Malaise and Purpose in Community Groups
Recently I heard someone say that their Community Group lacked purpose. I was disappointed to hear that, but I think I understand the malaise. I want to make three comments to clarify and perhaps inspire us in the purpose of Community Groups.
First, remember that God has sovereignly, deliberately placed us in geographic proximity to other real people. Therefore, one of your purposes in Community Group is the real person sitting next to you. Community Groups provide the means, the structure for you to experience others. We Americans need this. Our wealth “frees” us to avoid each other.
Secondly, then, our purpose in Community Groups is for the other person. Community Groups are, in one sense, not for us. (They are for us - I speak to this below.) But we think enough about ourselves. We need to think about the real people who are near us. Think what exactly?
Three factors, mixed together, are true of every person. All three should interest you about others, because they are true about you. Every person is a mixture of situation, person, and God. Every person lives under daily pressures, responding to those pressures out of their heart, and always out of avoidance of or loyalty to God. Every person has “heat”, produces “thorns” or “fruit”, and needs the redeeming work of Jesus, by faith in him. Every person has opportunities in life (for good or for evil), and corresponding desires (for good or for evil), and is always relating to God in it all (for good or for evil). Situation, person, God.
If you miss these three perspectives, you’ll miss people. You’ll miss your purpose. You’ll get bored.
Do you know the unbelievers in the others’ situation? If you did, you might find a shared mission and purpose to pray for their souls and bring them to Jesus. You’ll get shared ideas about how to reach out to them. Do you know the other’s pressures? How they respond to them? The promises of God that they remember or forget? Your proximity means God purposes you to be a means of grace to them.
And the other to you. Third, in Rom. 8:32, God promises to “give” us all things, in Jesus. He causes all things - including all the people we exist nearby - to become “good” to us. Community Group relationships are not often “best” friendships. That’s OK. We need both “neighbor” and “best” friends. God puts us in close proximity to both, that through both He would “give us all things”.*
*On this point, I commend to you chapter 8 of John Piper’s “Future Grace”, called “The Solid Logic of Heaven”. And I commend the rest of the book!