One of the difficulties in launching new community groups is the messiness. Allow me to explain. When a group comes together to meet in a home, they have to deal with a myriad of issues and come to conclusions on a wide range of decisions, such as:
When do we meet?
Where do we meet?
What if that space isn’t big enough?
How do we handle kids?
How do we handle meals?
How do we handle the guy who monopolizes every discussion?
How do we handle the woman who’s rough around the edges?
What if our neighbors get upset because people park in front of their house?
What if....and the list goes on...
And though all of these questions are valid and difficult to navigate, we should also rejoice in them. Here’s why—they force us to think deeply about the gospel applied to life. Now, on the surface, the question of “when do we meet?” may not seem like a gospel-related question. But let’s factor in a culture which says that 2 Sunday services per month is considered regular, committed church attendance. Let’s also factor in soccer games, drama club, youth group events, scheduled family nights, etc., and now we are having a gospel discussion.
Still not following? Here’s how some of our group leaders are hammering this out. What am I willing to give up in order to commit myself to the community, for the good of my brothers and sisters— for whom Christ shed his own blood? What peripheral—or even central—concerns in my life will need to take a back seat to the needs of my community group? What freedoms can I give up in order to invest in gospel-centered relationships? These are the questions our leaders are asking.
Let’s look at another scenario. How should a group leader go about facilitating reconciliation between two group members who are involved in a petty argument? Some might say, “I’ll just avoid the drama!” But not our leaders. Our leaders are asking how the gospel bears weight on the situation. They are wrestling with texts like this one: “But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.” (1 Corinthians 8:9 ESV). And this one: “bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” (Colossians 3:13 ESV). And this one: “Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.” (Colossians 3:11 ESV)
These groups are embracing the messiness that gives them a chance to engage in gospel- conversations. How can we minister to the hurting? To those who are not like us? To those who we don’t naturally get along with? What does the gospel applied look like in those situations? And when we begin to ask those questions, we begin to grow in gospel-depth. What begins to happen is something like gospel growth. Paul writes, “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 4:15-16 ESV)
And these are but a few scenarios which our community groups have wrestled with and will continue to wrestle with. But we are encouraging them to embrace the messiness, for in doing so we see boundless opportunities for gospel-centered community. Are you ready to embrace the messy?