Community is essential to following Jesus. Discipleship’s not a solo discipline. You just can’t fulfill the command of Christ to “love one another” without some “others” in our life. It’s in biblical community that we encourage, challenge and celebrate; where we apply and share what we’re learning from sermons, personal study and the struggles of life. Jesus modeled community and Jesus died for community. (Acts 20:28).
The way a church seeks community varies. Whether they call them Life Groups, Cells, or Missional Communities the point is people getting together outside gathered worshiped to care for and disciple one another, equipping for and encouraging ministry and mission.
That said I’ve noticed over the years some common unspoken assumptions we tend to have in community. Subtle ideas that can keep us from the desired outcome of our group. Notions that can stifle us personally and collectively. Assumptions that can quench the Spirit and prevent us from experiencing the fullness and joy we’re promised in Christ.
Here are Seven Common Assumptions about Community:
1. Everyone’s a Christian
Just because someone shows up to your group doesn’t mean they know Jesus. Some people are exploring faith and need love and understanding. They can get lost in church talk, “christianeze” and assumptions that everyone knows what they are doing and how to use a bible. Additionally just because someone has been coming to your church or even grown up in church doesn’t guarantee they understand the gospel. When we assume salvation in someone we can actually keep them from it. Affirming a Christless Christianity is neither helpful or beneficial. Love doesn’t assume. Listen for gospel understanding in people’s words. Look for gospel fruit in peoples lives. Don’t be afraid to ask, speaking the truth in love. Likewise, don’t assume it’s only others that need Jesus.
2. Everyone’s been Baptized
This is similar, but not. You would be surprised how many genuine believers have not been baptized or were before they believed. It’s good to know people’s salvation story, it’s even better (dare I say essential) if you’re gonna walk together as community. Discipleship is helping one another be obedient to Christ in love. Let’s not let one another avoid disobedience (Jesus commanded baptism) nor let one another miss out on the witness and joy of celebrating salvation through baptism together.
3. Everyone’s a member of the Church
Are the people in your group committed to the same people and the same mission? We don’t require membership to be in one of our groups. We think it’s a great place to begin knowing and being known. Community is an awesome connecting point for new people. We do however want to see people get connected, find family and join a single church, even if it’s not ours. Does your church have a path for connecting guests and helping them become member? Does your group know that process and are they helping people to walk along that path?
4. Everyone’s honest about their needs
Is everyone doing ok, or am I just assuming so. Am I? “Doing Life”‘s a popular churchy catch phrase, but life has ups and downs; good and bad. If we just get together and eat, study the bible or serve in our community together, but end up neglecting one anothers own needs we’ve missed the point. Someone always has a need and there is usually a greater need behind that one. How are marriages? How are finances? What’s happening in the home? What’s happening in the heart? Be confident enough in Christ to ask and be humble enough in the gospel to offer up what’s ailing us.
5. Everyone’s doing great with God
I’m a pastor and I have dry times with God. More than you might think and more than I’d like to admit. We all do. Life lets no one off the hook and the enemy is always roaring. Sometimes the Cross seems less bright and quite often our cares and concerns can joke out the gospel. It’s ok not to be ok. The Good News isn’t for those who have it all figured out, it’s for failures and fools. Listen for hope in your conversations with others. Share the hunger in your own soul. Be willing to walk with one another through the valleys.
6. Everyone’s doing better than Me
One of the greatest lies the enemy tells us is that it’s only you. Only you are getting it right, only you are getting it wrong. No matter how amazing the physical and spiritual lives of those around you seem, there’s always more to the story. Don’t listen to the lie that says you’re all alone in this. Don’t believe the belittling and braiding of Beelzebub. He’s just trying to guilt and shame you out of community and keep you living in fear of being found out. Come into the light. And when someone is courageous enough to admit they’re not doing well, celebrate it and encourage with mercy and love.
7. This is Everyone
Everyone needs Jesus, and no group contains everyone. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking everyone in the room is everyone that would benefit from your group. We are sent people and we are meant to be inviting people. Let’s not live for ourselves, but for the good of others and for the sake of He who lived and died for us. Help others in your church get connected into biblical community. Invite people outside the church to come experience it as well.
My hope is this might help you think through your own assumptions. I know it made me pause a few times. Maybe this will spark a good discussion in your group this week. Ideally the hope is it leads us to gospel transformation and increasing joy in Jesus Christ.
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25