The fact of community, and the mode of community, are two different things in the church. This is different from the world, where we pursue a mode of community - could be Boy Scouts, Rotary, or just being neighborly - because we think that will create community. But God reverses that order in the church. We are already a community, created by Him, by uniting us by faith to Jesus. Therefore, we are free to pursue a mode that follows Scripture and best fits our time and place.
“Small groups” are the common mode of community in the American church. We do two different types of groups here at EFree: larger Community Groups (CG’s) - defined by geography, and smaller Discipleship Groups (DG’s) - defined by affinity. Here are some distinctives about these modes of community:
Flexibility: There is wide flexibility for how and what each group does. Some DG’s read a book, while others review last week’s sermon.
Mission: All of our groups should have evangelism as a primary feature, either as a repetitive point of discussion and prayer, or as a “middle place” for unbelievers to actually take part and taste of our life together in Christ.
Launch Platforms, Not End Destinations: Groups are not ends in themselves. Jesus calls us to make disciples, not groups. Groups are launch platforms, for Spirit-driven relationships “downstream” from the group. In CG’s, we get to know those nearby us, saved and unsaved, to live together in Christ, glorifying him by enjoying him together. In DG’s, we learn how to attend to each other’s souls with prayer and Word, in the details of real life. The modes of CG’s or DG’s springboard into other modes downstream: a text message with Bible promises; a call asking how God answered prayer; a dinner, a hike, an RSL game, with unsaved friends - just life together, in Christ.
Permission to Deep Friendships Where Found: If you need to hear this, you have permission to have spiritually-enriching relationships outside of “official” groups. We do believe that Community Groups are a necessary mode for this time in history, because we Americans are a fragmented, isolated generation. So take part in your Community Group, loving the others and being loved, as God leads you.
Means of Grace: Remember, “community” - fellowship - is a means of grace, of getting more of God, who satisfies us most. Seek God in community, and you will also find personal satisfaction. Seek personal satisfaction in relationships in community, and you will find none of the above.