Why We Group
High School Life
When I was in high school, the basketball team was my everything. It was my accountability. It was my inspiration. It was everything. I wasn’t thrilled that I was riding the pine. But the reality was that was probably the best place for me. At the time I was 5’9” and probably around 160 lbs. Not exactly on any college’s recruiting roster. However, I practiced hard. We practiced how to shoot, move, and communicate on the court. There may have been a time or two a scuffle broke out. I played to win. The team needed that. I would scream from the bench. I led pep rallies at the school. I did whatever I could to help my team win. Sometimes that was making sure guys didn’t get into trouble. Helping guys through relationship issues with parents and girlfriends. Hanging out and just talking about life. And of course playing basketball all the time.
When I went to the Army I found it to be just an extension of high school. Similar mission. Win. Different context. But we would train how to shoot, move, and communicate on the battlefield. There were fights in the barracks. There were black eyes and sore egos. But we knew when the bullets started flying we had each other’s back. But just as being on the high school basketball team wasn’t just about being on the court, it was being a team off the court. I sat down with men and worked through their relationship issues with their wives, girlfriends or kids. I listened to their frustrations. Late night gunneries in the CP (Command Post) led to conversations about God. Led to deepening our understanding of each other. Deploying on mission together made us remember why we had spent all that time training together.
Leading a church should be no different. It should be a place where we have one mission. Where we all see our purpose is similar. Win. Different context. The battlefield is spiritual and the sectors are home, work, school, social spheres and social media. Just as the military groups individuals into brigades (1000s) to battalions (100s) to companies (100) to platoons (16-40) to squads (10) to teams (4-5) to battle buddies (2). No one is alone. There are missions that sometimes require one man. But they are highly specialized and highly trained individuals who have learned how to rely on one another. When they go on mission, they have an understanding that they have support, but it just isn’t seen.
However, I think that is what is difficult about the church. We may be leaders of excellence who have grown to high level C-suite positions, but we have forgotten what it is to be a servant. We have forgotten that the Christian life isn’t about climbing the ladder up, but lifting others up. That requires working through issues with people. Sure when people offend and insult we must forgive. But perhaps when they are annoying and emotionally draining to not quit but to find a way to love and support. This is where I have seen church break down. We essentially go to one extreme or another. We become codependent on people who are turning to others for the salvation of their soul, or we become completely independent of others not wanting to face the drain of time and emotion. I want us to figure out how to shoot, move, and communicate to push back the darkness and grow in deep relationship with one another.
This is one of my favorite diagrams to describe the Christian life. This is especially useful when helping people discern God’s will. It is super helpful when showing people where they need to grow. I always tell people that to discern God’s Will or to grow spiritually you need three things. God’s Word, God’s Spirit, and God’s People. In this blog I want to focus on the needing God’s people as there is a huge tendency in people to say something like: I don’t have to go to church to be a Christian.
How People Grow
And though it is true that your salvation doesn’t depend on church attendance, the ability for your soul to grow...does. You just can’t get around that.
Following the Spirit wherever He may lead is awesome. It takes faith. Following God’s Word and putting your trust in it gives us great hope. It creates a depth of understanding of God’s Word. However scripture exposes the very things that are broken within. And what to do when facing what’s broken. However, it takes being around people to discover what is really messed up. Instead of leaning in to challenging situations with people. We can have a tendency to run away. Instead of asserting ourselves into difficult situations, we can passively stand by and watch as people hurt themselves and others with their sin struggles. We can tell stories of people they have known, but no one really knows us. That leaves us a Christian tourist at worst or a monk at best. We can have a lot of Christian experiences, but few stories dealing with overcoming conflict, forgiving, and learning how to love people. That’s why 1 Corinthians 13 ends with Faith, Hope, and Love, but the greatest of these is love.
I think this is one of the most difficult things about the Christian faith. To live out the truths of scripture and live under the leadership and direction of the Holy Spirit, you must interact with others. In this day of technology, we have few deep connections. The New Testament commands us to love one another 100 times. This, in fact, becomes evidence of your faith.
In fact, it rides real close to our ability to love God.
1 John 4:20-21 says, If anyone says, I love God, and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
I didn’t know I was selfish until I got married. I thought I was doing really well at loving others. I really did. Until I had to do it when I was tired. Until I had to do it when I wasn’t treated fairly. Until I had to do it when I didn’t feel like it. To live as a married person you must put to death a lot of your pride, selfishness, and view of fairness. Although marriage is where you see it most intimately, anytime you live in a way that you are around the same people day in and day out you confront your own selfishness. People will ask of your time. People will ask of your money. People will ask of you. And that’s where a lot of us start to think in terms of ROI. Because why wouldn’t you?
How do we grow best?
Paul exhorted the church to not look at their own private ability to be self disciplined as what revealed the direction of their heart. Not eating certain foods, not doing things on certain days were all a self focus and earthly obligation that would only produce pride and separate Christians from other people. However, Christians are called to rid themselves of idolatry. To kill off self worship. Things like sexual immorality and longing for things that God chose not to provide you. To kill off the disrespect of those God has called you to serve. Things like rage and malice. You know the thoughts you have had in the moments of wanting to give full vent to your own darkness. Hurting others overtly through physical force or perhaps more subtly through manipulation and gossip.
Word of Christ
Paul admonished the church to let the Word of Christ rule in their hearts. Sing songs to one another. When that desire to hurt tempts the soul, respond in love and patience, be mentally prepared to forgive as you have been forgiven. The only way to get better at patience is to go through times where your patience is tested. The only way to get better at forgiving is to be around people who will let you down. Eventually, what at one time felt like Herculean effort will become second nature. But it takes time--perhaps a lifetime of loving God’s people.
United not divided
I guess that is what I want the church to think about. God made us to live in community. Our technology, our politics, our schedules have a tendency to divide us. To do what Jesus called us to do means we must put his agenda before our own. In the Lord’s prayer, Jesus taught us to pray that God’s kingdom would come and His will would be done on Earth as it is in Heaven. Heaven is described as a multitude of people. Jews and Gentiles from every tribe and tongue. They didn’t have isolation chambers designed to keep people apart, but rather a flux of worshipers in perfect order and harmony being one. Our hearts must desire that. We must prioritize spending time with the body of Christ. There will be difficult decisions. Happy Hours, sports teams, recreational activities are all wonderful things that produce great things here on Earth and can even produce gospel sharing opportunities. But God calls the church to do life together to reflect heaven.
Death to Sin
But the church on Earth doesn’t merely meet together to reflect heaven, but also to put to death the sin in our lives. We don’t know we are selfish without others revealing what is already in us. The idolatry. The anger. It’s in there. Thankfully God provided other people who have a calling to forgive you as you are called to forgive them. That is the beauty of all that we are doing. But our grouping together in smaller groups isn’t just to stop sinning, but allows us opportunities to let God’s Word come alive in us.
Get in a Group
My challenge for anyone reading this blog is to get in a group. Whether that is a group online or in person. Whether you are living in Austin or Antartica, you were not designed to live out this Christian life alone. God designed you for community. Email us at email@example.com and we will gladly get you involved in a Community Group.