I thought these points you brought up were helpful and worth exploring…
1) Honest vulnerability is essential
2) Gospel community isn’t about ourselves
3) Each member of the group has something to give to another
4) We’re in it for the long haul, 24/7
5) Connecting with one another outside of the weekly meeting.
My attempted answer to your question “what makes real community?”:
There are so many quick responses I can spout out: “It’s people sharing their lives with one another”, “It’s centered around Christ and He’s the common bond and reason we love one another”, “It’s meeting regularly”…
Those are very true things, but what does that REALLY mean and what does that look like?
The prefix comm- means that “with” or together” modifies the word. So community literally means “with unity”! So I guess the next question is what does unity look like?
When we were praying before our “cell group” was started we were being silly and thinking of a tailored name for our little gathering. Amanda Lee thought Harmony would be a perfect name to describe our vision for the group. She explained how when a group harmonize together the purpose is to make everyone sound better so the sound as a whole is beautiful. Each person must sing their part well and in a way that makes the others sound even better! There can be a group with the most amazing voices, but if they compete and sing over one another it will sound horrible.
The definition for harmony is – “the quality of forming a pleasing and consistent whole; an arrangement of the 4 Gospels, or of any parallel narratives, that presents a single continuos narrative text; agreement or concord”.
Here are a few major components that promote unity: honest vulnerability, sacrifice, sharing, commitment, communication.
Honest vulnerability is essential. How can we have community if we don’t really know one another? How can we help one another if we don’t know where we need help? “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body” (Eph 4:25). There must be genuine personal depth in our communication.
If we go on flippantly repeating all the verses and phrases we’ve read or heard from others we may not be writing them on our hearts and actively causing God’s truth to come alive and transform our lives. If someone is opening up in vulnerability, we must first listen. Ask God to give us His love for that person so that He can heal and comfort them whether He leads us to speak or not. I’ve so often been too impatient to listen and a verse comes to mind so I spurt it in their face before they’ve finished sharing. Or I’m too focused on myself so I see their condition through my own lens (mindset, perspective, history, and worldview) and respond with a “feel good answer”. So rather than giving them living water and bread, I hand them candy that will eventually give them a stomach ache and rot their teeth.
However, all this honest sharing can be going on but if it’s being done for the glory of man or to be accepted by man, I’d have to say it’s not true community. Because fear of man is really a selfish thing anyways. It’s not really for the others that we want acceptance, it’s for ourselves. Soooo
Sacrifice. Because gospel community isn’t about ourselves. Each member is living for the good of the others (individually and as a whole). Christ is our example Phil 2:1-11 I wanted to write an example for each but this is getting long and out of control.
Sharing means a literal sharing (food, house, car, time, interests, possessions) as well as an emotional and spiritual sharing. “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15). Worshipping and praying with one another are some of the deepest ways to share with one another.
A right and radical sharing would come from the perspective that we (the Church) are one. “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me” (John 17:20-21).
This also means that each member of the group has something to give to another. Each member should feel like an irreplaceable member, because they are!!
“…and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good (esv) A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other (nlt) …So God has put the body together such that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity. This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad. All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it” (nlt) 1 Cor 12:5-7, 24-27.
Like a family, we’re in it for the long haul, 24/7. This also promotes a great amount of trust and investment.
What’s a relationship without communication. AND the suffix to the word is -unication! This means connecting with one another outside of the weekly meeting. Communication shows others that you care. We can’t read each others’ minds so we need to be effective communicators.
Honestly, I just read Romans 12 in the New Living Translation and I think that’s a pretty good outline. Love in action!]]>
Yep, the group I’m a part of does those things with the intention of wanting more Jesus. It is at the heart of the group. It is not always at the forefront practically (though it is in a weird way…would take time to explain), but at the center, and underneath, we do the things we do because it says so in scripture, because it brings us joy, and because we know our Lord better through them. Our larger gatherings are always centered upon Jesus, but the off-shoots are indirectly bringing Him glory.
When someone new comes to our comm. group it is sometimes the things we do together, the play times, or the meals that Christ uses to bring them, connect them, and love them, but I believe I’ve seen Him do a work through these things that leads to them loving Him more. So at first, transformation may seem to happen through living life together, but then deeper transformation takes place…
Before I followed Jesus I was part of a couple close knit groups of friends. We knew each other, lived life together, and helped each other get through tough times. But they weren’t transformative, they didn’t make me look like Jesus, and they didn’t offer me anything near to kind of care that a Christian can – from comfort in the smallest issues to comfort in larger life issues – and that’s probably why when I went off the deep end they weren’t able to bring me back…something that I’m sure that the power of Christ and the Holy Spirit could do through the believers in my life now :)
I’ll stop now :)]]>