This is the fifth post in a series based on an article from Thom Rainer called, Five Obstacles Facing Small Groups.
The fifth small communities’ obstacle is a lack of intimacy. We use the term community freely, yet there are multiple layers of community. Community in a broad sense is achieved around common interests. The most concrete example of community is your local neighborhood. You may not have any significant conversations with your neighbors, even though you have lived on the same street for years. Normally if there is a series of break-ins on your block or another neighborhood crisis, you start talking to your neighbors. You now share a common interest: the security of your personal property. Although new friendships can begin because of the mutual interest and corresponding conversations, you only experience community on a shallow level.
Rainer emphasizes what I consider to be a crucial point here. We don’t always understand community, or christian fellowship, in the way God does. Relationships within the church are meant to be deep and secure, because our relationship with God ought to be deep and secure. God has made himself knowable to us. We can read His Word and walk with Him daily through life’s ups and downs. We can learn His heart and see His hand at work in the world. He has promised us that we can trust Him, that He is good, and that He won’t abandon us. In the same way, we ought to make ourselves knowable to others. When we do so, we demonstrate the Gospel of God’s love to the world. It’s not as easy as it sounds. Being knowable requires courage and love.
I love the notion of koinonia in the New Testament. It’s a Greek word used to express the beauty of the communion, or community, that happens within the Christian church.
The first time the word koinonia appears in the Greek New Testament is found in Acts 2:42-47, where we read the following description of the unity and intimacy that the first believers in Jerusalem experienced:
“ They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the communion (koinonia), to the breaking of bread and to prayer…All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need…They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. ”
True healthy relationships build trust over time. As we study God’s word together in small groups and encourage each other through life’s ups and downs, something deeply spiritual happens. We find that there is a depth and security to our relationships that goes beyond casual interaction.
Sharing a breakfast casserole doesn’t create community. Sharing our hearts over breakfast casserole does.
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