I will be the first to admit that the idea of joining Community groups gives me a bit of the heebie jeebies. When I was a part of vocational ministry, I was the first to champion all types of church community involvement to my friends and to those I served. Small groups, fellowship opportunities, events….I was constantly encouraging and sharing ways that others could grow in their faith and walk with Jesus together, as opposed to going it alone.
However, for myself, I never quite accepted the truth. I often denied myself opportunities to join community groups/small groups/events because I was afraid of being exposed. I was afraid of being vulnerable. I was afraid of having to invest time and energy into strangers, because of my own issues with vulnerability. Developing new relationships has always been a struggle for me. “I will break my own heart before I allow someone else to break it for me.” It wasn’t until my personal world fell apart in late 2018 did God reveal deep into my lonely and broken heart that community was what I needed.
In fact, God showed me it is what we all need. If we are confessing Christians and our desire is to obey the great commission and make disciples of everyone in every nation, then community is a non negotiable. He revealed to me how my refusal to join into the community and allow others to walk alongside me was actually hindering my healing and restoration. Time away from leadership and service was necessary. Hiding away from those who could help me and love me through pain was not.
I want to encourage you today with five reasons why we love community groups:
At VantagePoint Church, we are getting ready to open our hearts and spaces for community groups and our vision for these groups are as follows:
- Be the entry point for most people into the life of the church/body of Christ. In 1 Corinthians 12:26-27, the Bible speaks of us doing life together. When one of our family members suffers, we all suffer together. We go through it together. Speaking from my own personal heartache, my struggles became the struggles of those who loved me. They saw my pain and my hurt, and they willingly stepped in to carry it with me and to help me walk and heal through it. This could also be the same for those of us who experience victorious moments in our lives. When we win, the body of Christ wins. We do it together because we are indeed a family.
- Be willing to stand alone in our convictions, but not walk alone in our faith (2 Timothy 4:16-17). Have you ever felt alone in what you believe? Guess what?! You are not the only one! If you read through the Old and New Testament, there are plenty of examples where Prophets, Kings and even disciples were alone as they voiced the truths of God and the Gospel. We are not alone, though. We may be the only one voicing our beliefs, but we have God and we have the church body to walk in faith together.
- Disciple believers to be more like Christ through biblical community and the study of God’s word (Acts 2:42-47). This is my favorite part. We get to study God’s word together. So often what I hear from my fellow believers that they don’t know God’s word enough. They want to learn more about His truth, His promises, His heart, but they feel stuck. They don’t know where to start. The idea of studying the Bible feels overwhelming. I promise you, it is worth every precious second you are able to dive in. Better still, you don’t have to study God’s word alone. If it is overwhelming to you, we get to do this together. We get to learn and grow together. We get to discover bible teachers and tools that will help us to understand the text together and claim those promises for our own! Isn’t that amazing? The bible isn’t boring or confusing. It is rich and alive, and we get to read it. Encourage the other believers in your life to get in a community group so they can study His word if they aren’t already. Your leadership in this area is so important. Not only do we get to study His word, but we get to engage in rich fellowship together and pray for one another.
- We want to grow the Kingdom. We want more people to hear and know the Gospel (Acts 9:31). I fully believe that community groups are part of the great commission found in Matthew 28, where we are instructed as believers to “go out and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Community groups are essentially discipleship in groups. We learn together. Pray together. Study together. Then, each of us, armed with our knowledge of the faith and the gospel, go out into our circles and our communities and invite them into our groups. We are adding to the Kingdom. This is the goal.
- For individuals to be known, noticed, loved and cared for in their community groups. I want to say that, in our current environment, community is essentially vital. It is a must. Through this time of social distancing and not being able to gather together at church and in public spaces, people are lonely. They are hurting. They are desperate for touch, connection, a hug, a word of encouragement. Culture does not get to dictate how we choose to show up for one another. Loving our neighbor means that we often must break through the societal constraints of what is acceptable, and touch a person’s heart and soul by reminding them that God sees. God cares and that God can. We are called to be the hands and feet of God’s kingdom. Community groups, even if they must happen virtually, are essential because it means we choose to show up and love one another, regardless of where we may find ourselves. For myself, it saved my life when I was drowning in the sea of loneliness and betrayal. Signing up for a group when I knew only a few people at VantagePoint, unsure if I would even be able to stick with it, opened my sad world to new people…and these women have now become my dear friends. Something incredibly powerful happens when we choose to join a community group and allow ourselves to be seen and loved.
We need friends. Jesus had friends. His disciples, though chosen for specific reasons, were his friends. Those men, as imperfect as they were and as many mistakes they made and even with all of their misunderstanding of who Jesus was and what He was on earth to do, they got to witness incredible ministry and miracles together. What I wouldn’t give to have been a part of that ragtag group. I encourage you to read through the Old and New Testament and discover the individuals who had their communities. They had their people. They did life together. They shared and broke bread together. They fought battles together. They prayed and fasted together. The bible makes it clear we are not to walk this faith alone. So from me to you, don’t do it.
I cannot wait to welcome you to a community group this fall.
Community Group Coach