Yesterday, I announced to my church about our move to community groups this upcoming fall. For us, community groups will be multi-generational, home-based, sermon-discussion, small groups. Our leadership team has been working very hard preparing for this move, and if you are curious your an read more about it on our church website. Today, I thought I would share with you three key scriptures that have led our church to make community groups an essential component of our discipleship strategy at Forest Hills.
1. Hebrews 10:19-25
“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:19–25, ESV)
This passage teaches us that community protects us from wandering. Because of the Gospel of Jesus, we have confidence that we have been cleansed by his blood and washed with pure water. We can now enter into God’s presence through the work of our great high priest, Jesus. Yet, now we must “hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering.” Temptation comes and attempts to waver our faith. Every day we are bombarded by demonic lies tempting us to abandon Christ for worldly treasures. Then the writer tells us the best defense from falling away from the faith. That defense is community. We are called to stir up on another to good works. We are brothers and sisters in arms, in the trenches of the Christian life together. So, we should not neglect meeting together. We must intentionally surround ourselves with the community of the church so that we can receive and give ministry one to another. This means that you have a God-given responsibility to make sure that the person sitting in the pew next to you makes it to the finish line. We must meet together, encourage one another, and stir up one another to obedience to Christ until the day of his returning draws near.
2. Ephesians 4:11-16
“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” (Ephesians 4:11–16, ESV)
This passage teaches us the aim of community, which is building up one another in love. Paul describes how leaders of the church, including the pastor-teacher, equip the body of Christ for the work of ministry. As the body is equipped, it grows into maturity, no longer tossed to and fro by the world. So the body is an organism, held together and joined, and when each part is working properly, the entire body grows itself up in love.
This means that you have an important roll to play in the maturity of the person in the pew next to you. God calls you to minister to them, build them up in love, speaking the truth to them, and growing them in love. This work of equipping does not just take place by the pastors (though they do lead the way), but the entire body builds itself up in love. Every church member covenants together to build one another up.
3. Acts 2:42-47
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:42–47, ESV)
This passage shows us the power of this simplistic but supernatural community. What does Gospel-centered, spirit-driven community look like? Look to this passage. We see the church devoting themselves to the teaching of the word, the breaking of bread and prayers. The people lived in close, intimate proximity with one another. They gave of themselves and they even gave of their financial resources. Each day they gathered together, they ate together in their homes worshiping the Lord. What was the result of this sort of community? Explosive, Gospel growth. “The Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” Community is more than just being in the same room, but its life on life, intimate, personal, vulnerable ministry to one another. This means you share laughs, you share tears, you share your burdens, you share your soul with one another.