I think the best place to have a life changing encounter with Jesus is in community. Itâ€™s not the only place â€“ I myself love to be alone on a ridge with Jesus looking at the sunset. Itâ€™s an encounter with Jesus to be sure. And to some extent it is life changing.
But the fleshing out of that change will always happen in community. Always. Community will validate the alone experience. Like I said, community is the BEST place to have a life changing encounter with Jesus. In fact, Iâ€™d be so bold to say that it is impossible for someone to be mature in Christ without community.
So if community is so important, what is it?
It’s hard to define – but hereâ€™s a start. It is belonging and making sure that anyone else can belong. Community is being in each otherâ€™s stuff. Itâ€™s lifewalking with someone else. Itâ€™s knowing someone and BEING known by someone else more than you’re comfortable with. And they still love you. Community is trusting someone else with your baggage. Community is the flesh of God’s unconditional love to others and it will change your life.
Community happens on a smaller scale. Itâ€™s about intimacy. All of these things happen in the context of a small group. We call our small groups â€œLIFE Groups.â€ And we have got some monster reasons why we think LIFE Groups are the best place to encounter and experience the life-changing unconditional love of Jesus.
It is how Jesus did ministry. Out of the hundreds of people who were following Him, Jesus picked out 12. These men would be his LIFE Group. Out of those 12, he chose 3 to be in His inner circle. He spent 3 years with these men. The Son of God was strategic and purposeful in this decision.
Life change happens in small groups. When we stop and think about the major decisions we have made – both good and bad – who was around us? More than likely, just a handful of people. Our hobbies, foods we eat, to accept Christ, to exercise more – whatever the decision – are normally made in the context of a smaller group.
Gives “front-row” care to each person. If we want every person to experience the love of God, how can someone feel loved with just being one of the masses? It is so easy to miss people in a group of 200 or more. It’s impossible to forget about someone in a group of 7.
LIFE Groups are a better arena to apply God’s word. Trying to make disciples in a corporate setting is akin to teaching a room full of 7th graders how to build a boat. I don’t know if any of them COULD do it nor WOULD I be the test pilot to see if it worked. There are specific circumstances that some people need help in that we are never going to cover from “up front.” LIFE Groups give us that arena.
Great arena for multiplying disciples. Every LIFE Group has a LIFE Group leader and an intern. Every LIFE Group leader has a coach. The goal is for the intern to lead their own LIFE Group after a year with their own intern. Life groups allow a greater number of disciples to be trained.
At Grace, LIFE Groups are not just some slick program. It is our lifeblood. We think pursuing Jesus and His purposes can’t happen without them.