We're entering into a season of busy activity where school, sports, extra-curriculars, and church programming are all competing for our limited time and energy. So why add one more commitment? Why join a Community Group?
I do not believe that Community Groups are God-ordained. You're not living in sin if you're not part of one. But I do believe that there are compelling reasons to be part of one. So give me a moment to inspire you to join a Community Group if you're not part of one, or to recommit to one of which you've already been part. Here's three reasons:
Community Groups Help Realize the Communion of Saints
There's this thing called the communion of saints. It's the notion that we need all of God's gifts and graces in order to survive, but God hasn't given all of his gifts to any one person. He has distributed them among many people. Some people can teach. Others are good with hospitality. Others are gifted with administration. Others with prayer. We cannot survive, spiritually speaking, on the limited gifts of a few. We all have a gift to offer and we need the gifts of the whole body. Community Groups help create space and structure where many people can begin to use the many gifts that God has given.
Community Groups Facilitate Pastoral Care
All of us need to be "pastored". Think sheep and shepherd. We all need counsel, support, encouragement, and (at times) correction. One of the best ways to receive these things regularly is to join a Community Group. Community Groups are full of people who are just as lost as we are. But they also contain some folks who possess a little more grace than we do, who've lived a little longer than we have, and who have a little more wisdom than we possess. Proverbs says that the best way to become wise is to live with people who are wise (Prov 13:20). So if you're feeling lost, have you considered joining a Community Group and sharing your problems with others? Perhaps God may use you to shed a little light on someone else's problems while you're at it.
Community Groups Help Us Face Reality
We are sinners. It can be disturbingly easy to evade this reality by living at a distance from one another (figuratively speaking). If we only see each other on Sundays then it's easy to make believe that we're not sinners, that our lives are going fine, and we don't need any help. Living like this leads to big crises. But when we choose to live together in community and expose more and more of our lives to one another - even the ugly parts of our lives - we have lots of little crises instead of major crises. What I mean by this is that we are confronted with our sin and its consequences more often and faced with the decision to change. This is painful but it's good for us. God uses this to change our hearts and conform us to the image of Jesus.
But there's also another reality that Community Groups help us to face - and that's the reality that God forgives our sin. Martin Luther said:
If you are a preacher of mercy, do not preach an imaginary but the true mercy. If the mercy is true, you must therefore bear the true, not an imaginary sin. God does not save those who are only imaginary sinners. Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong, but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world. (1)
Luther was not encouraging the reader to sin. Rather, he was saying that the best way to experience real forgiveness is to confess real, particular sin. When we confess our true selves to God and one another and experience true acceptance and forgiveness from our brothers and sisters it serves as a visible sign that we are truly accepted and forgiven by God. Why would we pass up this great blessing?
As we launch our groups this fall you have an opportunity to be part of one. Whether you've never been part of a group before or you've been part of one for years, take a moment to browse the groups we have available and sign up for one that makes sense for you.
(1) Luther, Martin. "Let Your Sins Be Strong: A Letter From Luther To Melanchthon." Internet Christian Liberty. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Sept. 2015. <http://www.iclnet.org/pub/resources/text/wittenberg/luther/letsinsbe.txt>.