In Paul's prayer for the church at Ephesus (Eph.3:14-21) he likens the church to a "family" and prays that together they would know and experience God's "love". In a world increasingly characterised by individualism, loneliness, isolation and consumerism, the church is to be a family of people modelling loving relationships. In fact, love is the supreme Christian virtue and it needs to be the priority of our lives (see 1 Cor.13:1-3). The way we treat each other is very important to God. He is more interested in who we are becoming than what we are doing for him. Paul gives the church at Corinth a lesson on the practical aspects of love by listing fifteen qualities of love, each representing a skill needing to be developed (1 Cor.13:4-7). As believers, we are to be "known by our love" (Jn.13:35. 1 Jn.3:14; 4:8, 20-21)
There is a "quite revolution" taking place in the world today called the Life Group movement, where people are connecting with one another in meaningful ways in the midst of a world that is becoming increasingly impersonal and fragmented. In the church, small groups are an essential part of a normal Christian life (Acts 2:42-47).How to be a Great Life Group Member
- Embrace the value of small groups
Have a conviction about "family" and the essential importance of small groups. Make it a conviction in your life not just an option or a preference. A Life Group offers the potential of a level of group and personal encounter not available elsewhere. Jesus modelled this.
- Be committed to your group
Make it a priority in your schedule and make an effort to be a part of what the group is doing. Absent people don't make great team members. You have to show up if you're going to receive any benefit from the group and be able to make a contribution to it. The first believers "devoted themselves" (Acts 2:42). There was a strong internal motivation that led them to adopt certain priorities and practices, one of which was regular involvement in a Life Group.
- Adopt an "others-focused" mentality
Be involved in your group with the intention of making a contribution. Bring something to the group, whether that is support, encouragement, help or suggestions. An individualistic mind-set makes small groups dysfunctional as effective places of true community. Like a friendship, good small groups require a mutual exchange of kindness, care, service and support. It is about seeking the well being of one another, even if that means putting aside your agenda for a while and resisting the tendency to be self-occupied (Phil.2:1-11). It's about bringing something to the relationship not just expecting something out of it.
- Be attentive and prepared to minister to others
The overwhelming emphasis of the New Testament is a mutual responsibility between believers to look out for "one another". It is not about a leader trying hard to pull everyone along to a meeting and then trying to meet all their needs. This is a "one-way" relationship. It is about mutual friendship where the leader is committed to the members and the members to the leader and to each other. Love pays attention! It's a primary evidence of love. Just as God pays attention to us (Num.6:24-26. Lk.12:7), we are to pay attention to others, which expresses a genuine interest in their life, providing many ministry opportunities. Share your life with others. Don't hide. The level of intimacy or closeness in any relationship or group is directly related to the level of openness in that relationship or group. Paul modelled a life of transparency and authenticity (2 Cor.6:11) and Jesus did the same (Mt.26:36-38). Be open, honest and real. Share how you are really doing (Jam.5:16).
- Understand that relationships (even difficult ones) are essential to personal growth
The concept that we can get aside with God, simply pray and read the Bible (as important as those activities are) and then become the kind of person God wants us to be is severely flawed. Life change takes place best in the context of relationships. Even a challenging relationship can be powerfully transforming (Prov.27:17), as can conflicts, if we make an effort to work through successfully (Eph.4;3. Mt.18:15-16. Rom.12:18).
- Build your life on the foundation of God's love for you
Great "life change" can occur as we develop relationships within the context of a Life Group of people. However, groups are imperfect, as are the people in them. If we don't recognise this reality, we can set ourselves up for deep disappointment. It is important not to put too much pressure on any one group or person to meet all of your needs. It is important to accept the limitations of each group and recognise the ebb and flow in relationships.
Ultimately, we need to build our lives on the love of God personally for us. His love provides us with things we so desperately need such as acceptance, security, significance and value (Eph.3:14-21). God wants us to "know" (to understand and to fully experience) his great love for us. He wants us to be rooted and established on this alone, not our performance or people's opinions of us.
As the church grows larger, we want to keep growing smaller too. Small Groups have the potential to be a place of loving
relationships characterised by care, discipleship, ministry and outreach. As we work together, we can make Cells a place where the Holy Spirit moves and brings about wonderful change and growth in all of our lives.Sample Discussion Questions
- In what ways can we ensure that "love" becomes and remains the priority of our lives?
- Why are small groups so important in a church such as CityLife?
- What are some ways we can "minister" more to each other?
- How would you rate the level of openness or vulnerability in our group?
- What are some other practical ways we can improve the "quality" of our Life Group?
- Share about a conflict or difficult relationship that helped you grow as a person.
- How does our view of God and his love for us affect our relationships with other people?