“Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”
A Core Ministry
Certainly, one of the core ministries at Grace is Grace Community Groups. These gatherings held throughout the week, have a strengthening effect on Christian life because Christianity is a faith lived out and experienced in community with one another.
Similar gatherings can be found throughout the Christian church and under various names such as Care Groups, Growth Groups, Fellowship Groups, etc., and rightly so because they all describe well elements of what can occur when we gather together as followers of Christ. Our desire for Grace Community Groups is to pursue the Biblical purposes God has for us in community with one another. As we look at the Word of God and the early church as our guide, we can identify a number of clear Biblical purposes.
The Ministry of the Word of God
As we meet each week together, studying the scriptures and speaking truth to each other through the Word of God, the Lord continues His ongoing sanctifying work, (John 17:17). Through His Word and the knowledge of Him, God reveals to us that He is sufficient for every area of our lives (2 Peter 1:3-4) even as His Word is able to teach and equip us for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17). And through the scriptures we are encouraged and given hope (Romans 15:4).
Theologian Wayne Grudem says, “Sanctification is a progressive work of God and man that makes us more and more free from sin and like Christ in our actual lives.” In contrast to justification, which is an instantaneous legal act of God in which He declares us to be righteous in His sight, our sins forgiven and Christ’s righteousness as belonging to us, sanctification is the ongoing process through the power of the Holy Spirit of battling sin and “becoming conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29-30).
Small groups provide an ideal context for this process. Indeed, deep abiding growth cannot be accomplished in isolation and apart from the local church. There is a powerful dynamic that community has upon our sanctification for from within small groups we receive encouragement, correction, and accountability (Eph 4:15-16; 1 Cor 15:57-58; Heb 10:24-25).
There simply are limitations to the personal care we can give and receive from brothers and sisters in Christ on Sunday mornings. But community groups provide a context where we can care for each other in intimate unselfish ways. It is a place where we can take time to discover each others hurts, concerns, challenges and struggles, and seek to minister to one another in meaningful ways (Gal. 6:2; 1 Cor. 12:24-26).
Fellowship is the sharing, celebrating, and participation in what we hold dear and in common. Christian fellowship therefore, is the sharing, celebrating, and participation in all we hold dear in common in Christ. And once we understand the true meaning of Christian fellowship, our conversations, our interactions, and the joys we celebrate are focused on and flow from our relationship with Jesus Christ. Small groups give us an opportunity to hear of each others relationship with God, what He is accomplishing in our lives, and to spur one another on in pursuing Christ and His purposes for us (Acts 2:42; Phil 2:1; Phm 1:6).
Ministry of the Holy Spirit
As members of the Body of Christ, the Bible tells us to serve each other according to the gifting we’ve received from the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 12:4-7). We’re told we have “gifts that differ according to the grace given us”, and not surprisingly, to “use them” (Rom 12:6). The small group environment provides us a wonderful opportunity to use those gifts in serving one another. When we gather in small groups, as in other contexts, we should also anticipate “the fellowship of the Holy Spirit” (2 Cor 13:14) and eagerly look forward to communion with our God (Psalm 42:1).
A Source of Outreach
Just as the New Testament models small groups as the norm and pattern for fellowship and the ministry of spiritual gifts, it is also clear that these groups become contact points for reaching the communities in which we live. The Book of Acts, after recording the pattern of teaching, fellowship and prayer evident in the early church, tells us that these believers were not only having favor with their neighbors, but saw their numbers grow daily! (Acts 2:46-47)
So why is it that God so often uses small groups as the catalyst for us as His instruments in reaching the world? Because, as we experience God’s sanctifying work in our life, and as we learn the joy of caring for and being cared for in the context of Christian fellowship, we not only desire in greater degrees to share our joy, we become, just as Peter encouraged to, “always be prepared to make a defense…for the hope that is in you!” (1 Pet 3:15)
A Place for You
At the heart of the matter, God never intended for us to face life alone. We are designed to share our lives in Christ together, but such meaningful relationships don’t just happen; they take effort. The people of God are those who truly care for one another, love one another and encourage one another to grow in Christ. This kind of familiarity and love can only take place in a context where people truly know each other.
Small groups are a place for a believer to experience a healthy, growing, fruitful Christian life, not in isolation, but in community as God intends. Our prayer is that God would use a community group as just such a source of rich fruitful blessing for you and your family. We encourage you to find a Grace Community Group meeting near you today!