As you hear the invitations this month to get into a Community Group, maybe you feel like you’re too busy and can’t add “1 more thing” to your life. So why does it matter anyway? What’s the big deal about being in a Community Group?
I’m glad you asked! Here’s a few reasons that I think a Community Group should be a high priority for every follower of Jesus:
1. God created you for authentic community relationships
Five times in Genesis 1 it says that after God created, He “saw that it was good.” At the end of the chapter it says, “God saw all that He had made, and it was very good.” Then in the very next chapter, the story line changes to something not good!
Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone…” Gen 2:18a
Isolation isn’t part of God’s plan for your life. His solution to the problem of isolation was family; God created Eve to be Adam’s wife and fill the void of being alone. God made every human being with an internal need for authentic relationships, and when we don’t have them, we experience loneliness.
In the New Testament, both Peter and Paul refer to the church as the “family of believers.” God provided you with a spiritual family, and in that family you will find the relational connections that defeat the discouragement of isolation.
2. We grow and change best in accountable community
If I were to ask you if there are areas that you need to grow in, chances are, you’d say “yes” and know right away what needs to change. If you’re serious about growing to be more like Jesus, then you’d better seriously considering doing it in a community of friends!
In a couple of studies on heart patients, it was discovered that:
- Only 1 out of 10 people were able to change to a healthy lifestyle when they were on their own
- 8 out of 10 people made significant and lasting changes to their diet, exercise, and habits when they were in an accountable community group that met weekly for one year
So what do heart patient studies have to do with the Christian life? Those studies exposed a principle of human nature that I’ve seen to be true in being able to stay the course in following Jesus. That’s what the writer of Hebrews was talking about when he wrote these words:
See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. (Hebrews 3:12-13)
We might think that some sins are “no big deal” or that “it doesn’t hurt anyone.” But as this verse describes, when we dabble in sin, it causes us to grow cold toward God and we turn away from him as a result. When we’re in accountable community with others who are also on a spiritual journey toward Jesus, they encourage us and help keep us from being ensnared by the deceptiveness of sin.
On the other side of the table, your Christian brothers and sisters need you to be there to encourage them to keep walking with Jesus and not be deceived by sin! You need your brothers and sisters, and they need you.
3. You’ll have a blast with your new friends!
Every Community Group needs to include a good dose of food and fun! And if you start going to a Community Group and they’re not having any fun, maybe God sent you to the group to liven it up!
So… what do you think? Is your spiritual life worth the time and effort needed to be in a community of friends? Invite a friend to join you and go find a group this week!
http://www.sdrock.com/communitygroups & click on “Find a Group”
“Bringing Pervasive Hope to San Diego as we grow closer to Jesus
in a community of friends”
Two of the best kids on planet Earth…just sayin’
So I’m a very late bloomer. I’ve heard about Crazy Love written by Francis Chan for years. I’ve seen the adds for it’s Community Group videos and heard quotes from Chan periodically. I even read Forgotten God which was written after Crazy Love, but had not yet read this best seller which had spoken to the hearts of so many…
It was the same when the Passion of the Christ was released in theatres. I was a hold out for two years. I couldn’t imagine watching my Lord in the last few days of his life, so I kept putting it off. I even bought the DVD when it was released and waited another year to actually put it in and hit “play.” Hitting play for me, I thought, was willingly walking into a dense cloud of conflicting emotions. Feelings of deep gratefulness, sorrow, flaming anger- all of it. I’ll never forget the flight where I finally pressed play and with a “quivering lip” cried like a baby for the next two hours.
Chapter nine and ten of Crazy Love was the perfect conclusion to an amazing book. It called me to a higher level of sacrifice and a higher level of obedience to God. For me, the book’s summary could simply be that one day we’ll stand before the Creator of our Lives and may he be inclined to say, “Good and faithful servant…”. But is the life we’re living now WORTH the sacrifice Christ made on the cross? Is it worth the crazy love he has showed to us and the cost of this free grace we have been given?
Throughout the book Chan is in a wrestling match with the rich and selfishly apathetic nature of Western Christianity. We know that this isn’t always the case, but it’s undeniable and a blaring weakness of our culture. He does a good job of bringing light to this and calling it out through scripture and love.
When my wife Nicole and I were weeks away from our wedding she had a stroke because her body was filled with blood clots. After six weeks of bouncing from the ICU unit to the neuro-step down unit, and then back to ICU, we came face to face with death on three very real occasions. I hung a sign in our hospital room that read, “When you don’t understand God’s ways, trust his heart.” We reminded ourselves of his heart on a daily basis. When we finally came to the day she was to leave the hospital Nicole felt the Spirit of God say to her, “Nicole, I gave you today. What are you going to do with it?”
I’m reminded of a quote my Uncle Eric shared with me at 15 years old. He said, “Chad, my greatest fear is not that I won’t succeed, but that I will succeed at something that doesn’t really matter.”
If you haven’t already, I pray that today, in this moment, you will get on your knees and experience the crazy love that God offers to you. If you have, I pray that you will join me on my knees and thank him over and over for the grace he has given us.
“You are awesome and words fall short as we seek to describe how wonderful you are. Thank you for saving us. Thank you for bringing us into relationship with you. Thanks for filling us with life. Thanks for the opportunity to share you with others. Help us to live a life worthy of your cross. We need you. We need your help. Help us to love you like we want to. Fill us with more of your spirit. Help us to see the world through your eyes. We want to love you more. Amen.”
Have you ever met someone who had been a Christian for a long time, but nobody liked being around him or her because they were so cranky? I have. Maybe they faithfully attend church and hear sermons, study the Bible and pray a lot, yet they’re still spiritually immature. They still use their words in a hurtful way, and still think it’s all about them. And if you’ve never met a person like that… look in the mirror because that person just might be you!
Growing as a Christian is a lot like the stages people go through in growing from infancy to adulthood. Every phase has its own set of characteristics, discoveries, joys, and frustrations. If you had a child that never matured physically, emotionally, and mentally past 3 years old, you would be greatly concerned and go see the doctor. Yet it’s not an unusual thing for a person to be a Christian for a lot of years and still be a spiritual baby. I don’t think God meant it to be that way!
You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food. For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do what is right. (Hebrews 5:12-13, NLT)
I think that part of the problem is selfish consumerism. Western society has trained us to be savvy consumers – how does the “product” make me feel? Apply consumer thinking to Christianity, and you have a steady flow of people who grow dissatisfied with a church or ministry and move on to the next “product” that makes them feel good. But if we move on every six months or two years, we don’t grow beyond our selfishness. It’s like we remain in spiritual puberty perpetually, trying to figure out who we are, trying to fit in but always feeling like an awkward junior high boy who just had a growth spurt and is breaking out in zits all over his face.
It’s not just a 21st century dilemma though, 2000 years ago, many of Jesus’ followers turned away from him (John 6:66). When he asked the twelve if they wanted to leave as well, Peter replied,
“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” (John6:68-69, NIV)
Even though the disciples had all sorts of issues and immaturities, eleven of them recognized who Jesus really was and kept following. After spending three years with Jesus, they were ready to carry his Kingdom mission to the world. They weren’t perfect, but had grown closer to him and were available to be used by him.
Here’s a few thoughts on growing beyond selfish consumerism:
- Choose to keep following Jesus, even when it’s tough; develop spiritual habits that include reading the Word and praying daily. Ask God to shape your character and help you grow.
- Follow Jesus in a community of friends (i.e. join a Community Group where you can be encouraged to keep following and grow beyond selfishness – http://www.sdrock.com/communitygroups/find/).
- Get involved in bringing pervasive hope to your neighborhood through a monthly outreach project with your Community Group.
When the guy at the bait shop told us that we’d catch so many fish that our arms would get tired, we laughed. Yeah, right! Then he said that we’d let our line go slack, hoping the fish would unhook themselves. Little did we know the fun that awaited us that day!
My dad and I were on our way to fish at the mouth of Sebastian Inlet, just south of Cape Canaveral, Florida. We heard that when the tide changes and the baitfish were swept out with the current, the bluefish gather for a feeding frenzy. Bluefish aren’t necessarily the best tasting fish, but they’re sure fun to catch!
Just like the guy at the bait shop said, we caught so many fish that day that our arms got tired and we let our line go slack, hoping they’d unhook. Almost every cast produced a 1 or 2 pound bluefish. There were even times when we’d pull in the line and there would be two fish on the same lure! We filled up two 5-gallon buckets, and then started throwing the fish back. When we got back home, we realized that we had way too many fish and started giving them away to all our neighbors.
Some of Jesus’ disciples loved fishing too… at least we know that’s what they did for a living before meeting Jesus.
Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” (Mark 1:16-17)
In this short but powerful call to discipleship, I see four things that Jesus calls every disciple to engage in:
Community: “Jesus said to them…” Jesus invited each disciple to be part of a group that would learn together, travel together, serve together, and grow together. In a similar way, you and I are invited to be part of the body of Christ, which means that we are in family relationship. Every Christian needs a group of friends that they can journey with through life, and a small group is a great place to find that kind of community. Discipleship takes place in the context of relationships.
Q. Are you growing closer to Jesus in a community of friends?
Surrender: “Follow me…” In order to follow Jesus, I have to let go of something. For the disciples, it was the fishing profession. Verse 18 says that “immediately they left their nets.” If I follow Jesus, it means that I’m no longer in charge. I’m not blazing my own trail any more, I choose to take a new path, Jesus’ path.
Q. Who’s in the driver’s seat of your life?
Transformation: “I will make you become…” Notice the order; follow first, and then change comes. Jesus didn’t tell the disciples to get their act together, go to Bible school, kick all their bad habits and then they could be his disciples. He chose them to follow right then, just like they were, and then he was going to make them into something different. If you’re a Christian, but your life isn’t changing, you’d better check to see who you are following! When you follow Jesus, he will change your life!
Q. Where have you seen God change your life lately?
A kingdom-building lifestyle: “…fishers of men.” Jesus doesn’t save us to become nice people. You and I were saved to fulfill God’s mission. Jesus came to earth to “seek and to save the lost.” Being a disciple of Jesus means that you are involved in his “seek and save” mission. And by the way, there’s no difference between being a Christian and being a disciple!
Q. What kingdom-building opportunity do you need to get involved in?
While fishing for bluefish is fun and exciting, it pales in comparison to fishing for people! When we help someone know Jesus, we’re making a difference in his or her life for eternity!
Q. Have you answered Jesus invitation to “follow me?”
I led my first small group when I was in college, and since committing my life to Christ only about 10 months earlier, I certainly didn’t feel qualified for it! I had invited a friend to an outreach event where he became a Christian, and afterward I asked my small group leader how to help him grow. I wasn’t ready for the answer: “You start a small group and disciple him!” That started me on adventure of helping others grow in their faith, and in the process I grew in leaps and bounds myself.
Why would anyone want to lead a group? At a foundational level, every Christian is called to be a disciple of Jesus. In his words, “Follow me and I will make you become fishers of men.” (Mark 1:17). Following Jesus means that we give up our right to be in charge of our lives, submitting to him as the leader. As we follow, he transforms our lives; he has a plan for us to become more like him, and a purpose for us to fulfill in building his kingdom. I believe that as we become more like Jesus, every one of us is responsible to help others in their spiritual journey too – and Community Groups at the Rock Church are a great place to get involved in the adventure of discipleship!
Maybe you’re like I was at the beginning, feeling totally inadequate and not qualified. But if you have a genuine love for God and are seeking to follow him, and have a love for other people and want to make a difference in their lives, you might be called and ready!
Remember, you’re not alone! When you became a Christian, God gave you the Holy Spirit to empower you to accomplish his will. If you’ll step out in faith and lead a Community Group, you’ll find God working in and through you in a new way that will blow your circuits!
What’s the process to start a Community Group at the Rock?
1. Fill out an online application – http://www.sdrock.com/communitygroups/lead/
2. Attend the two-hour “Intro to Rock Small Groups” training:
- North County Campus – 3 Sunday of every other month; contact firstname.lastname@example.org for dates
- Point Loma Campus – last Sunday of each month at 2 p.m. (other than July, November & December)
3. At the Intro to Rock Community Groups, you’ll begin filling out a Small Group Plan, then in the following week meet with a Community Groups Coordinator or your Coach to review your plan and help you get started
4. In the following weeks and months, we’ll walk with you through the process of filling your Community Group and getting a healthy start. There will be further training opportunities, and you’ll have regular contact with our staff and Coach
Need more information? Email or call! Dave.email@example.com, 619-764-5130
“We always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power.” (2 Thess 1:11)
Dave Stewart, Community Groups Pastor
P.S. If you’re not in a Community Group now, I’d encourage you to get involved in one in your neighborhood! You can search for a group at http://www.sdrock.com/communitygroups/find/