When we started Redeemer three years ago, one of the phrases that we used to try and capture the goal we have for the church is reaching through building and building through reaching. We wanted to reach the city of Arlington/DC with the gospel by building a church that loves the gospel. In other words, our desire to see people saved is not separate from our desire to build a strong community where fellowship and care occur. Actually, these things are vitally linked. We are trying to integrate community and mission.
This idea shapes and informs all of what we do at Redeemer, including community groups. In many churches, community groups function as the place where real ‘care’ takes place. Due to this, they can often be the most exclusive and intimate ministry in the church, small groups of people who meet consistently in a closed environment. While this can be a good and effective way to do small groups, at Redeemer, we think that small groups are actually one of the best places for new people to observe and experience authentic community. We want them to function both as a place for relationships to deepen and growth to occur, as well as a place to invite guests and non-Christians to see what living together in a gospel community looks like.
In order for this to happen, we need to have a commitment to one another and a commitment to planting new groups.
Ever been in an uncommitted relationship? It’s the kind of relationship where you are basically friends until something better comes along or some difficulty presents itself. You are never really sure where you stand, what to expect, or how to relate to the other person. Living an authentic Christian life in the context of a local church involves commitment to one another. It is fueled by a conviction that God has called you to participate in his family, both to grow as a disciple and to help others grow as well. As we commit to eat together, learn to love one another, and grow in gospel integration in community groups, we present a compelling example of the difference the gospel makes. Our relationships will ebb and flow and change through time, but a Christian’s relationships should be marked by commitment. This commitment takes action. It takes work. It takes prioritizing these relationships.
Here are a few questions to consider:
• Does your participation in a community group affect the way you schedule your time?
• Are get-togethers and opportunities to hang out with your group the last thing to go into your schedule?
• Are you working to live ordinary life with them?
• Are you consciously seeking to love the people in your group?
• Are you aware of how others in your group are struggling, or what their burdens are?
• Is there a disposition to be with these people, even if situations might not enable it?
While certainly not the only context for relationships in the church (a topic for another post), community groups are a unique place to truly experience and display the reality of the gospel. In these groups, there are probably people that are not like you, who will probably sin against you, who are in different seasons of life. What better place to learn to love one another? What better situation to display authentic Christian relationships?
Let’s remember, we are committing to each other because Jesus has changed us. He is the one doing this work in our hearts and he is committed to building this community, having purchased it with his own blood.
Next week we will look at a commitment to planting new groups.