If you spend any time on our church website or social media you will see a common phrase: “Life change happens best in circles, not rows.” This is a catchy saying that speaks to how God has designed us to live in community with fellow believers. As someone who spent the first eighteen years of his life not attending a group and the last decade spending nearly every week in one, I can truly attest to how special biblical community really is. Despite being in many different types of Community Groups (co-ed, men-only, college, young adult, multi-generational, married with kids) I have seen each group include three unique moments.
“One Another” Moments
If you look at the Early Church, one thing that is abundantly clear is how they cared for one another. If you read the New Testament, the Greek word “allelon,” which is translated to “each other” or “one another,” is used 58 times.
- Therefore encourage one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:18)
- Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. (Romans 12:10)
- Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)
- Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. (James 5:16)
- But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love (Galatians 5:13)
- Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Colossians 3:13)
These descriptions will not happen in a large group setting. Can you imagine going to a worship service one morning and a stranger turns to you and starts confessing his highly personal issues? Or that stranger asks you to share yours so they can pray for you? The “one anothers” of our faith are not lived out in rows, but in circles. They thrive in small settings of 10-12, not hundreds.
As I reflect back on groups, I still remember experiencing the love of Christ through group members living out the “one anothers.” I am still encouraged by the kind words my friend told me when I was having a bad day. I still remember the feelings of vulnerability and healing as I shared deep life issues with a friend who didn’t judge me and helped me address it. I’m still blown away by how sacrificial people were in helping Sophie and I move houses and start parenthood. And I’m still humbled by friends who have forgiven me repeatedly for my bonehead decisions. These “one another” moments have spoken louder than any sermon I have ever heard.
“You Too” Moments
C.S. Lewis said, “The typical expression of opening friendship would be something like, “What? You Too? I thought I was the only one (The Four Loves, 65).” A powerful connection happens whenever we can relate with others. A bond is forged that is stronger than any of the differences between us and them. Community Groups create a series of “You Too?!” moments.
The biggest difference between Community Groups and bible studies is the relational dynamic. In Acts 2:42, it describes the Early Church as devoting themselves to the apostle’s teaching and fellowship. We continue to use this example for our groups today. Along with weekly discussion around a biblical text, our groups include food and hangout time at every meeting. Additionally, most groups designate a week in the month just to throw a party.
Along with having a lot of fun, all this social time is meant to create space for “You Too?!” moments. For me personally, some of the most pivotal moments in my groups have been when there was no set agenda. Most of my most meaningful relationships started with a “You Too?!” moment over chips and guacamole before the study ever started.
Maybe you can relate to my struggle. Often, I listen to a great sermon and I leave with great quotes, some inspiring illustrations, and some thoughts to ponder. But often, I struggle to put into action whatever was shared by the pastor that day. Even when the sermon is practical, I struggle to personalize what the pastor shares.
- Be wise in your relationships…What does wisdom look like in my relationships?
- Create margin for your marriage….How do I do that?
- Give generously….How much should I give?
- Submit to Christ as the Lord of your life…Where do I start?
A Community Group is where biblical principles become personal. In a group setting, you get to move from a general conversation to a personal and specific conversation. You are not just talking about the importance of forgiveness, but identifying who you need to forgive.
Most of our Community Groups use sermon-aligned text. I love this because we focus on applying what we hear on Sundays. This is crucial for believers, because maturity is not measured by information, but application. As we read through the text and focus how to apply what we are learning, you can see the “Aha” moments happen. What was previously a fuzzy application now becomes clear. Community Groups often become the place where the spiritual light bulb goes off and you say “So, that’s how this applies to my life” or “This is how I should respond.”
Want to join a Community Group?
If you are a Chapel member, the Fall Semester kicks off September 8th! If you want to join a group, click here! I would love to help you experience each of these three moments in a group that fits your schedule and life stage.
If you are not a Chapel member, shoot me an email and I would love to help you figure out how to get in a similar type of group.