community

What Makes LifeGroups Special?

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Adam Gibson, the author of this post, serves as one of our pastors and elders on the vision team along with Allen Tipping. For more information about our leadership, visit our Leadership page.

Most church small groups and classes will have some similar elements. Things like bible study and prayer are usually central. Hopefully bible application, confession, encouragement, and loving correction will also be included. All of these are elements that we have taught and implemented since we planted our church. I would argue that Scripture explicitly instructs us to incorporate all of them into our lives as believers, and that our growth as Christians will always be stunted without them.

On top of these crucial elements there are some additional ideas that, in my experience, make our vision for LifeGroups distinct. We try to lead our groups to have a goal of cultivating a community that enjoys one another and has a view towards welcoming others into it.

The Hard Work of Enjoying Others

We want our groups to put in the hard work of learning to actually enjoy one another. Some might ask, "why not just let biblical community happen naturally? Why does there need to be a formalized system (like LifeGroups) to make it happen?" While biblical community certainly can form naturally, it's been my experience that often this leads to fairly homogenous groups. We naturally gravitate towards people who look like us, think like us, talk like us, and do life like us. If we're not careful, this can mean that we never learn to love people who differ from us at all.

It is very easy to love the idea of biblical community. It is quite another thing to love the real people who are actually around you. Every day our fragmented, individualized society teaches us that if someone is different from me then I cannot meaningfully connect with them. Many American Christians have imported this idea into their view of the church and want to only share life with people they easily get along with.

A More Difficult and More Beautiful Picture

The biblical vision for the church stands in contrast to this however, and calls us to love the unlovely, the weak, the immature, the difficult...because this is how Jesus has loved us in our weakness and immaturity. We are to bear with the failings of the weak, welcome the immature, and love the real people around us, not just love the idea of community. In Christ, we are “family-fied.” We are united by something more powerful than anything that could separate us.

A gospel community should always have a view for enjoying the flawed humans who make it up, all the while welcoming others into it. We think this is the mission of the church. And when, fueled by God's Spirit, these things begin to come together, neighborhoods and cities begin to change.

Because of this, it is our expectation that your LifeGroup will be difficult at times. Learning to love people who are different than you will feel counterintuitive, and that's because it is. After all, we serve a God who came to earth, put on human flesh, and extended grace towards people who hated him, gossiped about him and eventually conspired to kill him. This should be our standard and our inspiration for our efforts to love and pursue those different than us.

Are you new to our church family and ready to join a LifeGroup? Get signed up here.

Friends, not Fans

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Peter Mathias, the author of this post, is a part of our 2013-2014

Residency

Class. To find out more about his residency, visit his

Residency profile page.

To find out more about the Residency Program, visit midtownres.com.

I confess, I like when others tell me how great I am (don’t act like I’m the only one).

In college I was part of an on campus ministry at the University of South Carolina. I threw myself wholeheartedly into being part of this group’s leadership. Every time I received accolades from those around me, I felt better about myself. But then that wasn’t enough. I had to strive more and more to get higher praise from those around me. I guess you could say all I was accumulating were fans. However, these “fans” were people I called friends. It was an empty exchange of not letting people come in on my mess. In the end, some of these guys had the guts to call me out on things I was struggling with. They spoke difficult truth to me, I didn’t want to hear it. In the end, I had never felt so loved before.For the first time in my life I now had friends, not just fans.

Do you pursue friends or fans?

Friends Confront

The reality is that none of us enjoy being confronted. If you do, you’re strange. We never wave our hands and yell, “tell me all the things I stink at in life!” When confronted, our instant reaction is often to run and find five other friends who will go against what we’ve just heard. But what if those who confronted us in love were really the people we needed most in our lives?

The Apostle James talks of this:

“My brothers and sisters, suppose one of you wanders away from the truth and someone brings you back.  Then here is what I want everyone to remember. Anyone who turns a sinner from going down the wrong path will save him from death.” –James 5:19-20

We would all agree that a true friend isn’t going to let you slip into a situation that will cause you to die. However, many of us surround ourselves with people who only agree with everything we say. There is no way in this broken world that everything you say and do is correct. Therefore, we need friends that will come beside us and push us toward the truth. We need friends, not fans. We need friends that will speak gospel truth to us and bring us back to what is right when we stray.

When the Going Gets Tough, Friends Get Closer

If you find that most of your friends come in and out of your life, perhaps you are seeking fans and not friends.

A friend sticks around on your bad days, they endure in difficult times, they love you through the mess. Consider the following proverb:

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. –Proverbs 17:17

A true friend digs their heels into the ground with you. They are not easily distracted from their goal for you, to know the freedom of Christ. When you stray from the truth of the gospel, they call you out. It can be painful at times. None of us like to be seen as imperfect. But a real friend loves at all time, they stick with you in adversity.

The challenge is simple. Do you want fans or friends?