I have recently noticed a trend of churches giving up on the notion that community is an essential component of church life.
Many are deciding that community is an optional experience that is helpful but not elemental to being a healthy disciple of Jesus.
I think this is a significant mistake. There is no biblical support for personal, autonomous Christianity. If we want to truly make disciples who advance the gospel, we must not only see the importance of community, but we must understand it to be essential to the church.
Community is a gift of God’s grace and essential for the Christian life. Community is not a peripheral ministry. Our communities should be the most palpable expression of the gospel within the church. As culture reflects the values of its citizens, Community Groups reflect the values of the church.
If our church does not place a high value on community, then we are already disconnected from the gospel convictions related to community.
My experience has been that most churches consider community a value, but many have a hard time living out that value in a way that is visible and recognizable. The church is constantly pulled to do so many things that it can be easy to neglect or devalue Community Groups within the sea of programs churches provide.
If, however, we are going to breathe life back into the community of the church and see it function as God designed, we need to start thinking differently. Social justice, overseas missions, youth programs, food banks, sports ministries, and so on are acceptable programs, but they are not the center of God’s mission. They are support tools through which a gospel-saturated community can intentionally engage the world.
If we put all our energy into the tangential and neglect the center, we have no fertile ground where people can land and grow. I have heard such tangential ministries described as a funnel, drawing people into the church as they swirl toward the center.
Ignoring the visual similarity to being flushed, the problem with a funnel is that it has a hole in the center.
Similarly, this has also been my experience when we neglect building the body of Christ. In order to breathe life back into your small group ministry, you must have a clear sense of its value and importance to your church.
You cannot hope to gain momentum and life in such a ministry while simultaneously marginalizing it through resource allocation or ministry dilution. Elevating Community Groups to the proper (and balanced) level of significance is critical for breathing life back into your small group ministry.