June 2022 Message from Pastor Blake

Creating Life Transforming Community at ACEFC

I just finished teaching a Sunday school class meant to train growth group leaders and encourage people to participate in a growth group. I am going to summarize the three-week class in two points!

Christian Community is not optional

I attended a church that emphasized small groups as the primary vehicle for Christian discipleship. The pastor would say that you must be in a small group to be a growing Christian. I asked the Sunday school class how they felt about that statement. It led to good discussion among the people in the class. I concluded that small groups are not essential, but community is not optional.

If you are not part of a small group, then how do you experience Christian community? I think it’s possible to experience community outside of small group, but you must be intentional about it. I think growth groups are an easy way to have community with other believers.

I admit that community is messy! Our world is filled with relationship issues. You may be hesitant to enter relationships with others because you have been abused, manipulated, and taken advantage of in the past. You may prefer to isolate from others instead of seeking others out.  I don’t think this is the right response. We as Christians were created for community. I think this roots all the way back to creation. God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” Notice the plural pronouns. This verse implies that God existed in fellowship and community with Himself since eternity past. It also implies that we were created in His image. One way to reflect God’s image is to be in community.

Bruce Ware says, “we should not view ourselves as isolated individuals who happen to exist near others, but as interconnected and interdependent persons in community.” We can admit this is hard! It’s not easy to live this way, especially in a world tainted by sin.

The good news is we are calling you into community with other Christians. Colossians 3:12-17 gives us a beautiful picture of a redeemed community. It is one filled with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, forgiveness, peace, truth, and wisdom.  Who doesn’t want to belong to a community like that?

Community is not an event

Have you ever been part of a growth group that felt like a chore? Have you ever dreaded going to growth group because it was life sucking and not life giving? There are many reasons for these feelings, but one reason could be you are looking at community group as an event and not as people and relationships. 

I look forward to Labor Day every year. Not only because I get a day off work, but also because I get to spend a weekend with my friends. You don’t have to twist my arms to hang out with my friends. I joyfully and voluntarily meet with them. I am hoping the same is true with our small groups at ACEFC.

Friendship doesn’t just happen. It takes time, effort, and shared experiences. We need to move from viewing our growth group as a once a week or once every other week event to viewing our growth group as friends.  Friends do more than study the Bible together. They eat meals together; they do activities together; they share life together. A growth group needs to be able to talk about the Brewers and the Packers before they can talk about the hard things in their lives.

Community is built by spending more time together, not less! Fill your calendars with more activities with people in your growth group. Plan for supper together, park dates, grill outs, bonfires, and game nights.

Life giving growth groups happen when the people in the group are your friends. It happens when you want to be around the people instead of dreading their presence.

I understand that this will take a culture shift for some people. Culture will really change when people start seeing other people in the church being transformed. Culture changes when people in the congregation get the vision for community and start inviting people into their community.

Will you join this year? Will you consider leading a growth group or being part of a growth group? Will you try it for a year? I challenge you to join a growth group in September and stick it out through May of 2023. Make it a priority and make people a priority. Go all in on a growth group and see how your life changes between September to May. I am not saying it is a magic pil, but I bet you will be surprised how God works in your life, through other believers.

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1Brad House, Community: Taking your Group Small Group off Life Support, 149

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