According to Scripture, when we worship on Sundays or get together for other large gatherings, we do something unique that we can’t do in small groups, or even alone. When the Church Gathers, we get a regular reminder that we are part of something larger than ourselves and that we, while struggling with this or that, can offer encouragement and comfort to others and be simultaneously encouraged ourselves. We get a perspective adjustment. While we sit under the preaching of the Word, we are convicted of sin; we find true comfort for our suffering and we experience Spirit-wrought confirmation of our security in Christ. We sing hymns, psalms and spiritual songs to each other and the Lord, and in so doing we give a unique and collective praise back to the One to whom all praise belongs. Our gatherings are glorious to God and encouraging to our souls.
“We believe that we can best begin to encourage one another in our daily walks through meeting once a week in small groups.”
Large gatherings are necessary.
We desire to be a people who willingly submit to the call of Scripture. Therefore, we gather under the Word, with praise on our lips for the glory of the grace of God that Jesus Christ our Lord lavished on us. But if that’s all there is to our grace-fueled walk with Christ, we forsake a huge piece of living under His rule and reign –
Community. Being in the crowd when we gather is glorious, but we can hide easily and find a contrived solace in our attendance. Right before the call to not forsake the gathering together of the church in Hebrews 10, the author says that blood-bought believers should be a people who are also marked by the constant consideration of how to “stimulate one another to love and good deeds.” We believe that we can best begin to encourage one another in our daily walks through meeting once a week in small groups.
In an attempt to be obedient to the call of Scripture like Hebrews 10, LIFEgroups have become a vital part of Greenville Grace. Not because they are a good program, but because they serve as the primary venue for her members to learn to be the Church Scattered…followers of Christ in their day-to-day living. LIFEgroups enable us to live openly and intentionally in an environment that challenges us to become more like Christ.
Our mission, per Hebrews 10, is simple. Whenever we gather, we do so to stimulate one another to love and good deeds – love that finds its example in Jesus and good deeds that find their motivation in the goodness of the Father to send Him. Faithful exposition of the Word should find us itching in our seats to “work out our faith,” to do something as a result of us being made more like Jesus because of what we’ve heard, processed and believed more deeply.
LIFEgroups are our attempt to create the environment for us to learn to love one another well as we are convicted more and more of the deep, deep love of Jesus for us.
And it sounds wonderful. And simple. And it looks so neat and tidy on this page.
And it is.
But it’s also messy.
It’s messy because you don’t get to always choose who’s in your LIFEgroup…or who isn’t. It’s messy because you don’t get to choose how often they come to group…or don’t. It’s messy because you don’t get to choose how much your group members share…or don’t. It’s messy because you don’t get to choose the circumstances that members of your group come from, find themselves in, or seem to be putting themselves in.
And, quite honestly, this messiness of life is what we think makes LIFEgroups work…and enables, even forces them, to declare the glory of God as found in Christ.
We believe that the Gospel is best preached in an environment that seeks discipleship.
And discipleship is, well…messy.
If we are honest with ourselves, it takes a work of God within us to enable us to get along with others. We need a bigger mission, a bigger plan and a bigger goal to bring us together for a common purpose. We desperately need Jesus’ work on our behalf and the ensuing mission of God to make our being the Church Gathered or the Church Scattered have meaning, be deep, or have any potency in us or our context. Like God declared once and for all through the sacrifice of His Son on the cross, and like Jesus’ intercessory ministry at the right hand of the Father declares from heaven right now; to be in meaningful relationships takes work. God work. Human work. Hard work. Sweaty work. Tear-filled work. Repetitive work. Soul tearing work. Sacrificial work. Hopeful work. Joy-filled work. Soul mending work. Redeeming work. This is our heartbeat. If Christ is our love and our savior, then He is both our example AND our hope. We don’t gather expecting to be mired in our mess, but redeemed from it.
“We believe that the Gospel is best preached in an environment that seeks discipleship.”
John 1 tells us that Christ is “the Word become flesh”. When we gather as His people, we have Him in our midst…not in a mystical way, but in a very precise and practical way. We have His Word. We should want, then, because we know that we need Him, to have His Word be central in our gathering and scattering. John is declaring in John 1 that when God’s people gather, God comes with them. We don’t need to invite Him. We already have Him. We have the Spirit of God indwelling us.
So, with the Word of God central, we gather. And we scatter.
And as we do these two things around the message and person of His Word, under the direction of the Spirit, we are constantly considering how to stimulate each other on to love and good deeds that result in God getting more glory. This is our intention. Our heartbeat. The thing that we must not lose.
To put it more succinctly: We willingly live among one other, under the sole authority of the Word of God, while comforting, convicting and confirming each other as we joyfully participate in God’s mission.