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The tensions of small groups – being family and being on mission

This weekend my family and I are going on vacation. We’re going to pack ourselves into our Citroën C8 (which has about 1/8th of the packing space our Honda Odyssey had) and drive to London. It’s going to be great – time together, building memories, eating together, seeing the sights, doing Legoland! But at the same time, we are a family trying to follow after Jesus and he’s sending us out to show God’s love to people. How will we balance the tension of time together and doing the things that the King would have us do? I’ll let you know.

This is also the tension that small groups and home groups in the church face. Small groups are meant to be the new family unit of God – a place of safety, growing, honesty and even conflict. But they’re also meant to be the most basic unit to bring God’s light to dark places. Most groups do one much better than the other. Some are really great at helping anyone feel welcome and comfortable. Other groups are closed both to new members and serving other. Other groups go the other way and care for outsiders at the expense of insiders and members. None of these seem quite what God had in mind.

I will not give you a formula. Instead I want to put out these two values as tensions that each leader and small group must hold up.

You are the family of God

(If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?)
But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God.
Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.
then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.

You are on mission with God

 

Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there. When the crowds heard Philip and saw the signs he performed, they all paid close attention to what he said. For with shrieks, impure spirits came out of many, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. So there was great joy in that city.
If an unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eatwhatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience.
Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers; prophecy, however, is not for unbelievers but for believers.
Jesus Raises a Widow’s Son
11 Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. 12 As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. 13 When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.”

 

Just like my family on vacation, if we want to be true to who we really are, we must do both. Be the family of God – restoring, growing, feeding, protecting and sharing; and be on mission with with God – reaching, loving, healing, touching and giving.

What else is at tension here? What are we called to that seem to war with each other for attention and time?


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Why I love being in a small group

I grew up in a Christian home, but in the same way that being born in McDonald’s does not make you a hamburger, being born to Christian parents does not make a person a Christian. My home was certainly the first place where I explored and experienced a life of faith, but it was just the beginning.

Fun times out skating in Belgium.  It wasn't hard to pick out the Canadians.

Fun times out skating in Belgium. It wasn’t hard to pick out the Canadians.

Youth group was a great place to discuss, and be real about doubts, passions and to try out my ideas. In my later teens I started groups where we studied the Bible or learned about life together. As I look back on my life, my spiritual journey has been highlighted by being involved in small groups. Sometimes bigger groups, sometimes just 2-3 families meeting together for meals and short prayers. They’ve helped me through low times and helped to grow in me skills and gifts that I use much more publicly today.

Maybe you’re on the fence about whether you have time for a small group. You might be unsure that you would like the people in a small group. You might be resisting joining or starting a small group because people (like me) seem to be putting a guilt trip on you. I understand – I’ve felt all those emotions and more.

Today, I’d like to share with you 3 reasons why I love small groups. This is a little exercise just to build my own faith and convictions. If it helps you, then that’s great. If not, I’m sorry to waste your time.

3 Reasons to Love and Join A Small Group

1. They are local. The closeness of God’s people to the rest of the world is essential to the health of the church and the sharing of good news. Sharing news from a long way away is much less effective than to come close and be the deliverer of good news. And people who are being changed by God’s good news need to be geographically close.
Small groups are the vehicles God uses to change things.
“The local church is the hope of the world!” Bill Hybels.

2. It’s the model that Jesus gave us. A group of friends, learning together to be like our master and to do the things he does, in the way that he does them. Jesus started with 12 and after 3 years of doing the stuff together, he left them with the Holy Spirit to “turn the whole world upside down.”

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Acts 2:42-47

3. We were meant to do this life of following Jesus together.
“No one can become a new [person] except by entering the Church, and becoming a member of the body of Christ. It is impossible to become a new [person] as a solitary individual. The new man means more than the individual believer after he has been justified and sanctified. It means the Church, the Body of Christ, in fact it means Christ himself.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer (The Cost of Discipleship)

And you? What keeps you from a small group? What keeps you in a small group?