Summary: How do small groups help cultivate community?
(Show video - Be the Church)
Let’s continue our conversation on becoming a church that makes a difference. Last time, we talked about worship being a priority for our church family, and we discussed how we might each help make our experience of worship more meaningful for our church family and
anyone who might happen to join with us on the Lord’s Day. Today, I want us to focus our thoughts on the priority of community.
It is clear as we read this description of the early church, that they experience a level of camaraderie, of fellowship, of unity, of oneness, of community. How did this sense of community come about?
It came about through participation in worship and small groups. It is clear that the small group was the primary vehicle through which
community was developed and experienced in the early church.
“Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.” - Acts 5:42 (NIV)
“Also give my greetings to the church that meets in their home.” - Romans 16:5 (NLT)
“Aquila and Priscilla greet you warmly in the Lord, and so does the church that meets at their house.” - 1 Corinthians 16:19 (NIV)
“Please give my greetings to our brothers and sisters at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church that meets in her house.” - Colossians 4:15 (NLT)
The Bible is very clear about how God intends for His people to grow and have their needs met in the church. We will never be able to hire enough professional pastors to meet all the individual needs in our spiritual family. God never intended for it to be that way! Rather, as we meet in small groups, we can develop and experience the kind of community and camaraderie that will provide a means for us to care for one another and encourage one another to grow as a disciple.
There are four things that a small group should do to develop a sense of community among those participating. They experience community:
1. By connecting with God and with One Another - vs. 42b; 46b
“Jesus replied, ‘The most important commandment is this: “Listen, O Israel! The LORD our God is the one and only LORD. And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.” The second is equally important: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” No other commandment is greater than these.’” - Mark 12:29-31 (NLT)
There’s no better way to grow in your connection with God than to be part of a group who is committed to grow in their connection with God, for such a group of believers will certainly encourage one another.
The Greek word for “one another” is “allelon” which denotes a reciprocal and mutual work on the part of believers toward one another. It occurs 58 times in the New Testament, excluding the Gospels. The Bible is filled with admonitions concerning how we are to relate to one another, the majority of which are best fulfilled within the context of a small group.
At one church I served, I’ll never forget how in a service one Sunday evening, a lady who was to sing decided to share some things before doing so. She informed us how she and her husband were struggling in their marriage. I mean, she shared some very personal stuff! As you can imagine, we were ready for her to sing and then step away from the microphone. And her poor husband! I can imagine he felt like climbing under a pew! I know I did!
Now, did that couple need encouragement? Did they need prayer? Did they need acceptance? Understanding? Yes! But did they benefit from what occurred in that service? No. Such things are better shared within the context of a small group. In fact, some things might even need to be shared with only one or two close believing friends, but how can you develop such friendships? Through participation in a small group.
Now, I don’t mean to give the impression that a small group is all about people unburdening themselves. In fact, the majority of the time is built around fun and pleasant fellowship with one another. In fact, each group needs to have a time at least once a month, where they just have fun together! And such activity builds community!
2. By growing in Christ with maturity - v. 42a
“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” - Romans 12:2 (NLT)