we were living in New York, and today we are in New Mexico and in both places we are called to witness for Christ.  While here in Santa Fe we are praying that God would use us to advance the Gospel and I have specific friends and relatives who I am praying for intentionally.  But again, as the Christian life was not meant to be lived alone, the Christian mission was not meant to be done alone.   Jesus himself, as God did ministry in community with the Father and the Holy Spirit as well as his group of disciples.  Whenever he sent his guys out, he sent them in pairs or small groups.   In order to spread the good news and see people come to salvation we need the power of the Holy Spirit and the support of the body of Christ.  I want to be a part of a small group where we are praying together for people to see God’s glory.    I want to be a part of a small group where we can invite friends and relatives to experience gospel fellowship and see God’s grace in action.   I want to be a part of a small group where I can bring people to encounter Jesus. 

I’m joining this small group because it’s a connected to a church that I really love and believe in.  (It’s important for there to be some structure and helpful to maintain order to have the group leaders connected to and accountable to the elders and church leadership etc.)   Though I have not lived in Santa Fe for many years now, I have known the pastoral staff here for a while and have been attracted to the vision and potential of Blaze Christian Fellowship since the beginning.  The vision of Blaze is To spark a passion for God through His Gospel in the hearts of people so that they inturn ignite the world around them for Jesus Christ -but I before I read that on the website, I saw it being modeled in the life of the pastors and members.  My heart beats for that, and I want to join with others to se that happen!   I want to see thousands and thousands of people in Santa Fe, NM come to know God.  And the way to effectively be a part of all that is to be in a small group. 

The group I went to the other night was a little bit too big I think.  There were probably enough people in that group to form two healthy community groups.  But to be honest, I would rather have a group that’s kind of big than a group that’s too small because we have a big mission!  And since our God is big and our mission field is big, I like having a team that’s big. 

A current ‘buzzword’ is Missional Community.   A missional community is just a group of people who love Jesus, who worship Jesus, who trust in Jesus who are following Jesus together,  on mission –making disciples of all nations.   Fundamentally, I believe a small group should be more than a bible study, more than a small group of people who like each other, more than a weekly accountability time, more than a class.   I think this group will be a missional community and that’s why we joined.   

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