Membership Update - Involved in Biblical Community (August 2010)

Posted by Randy | Labels: , , , , , , , , , | Posted On Thursday, August 5, 2010 at 1:51 PM

A couple of years ago our family was vacationing down on the western part of Galveston Island. There's a house down there that we've stayed at before (though not since Ike). One of the things I did down there was some grilling on a portable bar-b-q grille.

It was a little breezier than usual one evening as I was preparing to start up the grille. I set the charcoal in a pile and tried lighting it, but it was hard because of the wind. I finally got it started and stepped away to bring some things from the kitchen. When I got back most of the charcoal bricks were burning, but a handful had rolled off the pile and they were still dark. I got some tongs and put them into the flames, and they soon lit up like the rest of the coals.

As I watched those coals begin to heat up, I realized God was showing me a metaphor of why small groups in our church - any church - are important. Together, in a group, we can do more and accomplish what we're there for, but by ourselves we cool off and don't provide much heat or light. 

As I write this we're getting ready to take my daughter to TCU as she begins her freshman year there. One of my big hopes for her is to find a group of peers, of friends, that she can live life with, who have similar values and interests as she does. I know if she finds the right group it will make a huge difference in her college and life experience.

The truth is, all of us need smaller groups of 5-15 folks, where we are known, where we can let down our hair, where we can be real, where we can ask questions, where we can help others, etc. In our worship services of 500-800 it's easy to remain anonymous, and that can be a good thing as someone is checking out our church. They don't feel pushed, and they can take it at their own pace. But surveys have shown over and over that if a person doesn't connect with some small group of people, there's a 70-80% chance they will become inactive within a year. We were created for community, for being together, for doing life together. Whether an introvert or extrovert, we all have some level of need in this area.

God created us to go through life together. In Genesis, after creating the man, God knew He wasn't finished: "Then the LORD God said, 'It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.'" (Genesis 2:18 NLT2 - italics added) This passage is about more than marriage between a man and a woman - it shows that God created us for community, to be with others and help others: "The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part…" (1 Corinthians 12:25 Message) 

In smaller groups we know what's going on each others' lives and can help: "Share each others burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ." (Galatians 6:2 NLT2) Life in smaller groups is also a way God has provided for us to help each other grow in our faith: "I want us to help each other with the faith we have. Your faith will help me, and my faith will help you." (Romans 1:12 NCV)

The bottom line is that small groups are one of the primary places where we live and receive love. God is love, and love describes the motivation behind everything Jesus did. And love is the goal for Christ followers. Certainly a family is a small group, where love is the basis for the relationships, but the same is true for small groups in churches. We call them Life Groups here at Gateway, but we also have small groups in our Celebrate Recovery ministry, our Women's ministry, and even in our children's and student areas.

Here at Gateway we lift up what we call the GUIDE. It's an acronym that both describes what "a fully devoted follower of Christ" looks like, and it lists biblical practices and disciplines that guide us in our spiritual journey (read more about the GUIDE in my May Update). The "I" in GUIDE stands for "Involved in Biblical Community," because we know it is absolutely essential for anyone who wants to follow Christ. From Jesus' beginning in ministry he had twelve others alongside him, and if he lived this way, it says a lot about what each of us needs.

Biblical community comes as we try to live out the love of Christ with others. It happens in Life Groups and Celebrate Recovery. We have an event coming up in September called Group Connection on Sunday, September 19 at noon. Last year we placed over one hundred folks in small groups through this event. If you aren't in a Life Group, you can sign up this Sunday at the Ministry Booth or by contacting the church office. Yet, it's important to realize that biblical community is also available through our serving teams. When we serve alongside others, we experience community with those folks, too. 

What I want to do is encourage you to be intentional in your biblical community. Find a place(s) to experience it, and then help others do the same. We all need it, and the cool thing is that we can all give it.