The Conundrum of Community

The Conundrum of Community

It’s a command, it’s biblical, and it’s necessary to your spiritual health. So are you part of an ongoing Christian community?

Let me clarify…I’m not asking…

  • If you have dinner now and again with a few Christian friends
  • Or if you watch Joel Osteen every Sunday – or Joyce Meyer, Charles Stanley, or any other TV personality and their church service
  • Or you read volumes of internet articles, books, or listen to CDs by a varied assortment of spiritual men or women
  • I’m not even asking if you attend church with regularity

What I am asking—and this is a non-judgmental, honest question to readers who consider themselves followers of Christ—are you participating in a community with fellow-believers on a consistent basis?

Could we just talk about that for a minute?

What is Biblical Community?Unknown-1

To trace the origins, we have to go back to the Trinity—the first real community. Perfect harmony, common union, driven by love. That is our model. We’re made in that image: God in three persons, blessed trinity.

That was the beginning of community, but the New Testament sets forth the pattern on the very day the church (not the building but the gathering of believers) began. The day of Pentecost.

All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer. A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity, all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved. ~Acts 2:42-47 NLT

A beautiful picture of brothers and sisters interconnected. Together sharing relationship, food, song, story, silence, reflection, prayer, and resources. That’s community.

Are you doing that?

The Great Disillusion

I have many friends, some of you reading this blog, who no longer connect with any group that reflects that New Testament model. I have no desire to be legalistic here, but I wonder if the Body of Christ is not weakened by this lack of connection?

  • Who do you pray with when you face a crisis?
  • When is the last time you witnessed someone getting baptized?
  • Have you taken communion in the last year(s)?
  • When did you sing together with others and celebrate the goodness of God?

I’ll admit that life in most organized churches is less than spectacular these days. And not many offer a chance to do the things enumerated in the Acts 2 passage. The American Christian church, for the most part, has become institutionalized, paying large salaries to hire men and women to do the work every believer is called to do. Who wants to be part of that?

But that’s no reason why you can’t gather a few people (two or three and He said He’d show up – Matt: 18:20) in your home on a consistent basis and do the Acts 2 stuff. Share a meal, ask a question around the table like “What is God doing in your life right now?”, and pray for one another. Or serve communion; you are a priest, remember? (1 Pet. 2:9).

Isn’t this what the writer of Hebrews had in mind when he wrote:

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. ~Hebrews 10:23-25 NIV

How Much Does It Matter in the End?

According to Hebrews, the closer we get to the end, the more important this kind of gathering is.

Recently, I spent a week with Fran Lankford at my daughter Dori’s home in California. We talked about the impact small groups have had on our lives.  Fran and Bill lost an adult son this past winter. She had this to say about her experience in community with others.

“I personally do not know any more effective vehicle for bringing people together than a small group. Intimacy, trust, likemindedness, common goals, the joy of “family.” Too often, we who have families, forget that the many people who are lonely and unable to share, gain much from a small group. The bonds formed in a small group are nearly impossible to replicate elsewhere. Many of our lifelong friendships have evolved from being in a group. There have been times when we’ve been closer than family in our ability to share and be open.

At the time of Steven’s death, our small group rallied around us and it felt very much like we were being protected. Knowing these people were praying for us undergirded us in the dark days as we mourned, and still does.

In community we experience a greater level of intimacy than we are able to find in any other social circle. I am not discounting relationships with old friends and family. It is just that we are with these people every week and find ourselves missing them when we are unable to get together.

Often too, being in biblical community allows us to reach out to others, to work and plan together in a local mission project or in neighborhood work that needs to be done. I feel like we gain so much that we’re able to spill some of it over onto others. It’s servanthood at its best.

Lastly, our lives are very much influenced by our stories. Each of us live and breathe our stories and this is what is so important in a life group. We are able to recognize and identify our stories, share them, chew over them, see how we have grown, been changed or regressed. It’s doing life together. It’s knowing that if the need arose, I have several people I could call at 3 AM.

We encourage one another through our struggles (there are 50 references to “one another” in the New Testament), care about how others are doing day to day, and know we are being prayed for. I have seen more miraculous answers to the petitions of a small group than anywhere else. Talk about the power of prayer multiplied!”

In Summary

I guess I’m just sharing my heart in this blog. I can’t live the life I want or feel called to without community. The days are empty or boringly routine – working, cooking dinner, watching a movie on Netflix, even hanging out with my family. All about us four and no more. Because of our group my life is richer and more purposeful. Life takes on new meaning when it extends beyond my small circle of need and want.

So…hats off to those of you who live intentionally and gather regularly with a few who share your story.

And to the rest – it’s never too late to pick up the phone and gather some people together and make it happen. You have all of heaven on your side as you do it.

What say you?

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Comments

  1. Hey Cathee: What a great post and I can testify to the amazing truth of this.

  2. Dear Cathee,

    It is hard to put into words all my small group has meant to me. In 3 years I have seen myself grow and mature under your and Bob’s leadership. I have made friends that will be there for me till the end. I have learned deeper truths and things that I can apply to my life and witness for Christ and His Kingdom. In other words, I am a new person inside and out. I have the burning desire to do for others and serve a risen savior. Anyone is welcome in our small group. We meet in each other homes which is very comfortable. Thank you Bob and Cathee for being there for me. Mary.

  3. For many years we had longed to be in a small group. The church we attended didn’t want small groups and we had no idea how to start one outside the church umbrella. So, we contented ourselves with our friends who were local and out of town for fellowship.

    When we began attending a new church, their main emphasis was on small groups. We were thrilled to finally be on the way to Small Group Heaven and plunged right in to our very first small group. We were so excited! The “group” was a disaster! Discouraged, we resigned ourselves to being among those who would never experience the joys of group that we’d heard about for years.

    One day our pastor said, “85% of our small groups are wonderful. 15% are not. If you got into one of the 15%, don’t let that discourage you. Try again.” Reluctantly, we did just that.

    The outcome of that decision has been indescribable (but I’ll try.) We met 3 other couples who were similar to us in our stage of life and connected with them immediately. We have been “doing life together” for 1.5 years and have finally found what we were longing for.

    We meet together every week, each week rotating to another couple’s home. Each week we pray together, have Bible study, snacks and fellowship. Several in the group volunteer together at a ministry thrift store. We meet for dinner or dinner and a movie regularly, and have already been on a weekend retreat together in the mountains. We stay connected through the week and share many personal prayer requests via email.

    We already love these people like family and know we can call on them at any time. We are so thankful to have finally experienced what we’ve heard so much about and so thankful for a loving Father who knit our hearts with other believers in this special way.

    To anyone reading this who is not yet connected with a group, I say, do whatever you have to in order to find this wonderful place of community!

    • Oh Kathy! You hit gold. THIS is what I was trying to convey about life together. I love your detailed description of your group and pray it will encourage many to find their place and hang 10!! Wouldn’t want to live without it.

  4. For sure this is a great piece. We have been involved in several small group settings and many times have been the host. I have seen lives changed in short times and fantastic growth on the part of many. There is something in the dynamic of a small group that can never be achieved in a traditional church service. The way we get to know and interact with one another pleases the heart of God. We so need this kind of life. I can’t live without it. Thank you for writing this post.

    • I can’t imagine our journey without community. You’ve made it more fun always and worth the investment we’ve made. We believe in this as much as our marriage!

  5. Cathee you are an amazing woman and I am so enjoying getting to know you. I have belonged to my link group for about three years now. I am blown away by the love, support, understanding, friendships and most important the learning of our God! We all have kids about the same ages and my village as I call it, has helped me through so much. My church family are and have been there for me 24/7 and for that I am truly thankful. FBC of LP has taught me to trust in The Lord and have faith. And by the grace of God, my family and friends, I am doing ok! I love how I have linked into the most awesome group of people. Thank you Cathee for sharing your blog with me. Xxoo

    • Anne – thank you for this great post. It’s so good to know your group has been such a great support for you. I hope everyone in our church gets a chance to experience all that you’ve described here.

  6. Great article; funny you should write on this topic. Don and I had a couple over last night for dinner, discussion, prayer and worship. It was wonderful!! We agree with you as to the importance of community, not only for ourself but for others. We will continue to meet weekly in our home and open it up to others who desire connection, accountability and family. So any of you reading this blog, please feel free to call or email Don or me at Ho***@Th*************.com

    The best days of my life are when I grew the most spiritually and emotionally from my involvement with a small group. I personally need the relationships and desire to use my life experiences to help others.

    Thank you for the article and for your faithfulness.

    • Can’t ever talk about this topic without the name Wiggins popping up. That’s how we learned the drill. Loved your post and what you’re doing. Maybe we’ll get to join with you one night when we’re in Naples.Thanks for commenting.

  7. What a beautiful exhortation!

  8. Cathee…Mark and I definitely long for just what you describe in this post. We are attending a church we love now but they don’t seem to have small groups apart from Sunday schools. Because I am home right now and he is working 40+ hours per week, we haven’t met many folks with whom we could begin our own. BUT…our heart is that God will open these doors in our lives because we are in agreement with you and Bob, it is ESSENTIAL to the abundant life that our precious Savior purchased with his blood. <3

  9. Well said. What’s so difficult to understand about the fact that Jesus placed a supreme value on small groups? He had a group of 12. Did he know something most of the church world doesn’t? Nah… probably not.

    • Evidently we don’t let him lead by example.
      Thanks for infecting us with the disease of small groups. You ruined us for anything that falls short.

  10. It really touched a soft spot in my heart and brought me to tears!! I had never experienced a small group until I moved to FL and you and Bob graciously invited us to join your group with Renie and Ed, Ruth and Steve. It was so intimate and really blessed me. You also immediately took me to breakfast at First Watch with your praying sisters and included me in the team for Circle of Love. Three different groups but all extremely meaningful to me during my years in Naples.
    Since moving back to GA I have missed it so much. Here I have a group of Yayas. There are 8 of us and they are very dear. We meet to celebrate birthdays and we pray for each other.
    I applaud you for sharing your heart and message with all of us blog readers. It gives us food for thought and hope for more to come.

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