What’s so important about fellowship?
I wouldn’t have much interest in church-community (or “fellowship”) if I thought about it the way it is often perceived and/or presented. Let’s be honest, we are all too busy for extra social events; and most are not really into touchy-feely gatherings.
BUT THAT IS NOT WHAT TRUE BIBLICAL COMMUNITY IS ABOUT.
What is Biblical community (or fellowship)?
Wouldn’t it be awesome to be able to peek through a window at one of the gatherings of the early church… to see and hear what these first believers were saying and doing? The end of Acts chapter two gives a little glimpse of how Biblical community was first displayed. This is a fantastic moment they experienced together; but keep in mind that this was only chapter 2. There was much more work to be done – and many more difficulties headed their way. They were going to need more and more of these moments as the mission grew larger and the opposition grew stronger.
I think we get a little peek through the window at a “small group” a little later in the New Testament… “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.” Hebrews 10:24–25 (NLT)
In the middle of all they were facing, these early believers were actively pursuing ways to awaken and motivate each other to continue moving forward. The genuine care and love that Jesus commanded would take work to develop and maintain. They would face growing hostility and would need strong encouragement to keep going.
With this in mind, how does community fit into a small group setting?
In modern day Western world, we have been given relative freedom to worship and spread the gospel. But our need to awaken and motivate each other,
-to keep each other from wandering off the path,
-to keep each other focused on Jesus’ mission,
-and to pick each other up when we fall is just as strong.
(There’s more, but you get the point.)
A healthy small group is comprised of people who are continually learning to follow Jesus together (Discipleship) in community with other believers. Community is vitally important. Yes, I do enjoy many of the social aspects of a small group; but I know I NEED the prodding and encouragement from other believers.
What does that practically look like?
Life can be tough, temptations can be strong, apathy can sneak in quickly, fatigue can drag you down. In order to continue growing in your relationship with God and pursuing the mission Jesus called us to, then you will need others in your life. This goes beyond pot luck dinners, couple’s activities, classes, small groups, and free coffee before church.
A small group should be an environment where quality relationships are being developed for the purpose of what Hebrews 10 describes: to keep each other focused, encouraged, and moving forward.
You need other believers in your life; and other believers need you in their lives. Some people get it, and some don’t. Some people want it, and others don’t. But at the end of the day, God designed us to live in relationship with others – both for our individual good and the good of His Kingdom.
What is your role as the Small Group Leader?
A good small group leader should work to create an environment where the individuals in the group are connected, encouraged, known, accountable, loved, cared for, and challenged to embrace what Jesus called us to do and be.
Think about it… People are more open to being challenged when they are first known, loved, and cared for.
(A Healthy Small Group Engine: Community 3/3)