This term has become commonplace in recent years within both mainstream and church culture. A common dictionary source defines “community” as a group sharing common interests and having a distinct sense of identity. Most within church culture would define Christian community in a similar way; most followers of Jesus come to a community group expecting to share a “common interest” in Bible discussion and feel a “sense of identity” by forming close relationships.
Should Bible discussion and close relationships characterize a community group? Absolutely. Should these characteristics alone ultimately define our understanding of true Christian community and community groups? Absolutely not.
Community groups have a potential far greater than this. Community groups can be a primary avenue through which we glorify God by making disciples of all nations. Why does community group matter? There are a multitude of reasons, but here we will focus on three of the most essential ones.
First, community group matters because the point of everything is to make disciples. Biblically, what is the primary purpose of a community group, or of anything else? In Scripture, we see that there is only one primary purpose for all things in all of creation – to exalt and magnify the glory of God. God created us for His glory (Isa. 43:6-7), He forgives us for His glory (Isa. 43:25), He calls us to do all things for His glory (1 Cor. 10:31), He is coming again for His glory (2 Thess. 1:9-10), and He will one day fill the earth with His glory (Hab. 2:14).
Therefore, we must ask: What is the primary means by which God can receive glory through our lives? John 15:8 states, “By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples.” Also, in Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus gives His final assignment to His people. The only command in this assignment in the original Greek is to “make disciples” or “turn people into disciples”. Thus, the primary means by which God can receive glory through our lives is fruitful, biblical disciple making. Furthermore, the goal of this disciple making for every believer must always be a multitude of worshippers from every nation and all tribes, peoples, and languages (Rev. 5:9-10, 7:9-10).
In community group, this vision must constantly be cast before the people God has entrusted to us. I tell our group all the time (and my apprentices even more often!) that our purpose is not simply to talk about the Bible or to “hang out”, although we do both of these things. Instead, our purpose is to glorify God by making disciples of all nations, and community group is an excellent means by which we can do this. We don’t make disciples in order to have a better group; instead, we have a group in order to make better disciples. The point of everything is to make disciples.
Second, community group matters because discipleship happens in community. Community group provides a context within which more mature believers can take personal spiritual responsibility for less mature believers, “until we all attain…to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13). We say all the time in my group that “discipleship happens in community, but community doesn’t guarantee discipleship.” In our community group, we who lead seek to be intentional with everything we do for the training (not just teaching, but training) of those we disciple.
Each week when we gather, our group divides into 4 established “sub-groups” for a significant portion of our time together, with an apprentice leading each sub-group. We use this time to train people for gospel input, gospel output, and gospel application throughout the week and lovingly hold them accountable to follow through. In turn, I meet twice a month with our 3 apprentices to train them in the disciple-making vision and strategy of Jesus. By God’s grace and through this intentional process, discipleship happens in our community.
Finally, community group matters because to be saved is to be sent. We try to constantly remind each other that to own the gospel personally is to owe the gospel globally (cf. Rom. 1:14-16). The only way that a small group of people can make disciples of all nations is through multiplication. Therefore, we are intent on sending people and developing a community which demonstrates that gaining comes by losing (cf. Jn. 12:24).
As group leader, I am constantly seeking to develop a “sending culture” within our group. We encourage our group members to make disciples in their daily lives and to invite them to join our group, if it aids their disciple-making process. Also, we plan and hope to send each apprentice to plant a new group (and to take as many of our people with them as they can!) within a year of beginning the apprenticeship process. A sending culture is often a messy culture, yet we are eager to be generous because God has been so generous to us in the gospel. Jesus’ example shows us that to be saved is to be sent.
In summary, true Christian community is one of the greatest blessings God has given us in this life. The community group structure at Mercy Hill is an effective path through which people can be saved, sanctified, and sent to glorify God by making disciples of all nations. I highly encourage you to find and invest yourself in a biblically healthy community group for the glory of God.
-Isaac Grose (Community Group Leader)
Within this post, all are encouraged to invest themselves in a healthy community group for the glory of God. Now is the perfect opportunity to do that at Mercy Hill Church. Grouplink is around the corner and is the best way to connect and apply the principles that have been outlined. If you’ve been thinking that you are going to get involved with a community group but have yet to do so, don’t let this opportunity pass by without acting. Sign up for Grouplink today!