1> Life Groups are for Christian Community. We were created to be in community. “No man is an island.” We were not made to be left to our own devices. The scriptures assume that they are being read and discerned in community. God himself is community. God is love, and love requires community. God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and among them is the perfect harmony of Holy Community. God did not create us because he was lonely and craved attention, obedience and fellowship. Rather, God created to share the love, attention and obedient faithfulness that existed among himself as Trinity. And more than that, we were created in his image. We are image-bearers of this God of Community. We were made for this. And sometimes, we miss out on it. We can easily go through life, work, family, and even church while alienating ourselves and our being and our life from others. Honestly it’s easy to do this in church. We can put on our happy faces, talk about the weather, and exchange pleasantries all while avoiding the tension of letting others into our struggles and challenges that we face as disciples. We feel guilty that we haven’t followed Jesus as closely as we should, but then we cave into the same vicious cycles of lonliness and estrangement that make it so hard to follow him alongside others. But every now and again we hear a stange call. “Come, follow me.” And we look around and we see others dropping their nets and joining Jesus on the Way. And it’s precisely that he is calling everyone of us, my friends, co-workers, family members, church members, yes, even my enemies, that we have the courage to join the Kingdom Movement. We answer the call in community. Because not only do we need God, we need each other.
2> Life Groups are for baring the soul. Sometimes our hearts become prison-houses to pains, trials, suffering, struggles, or temptations. If we are all honest, we can testify to this deep desire to let it all out. Deep within us we have this urge to share what faces us, to bare our souls. But the power of secrecy is a strong force. Another voice tells us to lock it in tighter. “Don’t tell anyone that, they’ll never understand.” Or, “Don’t they have enough on their plate, they don’t need my pity-party.” But confession is good for the soul. We know this is true because Scripture tells us so, over and over again. But why? Why do we have to do this when it is so hard? Because, growing hurts. You remember growing pains? Right now, my 14 month old son is teething. This is a violent process. Bones breaking through the sensitive gums. You get headaches. You get fever. You get tired. You may even get a severe cold. But at the same time something else is happening. His body is preparing for the next challenge of life. Eating solid foods. The time is coming when baby foods and milk and soft processed meals will no longer nourish a growing boy. He’ll need meat. He’ll need bread. And we too are meant to grow and be shaped spiritually. This requires discipline and pain. But it is preparing us for life in the Kingdom of God. And if we avoid the pain and struggles of growth now, we may not be prepared to face what lies in front of us.
3> Life Groups are for Discernment and Application. I’m not sure why, but most of us are not too good at discerning God’s guidance for our lives apart from the help and insight of others. The truth is that we need the wisdom, life-lessons, and counsel of our fellow sojourners to help us discern our lives in light of the gospel story. What does it mean for me to love my enemies? What does it look like for me to let go of my seduction to wealth and riches and follow Jesus? We need one another to know what that might look like today, in this place, in this culture, and in this church family. To go a step further, one the things that churches often overlook is the vital work of applying scripture to our everyday walk with God. We tend to be good at digging around in the text, searching for background and historical references for context. But sometimes we flat drop the ball when it comes to answering the question of “What does this mean for me as a follower of Jesus?” Life Groups serve that purpose. It gives us the contextual space (fellowship, intimacy, honesty, safety) to ask the tough questions of God, one another, and myself as we try to discern God’s will for our lives and apply it to our everyday walk.