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We’re living in times where everyone is incredibly well connected. At any moment we can have a chat or a face-to-face video conversation with a friend or family member anywhere in the world. We have access to unlimited knowledge at the tip of our fingers. We have countless social media connections and have often intimate knowledge of what is happening in the lives of all sorts of random people. We know where they went on the weekend, we know when they last exercised (and how far or how fast they ran). And similarly, many people know all sorts of personal details about our own lives. Often a person’s emotional well-being can rise or fall on the attention (or lack thereof) that these little titbits can garner for them. Increasingly our very identities are being shaped and formed by these virtual audiences. 

And yet, how many people actually KNOW you? How many people genuinely know or care what is going on in your heart? How meaningful is your connectedness?

One of our core values as a church is Significant Community. We long to see every member connected into the life of the church through meaningful friendships and gospel centred community. The reality is that, as far as normal church sizes go, Rosebank Union is quite large; and as a large church, it is very easy for people to come and go each week without ever being genuinely known or loved or cared for. Consequently such a person’s experience of real church will inevitably be superficial and a bit cold. They may enjoy the worship service, they may be fed by the biblical preaching, they may be encouraged by hearing testimonies or in times of reflection and prayer, but their growth towards maturity in Christ will be stunted without relationships where they can be known, loved and cared for. 

In scripture, the church is described using a number of different organic images. Jesus said that he is the vine and we are the branches and that if we abide in him (stay connected to the vine) we will bear much fruit (John 15). The church is also described as being the flock of God – a community that follows Christ and receives care, protection, and leadership through Jesus Christ, the good shepherd (John 10: 11-16; 1 Peter 5: 2-4). And the church is also well described as being the body of Christ where Christ is the head and we all form the various parts according the gifts and grace God has given us (Romans 12: 4-5).

In all these images, the concept of being connected, or belonging is very important. The bible knows of no such thing as unconnected Christians. 

Because of this, one of our goals as a church is to have every member connected to some form of group. 

It may be a serving team where people can use their gifts to serve together

It may be a workshop or class where people can learn together or share together during some specific life stage (like a marriage course or Griefshare or bible course)

It may be a social community where people can connect with like-minded Christians (like KnitWits or Section Community)

Or it may be a Community Group or Life on Life Missional Discipleship Group where people can people can come together for intentional discipleship and bible study. 

In whatever way suits your life and availability, we want to encourage you to Get Connected!

Over the last few days I have been re-reading part of Timothy Keller’s great book, “Prayer”, focusing particularly on his chapter entitled “The Prayer of Prayers”. As you would expect, it’s about the Lord’s Prayer.

Keller reminds us that the Lord’s Prayer was given to us in plural form. We ask God to give us what we need, meaning that, as much as possible, “the prayers of Christians ought to be public . . . to the advancement of the believers’ fellowship.”

Prayer is therefore not strictly a private thing. As much as we can, we should pray with others both formally in gathered worship and informally. Why? If the substance of prayer is to continue a conversation with God, and if the purpose of it is to know God better, then this can happen best in community.

C. S. Lewis argues that it takes a community of people to get to know an individual person. Reflecting on his own friendships, he observes that some aspects of his friend’s personality were brought out only through interaction with a second friend. That meant that if he lost the second friend, he lost part of his first friend that was otherwise invisible.

“By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want lights other than my own to show all his facets.” Keller continues, “If it takes a community to know an ordinary human being, how much more necessary would it be to get to know Jesus alongside others? By praying with friends, you will be able to hear and see facets of Jesus that you have not yet perceived.”

These insights underline the significant value of our Community Groups. We cannot know Jesus fully alone. It is as we pray with others and study the Scriptures together that we get to know Jesus better that we ever could on our own. I have often found that a sentence in someone else’s prayer or another’s insight into a particular passage in God’s Word provides me with a glimpse of my Saviour I had not seen before. And I like to think that I have helped others in the same way. I am sure that was part of Jesus’ intention when he called twelve men to follow him in community. That’s part of the reason we urge all at RUC to be part of a small group of some kind. We want to know Jesus better, and we get to know him better together.


Find a Community Group that suits you: Click Here!

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.

Join a Community Group

 

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,
Leigh