“Let’s do life together,” is a common phrase in church life these days. Pastors get up and cast as compelling a vision as possible to generate interest in and participation with variously named groups (community groups, gospel communities, house churches, cell groups, small groups, family groups, groupie-groups, and so on) where people from different walks of life meet to learn how to follow Jesus. At Red Hill Church we believe in community. We believe in friendship. We believe that discipleship is born out of relationship with people and leads to relationship with God. We know it’s kind of cliche to say that we want to “do life together,” so we don’t say it much…but we really do want it. We want to gather as a church with our friends. And because friendship doesn’t just magically appear in our lives, we intentionally carve out times and places where people can gather to learn together how to apply God’s truth to everyday life and where they can begin friendships that will extend long beyond the life and reach of any organized group.
Our groups are called community groups, and at our community groups we are led by a few guiding principles:
- Most programs exist because community doesn’t. We believe that most of the needs we feel and the problems we face can and should be addressed by real, gospel friends. By this we mean that things like struggling marriages, sinful patterns of life, wayward kids, loneliness, and so on are served better through the counsel of godly people who care about us than by attending a class or a conference. Rather than bringing in specialists to coach us we believe in bearing one another’s burdens.
- Meals are better than meetings. We eat together at community groups. At the table we share more than food. We share our burdens, we share our kids, we share our secret recipes and our frustrations with our favorite sports teams. We share our dreams, we share our hopes, and we share our struggles. It’s pretty amazing, but it’s true and trustworthy: sharing a table is the easiest way to share your heart. Plus, food is awesome…and we love it!
- Friends are better than classmates. One of the primary goals of our community groups is to create the context for friendships to begin. We typically take about two hours for our groups, with at least an hour of that time being devoted to eating and hanging out. We’re not trying to be informed as much as we’re hoping to be transformed. Life can be brutally difficult. Don’t do it alone.
- Burdens are made for sharing. At each gathering of our groups we will take prayer requests. You may not be comfortable sharing your requests. That’s ok! Take your time and make some friends first. Everything shared in the group should be treated as precious. Friends pray. Friends follow up. Friends empathize and care. Our hope is that every person would be able to find a group of friends whom they trust, love, and bear burdens with. So we share prayer requests, and we pray every time we gather.
- Progress is possible. Our groups will typically study the passage of Scripture studied during the sermon from the previous Sunday. The aim of this time is to learn how to apply God’s Word to your everyday life in such a way that you can literally feel yourself making progress in the faith. We want you to love Jesus more, and we want to obey the great commission by teaching you to obey all that Jesus commands.
We recognize that nothing here is really that revolutionary. But we aren’t trying to innovate something new as much as we’re trying to tap into something ancient. We don’t want to create a new way of doing community. We want to join the stream of God’s people loving one another that has been flowing since the dawn of time.
Do you want to know the secret about this kind of community?
You can’t find it. You have to create it.
If you go around looking for someone to love you like this and bear your burdens like this you’ll probably never be satisfied. Instead you have to commit to creating this kind of community for someone else. And as we commit together to create this kind of community for others we will find this community will be created for us as well.
Well, what about it? Will you enter into community with us? Will you be a friend who bears our burdens? Who weeps with us? Who celebrates with us? Who encourages and challenges and prays? Will you create the community that you desperately need?
Let’s not settle for familiarity when God has offered us family. Let’s not settle for thinking positive thoughts when we have an audience with the King. Let’s not accept the general words of acquaintances when Christ has made a path for us to share meaningful friendship.
Community is scary. Being known is frightening. Love is dangerous. But let’s be people who embrace the risk. No matter who you are, no matter what you’ve done, and no matter where you’ve been, we’ll have a seat at the table waiting for you.