Gospel Communities. Life Groups. Cell Groups. Bible Studies.
- February 28, 2019
- Jessica Fields
Every church I’ve ever attended has had weekly small groups, where members come together to study the Word and experience life together.
This concept of coming together around a common cause is not unique to Christianity – everyone wants to find community. It’s human nature.
It’s also God ordained.
Genesis 1:26: ‘Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”’
Now God, as the King of kings, would be totally within His right to be using the royal ‘we,’ but that’s not what He’s doing. How do we know?
In Genesis 1:2 we see that the Spirit of God hovered over the waters, and John 1 says “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without nothing was made that has been made.”
From the beginning, before time began, God was in community – Father, Spirit, Son.
I remember the first time I heard a pastor preach about God being community within Himself. It just made sense. Community existed before creation, and all of creation was designed to live within community. I felt that drive within myself, that yearning to know and be known, but knowing that it was part of my design gave me a desire to pursue it wholeheartedly.
I heard Matt Chandler speak recently, and in his sermon he pointed out that to be 99% known is to be unknown. There isn’t a person out there that doesn’t have at least 1% of themselves that they long to keep hidden and pushed down. Fortunately for the health of our souls, and unfortunately for our fearful hearts, the Gospel calls us to community and vulnerability.
The Westminster Shorter Catechism starts out with this question: “What is the chief end of man?”
The answer? Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.
Now it’s pretty hard to enjoy someone without relationship. And true relationship involves at least a degree of vulnerability. Luckily for us, God already knows all of our secrets, and He still loves us, so all we have to do is humbly acknowledge His grace.
If step one of community is to fully enter into relationship with God, following the model He Himself displays, step two is entering into relationship with the world around us. Jesus calls us into this when he explains the greatest commandment, saying “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.
I’ve never forgotten how vital community is, but I’ve felt myself slowly trying to retreat from full vulnerability. I’ve been deeply vulnerable before, sharing my 1%, and it didn’t end well. The thought of approaching that again feels terrifying.
I feel fine with 99% vulnerability. But that isn’t what God calls us to. He certainly doesn’t demand that we be 100% vulnerable with 100% of people, but my hesitancy to lay 100% of myself down, and the jolt of fear my soul feels at the thought of any one person knowing me fully, drive a wedge between me and the Lord.
But then I reminded of the character of Jesus. A man who never backed down from calling out sin and injustice, but who also consistently responded with love and grace. A man who demanded that His followers lay down everything, but who also invited the weary to take upon themselves His easy yoke.
It would appear that community, like many aspects of our walks with the Lord, demands of us great things, but invite us into the greatest of hopes. Casual community is easy, and deep community can feel terrifying, but where God leads, He provides. He has called us into community, and it won’t be perfect on this side of heaven, but we must continue to enter into vulnerability, trusting that through it God is doing a transformative work in our hearts.