Hey Community Bible family, Pastor Josh here with the blog for this week. I want to discuss the value of Groups ministry at Community Bible.
Groups is one part of the threefold discipleship strategy here, which also includes corporate gatherings and mission. When we gather together corporately we are able to worship together, to hear the Word of God proclaimed, and we’re able to experience the synergy that happens as the saints gather together. Then in mission we are able to serve; serve those within our church family and serve the world around us. And then there’s the Groups piece of our discipleship strategy. In groups we get a real sense of belonging, and we’re able to develop relationships where we know others and we’re known by others. This is where gospel community happens best — when our lives are properly centered on Jesus, His saving grace, and daily enabling grace.
Having said that, right now things look different than they have previously because of the COVID pandemic. Instead of all our groups meeting in person, we have some groups meeting in person, some groups meeting online, and yet still other groups mixing it up where some of the group members are in person while they Zoom in the rest of the group. So what groups am I talking about?
This week we opened registration for Community Groups and for one of our equip groups — a women’s study launching Sept 24 which will meet virtually. We have D Groups which are small gender-specific groups of 3 – 5 that get in the Word together, spend time supporting one another and provide accountability for one another. We have a focus group meeting virtually for folks who are grieving the loss of loved ones called GriefShare. We have a men’s group that meets on Tuesday mornings with in-person and virtual options. And even our NextGen ministry for children and students is built around groups.
So there are still several opportunities for you to be involved in Groups at Community Bible, even during a pandemic. But I would imagine there are some reading this who may be thinking “I already attend a service on Sundays, why should I also participate in a group?” Well I’m glad you asked!
There are 3 significant benefits that I’d like to mention in the next few paragraphs. First, is shepherding. To be sure, Jesus is the Good Shepherd and he has placed undersheperds here for the well-being of His flock; we call them pastors & elders, or the term overseer could be used. But the ratio of overseers to church body is frankly a bit overwhelming and makes shepherding well a challenging endeavor. And that’s where the various group leaders really shine… because God uses these folks to shepherd those within their groups.
We see an example of this sort of empowered shepherding in the OT in Exodus 18 starting in v.13 when Jethro, the wise father-in-law of Moses recognizes that Moses can’t effectively shepherd all the people who need shepherding, and says to him (and I’m paraphrasing): you and the people with you are going to wear yourselves out, for this thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone… look for able leaders from all the people, leaders who fear God, who are trustworthy and honorable, and place them over the people to help with the task of shepherding. When there were a few people, Moses could know them and shepherd them… but then the numbers blew up and Moses, like all leaders, could only know so many people… much less serve them well as a shepherd.
And of course we see it in the New Testament as Jesus identifies 12 men – twelve unlikely heroes – who would go on to champion the gospel, make disciples, change history, and ultimately change my life through the hearing of the gospel! So the first great benefit of being in a group is shepherding.
The second benefit of groups is fellowship. You know, we are relational beings, created in the image of a relational God. God himself exists eternally in relationship as Father, Son, & Spirit, and as image bearers we are created for relationship as well. There’s a vertical component of relationship – us with God – but also a horizontal component – us with one another. And we are designed to fellowship with one another. Dr. Gilbert Bilezikian says it this way: Community is deeply grounded in the nature of God. It flows from who God is. Because he is community, he creates community. It is his gift of himself to humans. Therefore, the making of community may not be regarded as an optional decision for Christians. It is a compelling and irrevocable necessity, a binding divine mandate for all believers at all times. And don’t we all enjoy fellowship with other people when we have things in common? When we are in Christ, we are bound with the most central of all things in common…the gospel. So I’ve mentioned shepherding and fellowship as benefits of being in a group, and the third is encouragement and accountability.
Hebrews 10:24-25 says: 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. I was recently on vacation with my family and we went tubing down a mountain river. While we were floating down the river the current would spin around and while we were talking and laughing with one another we would all take turns looking out for one another. We would let one another know when we saw them about to crash into rocks or when there were rapids ahead. Then we stopped and were wading around in the water for a bit, and as I stood there in the river, I could see fish looking upstream, and having to work just to stay in one place as the current rushed against them. I think our lives are like that. We have to look out for one another, encourage & exhort one another as the current of the world rushes against us. Knowing that you’ve got others who are for you, who are close enough to you to know you well, and that they are holding you accountable in the current of life is a priceless benefit of groups ministry.
In summary, I’d like to share these words from an article I read recently:
We live in an increasingly fragmented and disconnected world. Though social media and other technology have made our world seemingly more connected, people have fewer genuine friends than ever before. It feels scary and threatening to allow ourselves to be known or to invest in knowing someone else at a deep level. It is much easier and more convenient to stay on the surface. Yet when we take the risk of being authentic with a small group of people, we can experience God’s grace and love coming through others, which leads to freedom and transformation. So the goal of groups is to create environments where Spirit-driven, life-giving experiences can flourish.