Have you ever noticed that whenever the Bible talks about believers, it uses metaphors that talk about Christians as a whole community, rather than as individuals?
- We need to be connected to the true Vine (John 15:1-8)
- We are one Body (Rom 12:4-5, 1 Cor 1:12-27, Eph 5:23)
- We are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession (1 Pet 2:9-10)
- We are a family, a household (1 Tim 3:5, 15)
This tells us something very important – Christians are not meant to be individuals alone, but part of a community of believers. What does it mean to be part of a community of believers, and why is it important?
We gather to remind ourselves of our common identity. When we gather, we remind each other through our presence and words that Jesus is Lord, yesterday, today, and forevermore. It reminds us Who we are living for, and why we are living this way.
We gather to encourage each other in our daily discipleship. When we meet, share our struggles, encourage each other, pray for each other and keep each other accountable, it is easier for us to continue living out our discipleship and to persevere on our journey towards Christ-likeness. We celebrate each other’s wins, and help to carry each other’s burdens (both spiritually and materially), but also rebuke each other when our lives show signs of turning away from God.
Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. 2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. 3 If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves.Gal 6:1-3
In community, we are discipled and we disciple others. We move each other further along towards the right, towards Christ-likeness, keeping Jesus’ Second Coming in mind.
23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.Heb 10:23-25
We gather to serve one another, and to serve together. When we are in community, we have the chance to serve each other – whether through hospitality, encouragement, affirmation, rebuke, teaching, worship, prayer, or other means. As we get to know each other deeply and gain an understanding of how we each struggle and what needs we each have, we are given opportunities to serve each other with every struggle and need.
We gather to know God and to make Him known. The Great Commission (Matt 28:18-20) tells us to go and make disciples of all nations. This means proclaiming Christ and making disciples of Christ, even while we follow Christ – and this needs us to know Christ deeply, and from this basis to live out our knowledge of Christ. That’s where our Christian community is important once again. We need each other to help us live lives that reflect Christ so that our lives will witness to Christ before we even see a word. And Christian community is the canvas that displays the love for each other that Christ has commanded (John 13:34-35, 15:12). As theologian Francis Schaeffer says, “Our relationship with each other is the criterion the world uses to judge whether our message is truthful—Christian community is the final apologetic.”
We gather intentionally in small groups. What do we mean by “gathering”? This could be anything from two Christians meeting for spiritual conversation, to a small group meeting for the purposes of Bible study, prayer, accountability, and fellowship, and even to the weekly Sunday worship service. Each of these has its place. But small groups are particularly important because it is in a small group context that each Christian is known deeply by not just one other person, providing a network of support for growth. We cannot grow when we are isolated – a Christian community where we are deeply known provides both the context and the stimulus for growth. Our small groups are where we prepare for the week’s worship, and where we live out the implications of worship. Small groups are not a “nice to have,” and not simply one more option in a myriad of church activities. Small groups are integral for Christian discipleship in community and are the foundation of all our ministry.
More information on our small groups.