Two of the most common definitions of community are:
- A group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.
- The condition of sharing or having certain attitudes and interests in common.
Both of these are helpful when considering community within the church. However, important distinctions exist; our common interest is Christ and our common attitudes are to be Christ-centred. He is the reason we come together and it is he who unites us, whatever our background, social status, gender, culture or age. If the main reason we come together is for any other common interests or attitudes, then we could effectively build a community without the need for Jesus. The uniqueness of gospel-centred community groups is that whilst we may have other common interests and attitudes, the truth and power of the gospel is what draws us together.
Why Community Groups?
Firstly, the Trinity helps us to see what true community looks like.
God is in relationship with himself. Each person of the Godhead has different, unique personalities, but God is in unison with his desire for man to be brought back into a right relationship with himself and with each other. Each person in the Trinity plays a role in this work of restoration in the lives of humans.
Secondly, we see community outworked in the church in Acts 2:42-47
- 42: “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. (Fellowship is association with people who share common interests).
- 44: “And all who believed were together and had all things in common.
- 46: “And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes.
Thirdly, Matthew 28:19-20 states: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Whilst Sunday gatherings is a place of discipleship, more often growth occurs through developing deep relationships and working out the implications of the gospel both cognitively and practically with other people. This can happen more easily in smaller group settings, such as community groups.
With regards to discipleship, when we look at Jesus’ earthly ministry we see he disciples through teaching, dialogue, discussion and practical application. He teaches large crowds of people and he sends out the 72, but also he spends time training and equipping a smaller group for works of ministry, i.e. the Apostles. When we study Jesus’ relationship with the Apostles, we see that it isn’t a classroom relationship. Instead, he created a learning community which made space for growth, to the point that when he finished his earthly ministry, these men were equipped to take and spread the good news of Jesus and plant churches in Jerusalem, Samaria and to the ends of the earth. Jesus’ three years of input into these men set the foundation for the early church. His input shaped their character as they ate, played, conversed, shared counsel and studied with one another. Similarly, we are shaped most by our primary community, i.e. those we spend the most time with.
In conclusion, Hebrews 10:24-25 states: “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.” This is a motivator for us to meet often, both in the wider church gathering on a Sunday, so we can be discipled and shaped by the message preached, and in the smaller community group setting, so we can affirm, encourage and stir one another to love and good works. If we truly want to grow and be effective for Jesus, then both settings are needed. Then, we will be better equipped to reach our city.
 For example, Luke 6:34.
 Luke 10:1-20
Written by Ant Meczes