Earlier this year in our Basic Training series I quoted John Stott on the subject of community:
“Aloneness is not the will of God either in ordinary life or in the Christian life. People need fellowship, and it is God’s will that they should have it . . . But this basic, biblically recognized need is not completely met by Sunday churchgoing. There is always something unnatural and subhuman about large crowds. They tend to be aggregations rather than congregations —aggregations of unrelated persons. The larger they become, the less the individuals who compose them know and care about each other. Indeed, crowds can actually perpetuate aloneness, instead of curing it. There is a need, therefore, for larger congregations to be divided into small groups, such as one imagines the house-churches were in New Testament days. The value of the small group is that it can become a community of related persons, and in it the benefit of personal relatedness cannot be missed, nor its challenge evaded.”
RUC is not a mega-church, but it is certainly big enough to get lost in. It is possible to come and go for years and never get ‘connected’ in a meaningful way to other believers in a way that leads to mutual encouragement and edification along the Christian way.
If we are to grow spiritually and become the disciples Jesus wants us to be, significant involvement in significant community is a must.
In the RUC context, where may significant community be experienced? Let me highlight four areas:
1. SPIRITUAL FRIENDSHIPS
You may have one or two or more (usually not too many) good, godly friendships . . . friendships founded and centred on Christ, friendships that have been built over time, friendships where there is trust and where truth can be spoken, friendships where strength and support are both given and received, friendships where the Word of God is central. These “David and Jonathan friendships” are a great gift. Do you have one or two such friendships? If you do, cultivate them; if you don’t, seek them. Ask God to give you a spiritual friendship.
2. LOLMD (LIFE ON LIFE MISSIONAL DISCIPLESHIP)
About three years ago we began LOLMD groups. These groups are small (leader plus 3-5 people), and they are gender based (men discipling men, women discipling women). The LOLMD groups meet weekly, memorize Scripture, do homework, follow a three year curriculum, and use the TEAMS format (Teaching, Equipping, Accountability, Mission, Supplication). The aim is that after 2 to 3 years each member of the group will select 3 or 4 others and begin the process all over again thus multiplying disciples. Of necessity LOLMD is a slow process, but it will gather momentum as more and more people are trained and begin to disciple others. LOLMD is not a ‘secret society’ for the spiritually elite as some have thought. Pastor Justin is leading LOLMD, so please chat to him if you’re interested in knowing more.
3. COMMUNITY GROUPS
The main place where significant community happens in RUC is in the community groups. Around 60 groups meet weekly in homes and at the church.
The leaders of these groups are shepherds to their little flock of anywhere from five to twenty people. Shepherds are responsible to 1) Know the sheep, 2) Feed the sheep, 3) Lead the sheep, and 4) Protect the sheep.
These groups focus on the study of the Word, sharing of life, caring, praying, and serving. It is in these groups that the “one another” commands can be put into practice leading to increased spiritual health and growth of all the members. It is in these groups that significant community can be experienced.
4. SECTION COMMUNITY
At the morning services 15 February my wife, Irene, introduced the concept of Section Community as a way of making a big church feel small. Our church sanctuary can be naturally divided into 10 sections and we have observed that most people tend to sit in the same place every week. This means that each of those sections has the potential to become a mini church comprising 100 to 150 people. It is possible in that context for people to greet one another by name, to get to know a bit about each other, and to be able to identify and welcome newcomers who sit in their section as well as occasionally meeting together for tea after a service.
We were absolutely delighted when over 900 people completed a connect card expressing their support for this initiative. Section Community has begun with leaders being identified and receiving training. Stories have already begun to trickle in about the impact intentional friendliness is having on the lives of individuals. It has a long way to go but we are really excited about the potential of this ministry. This is something everybody can do right where they are.
Your friend in community,