What was the church created to be? As Christian we believe that the church was created to be the agent God use to bring glory to his name by sending people out to proclaim the gospel. The church is also created to be a community, a gospel-centered community.
Community is what Brad House writes about in his book appropriately titled, Community, where he takes what he has learned from helping get community groups together at Mars Hill Church. He even talks about what a gospel-centered community is suppose to be and look like from a biblical prospective, which you cannot have a gospel-centered community without the Bible.
House also talks about why we need these community groups and what their primary functions are suppose to be. He gives several models for everyone to look at and ponder. In the appendix there are some plans to get a group started as well as job descriptions for a community group leader, coach, and even Community pastor/Pastor of Small Groups.
This book came out about the same time as Bill Clem's Disciple, which is a perfect companion to go with this book. If you want to start a community group or your church is starting to go in that direction, this book is one to read.
Move over Dr. Gregory House, you are no longer the only one bringing those near death patients off life support. Brad House in his book Community: Taking Your Small Group off Life Support has replaced Dr. House's role as the reviver of life. House breaks down the modern church's understanding of how small groups should operate and rebuilds them into a beautiful new creation. Community groups are no longer viewed as an event, but are part of each individual's everyday life. All too often of small groups or community groups end up being social gatherings, who sprinkle a bit of Jesus on top. House challenges this notion by calling community groups to be social, yet Christ-Centered. Repentance is a new constant theme of these groups. Love and grace bind each member together. Why are these groups gathering together? They gather together to demonstrate what a gospel transformed life looks like. Furthermore, these groups gather together to promote mission. A life-giving community group is missionally focused. These groups do not gather just to gather. These groups are gathering for the purpose of advancing the kingdom of Jesus Christ. I have read several books on community and a couple on community groups. I would have to say that this book is possible the best book I have read on community groups within the church. I would also say that this ranks high on my list of books on the topic of community. I would highly recommend this book to all churches. Even if you church does not have small groups/community groups, the application of this book could transform your Sunday School classes.
The Foundation: Building Blocks for Life
Part one begins by establishing the fact that mankind was created in image of God. God, being trinity, has since eternity been in fellowship and communion. Therefore, since we were created in his image and called to be imitators of God, we too are to live likewise (Eph 1:10). When God created man, he created him to live communally. The first thing described as not good in creation was that man was alone. Man was not created to live in isolation. House then takes this concept and argues that community is a central to the identity of the Christian. "Community is where implications of the gospel are lived out." Mission occurs as a result of Christians desiring for others to take part in this gospel transformed community with them. After establishing a biblical foundation for community, House then discusses how this type of community is absent from most of our churches. From this point, House then seeks to establish what must occur in order to bring these groups "back to life and off of life-support."
Health Plan: Redefining Community Groups
The first step in reviving community groups is to redefine our perception of these groups. The reason our community groups are dying is because no one expects much from them. To revive these groups we need to start afresh with a new set of standards and goals for these groups. One major change in perception of community is a change that involves viewing them as a lifestyle rather than an event. Community group meetings are not events, but a way of life. For a community group to succeed and establish true community it must first change this common misconception. Next, community groups need to be life-giving rather than life-taking. Community and unity among believers is a gift of the Spirit. In order to revive community groups they need to be transformed into life-giving organism. Next, House discusses something that has worked very at Mars Hill and something he desires other churches to consider: community groups organized according to geographic location. Next, House discusses the importance of the necessity of community groups engaging your private spaces and the public sphere. A person's private space is something which they only allow their closest of friends to enter. Community occurs when those within your church begin to enter your private life and from there you allow them to settle in. Next, community groups are brought back to life though consistent or rhythmic gathering. House here gives an example of how his community group gathers weekly at a local restaurant for fellowship and biblical community. Everyone in House's community group has set in their schedule weekly, this weekly gathering. No longer is community optional, it has become for them a part of their weekly routine. Community becomes a lifestyle rather than an event. After establishing what is required for the development of community House then discusses what must take place in order for these groups to flourish.
Treatment: Effecting Change in Your Groups
The first thing that is needed for your community to flourish is for repentance to become a regular part of your group's meeting. Community groups need to be a place of transparency and a place to find grace. Your community group needs to be a place where people can know they can be honest about their sin. Additionally, community groups need to be a place where they can find accountability for change. Finally, House argues that those who lead community groups need to be proven leaders. Often times leadership positions are given to anyone who is willing to help. House argues much like deacons and elders within a church, community leaders need to be those who are able to teach. House's offers a suggestion of offering regular training seminars. Furthermore, churches should offer regular meetings for community group leaders. The regular meetings should be an opportunity for growth, discussion, challenge, and prayer.