Home > Uncategorized > Theology of Community pt 2: Community is Messy

Theology of Community pt 2: Community is Messy

This is part 2 in a series where I’m trying to work out a theology of Community. How to think biblically about something that has become increasingly foreign to the cultures most of us live in: life together. This series hits at the heart of my blog’s title “life as we” because my hope is it directly confronts the “life as me” mentality we are immersed in.

Part 1: Created For Community by Community

Part 2: Community is Messy

Anyone who has been in a relationship, of any kind, for more than about 2 weeks will tell you “relationships are messy.” The same is true for community. Community is messy. See a community isn’t just one relationship, but a web of interwoven relationships. So if one relationship can be messy to maintain, just imagine the mess a community can be! I want us to briefly look at WHY that is, and what can be done about it.

In Genesis 3, the bible records the moment often referred to as “The Fall of Man.” In Genesis 2, God tells Adam not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Next chapter, Genesis 3, Eve decides to disobey God and eats the fruit. Then gives it to Adam and he eats. What happened in that moment altered the world forever. It was right there that sin (choosing self over God) entered the world and separated man from a sin-less God. And the curse of sin followed. God said man would no longer have a peaceful life but a hard life. Work would be hard. for the woman, child-bearing would be painful. And their lives would now have an end…death. In Romans 5:12 Paul gives us a divinely inspired explanation of the significance of this event:
“Therefore just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, so death spread to all men because all sinned.”
Basically, in this moment, the world was broken. Sin created a permanent scar on creation which spread to every person ever born. So now the world isn’t as it should be. Let’s talk about how the reality of sin impacts small group life by giving you a couple of principles to operate by:
1. Have REALISTIC expectations for group life. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve talked with a group leader or member who has communicated to me a frustration because their group isn’t everything they hoped it would be. They haven’t had amazing life-altering BFF meetings each week. Here’s the skinny from the small groups guy himself: Vision can kill a small group. I cast vision all day long, but small group is not a dream world, its real people living real life together. God designed people with different quirks, habits, and personalities. So no, you probably will not like everyone in your group at first. Truthfully, you may say “OMG how did I wind up in this room with these people!!!! and on your ride home you will say “NEVER AGAIN!” Here is my plea to you: Be real with yourself. First of all, you are nowhere near as cool as you think you are. sorry. Secondly, community takes time and intentionality to build. I tell leaders to tell any prospective group members to give it 6 weeks to see if the group is a good fit or not. Leaders, don’t promise the moon, members, don’t expect it.
2. Sinner First, Sinned against Second. As a group leader of a messy community, you must remember and verbalize this. Pride would have us always focus our attention on the sin of others and not on our own sin. The Gospel reverses that, reminding us that it was ME who sinned first and worst by rejecting God himself. But in response to my sin, God chose to love me, pursue me, forgive me, and even adopt me as his child. The only way you breakthrough to good, life-altering community is by putting this principle into practice OFTEN. Nothing will save you more headaches and frustration than remembering what Paul says in Romans 5.12. “death spread to all men, why? because ALL SINNED.” Remember, Christ’s death paid the penalty for our sin and so in the eyes of God, he sees Christ’s sinlessness, not our sin. It DOESN’T mean we are able to stop sinning for the rest of our lives. While the spirit of God gives us a stronger distaste for sin the more we grow with him, until we are with Jesus face to face, we are sinners saved by grace. Why do I tell you this? So often group leaders come to me almost surprised by the fact that they have people sinning in their group. PEOPLE SIN!

3. Everyone has a story. As a group leader, I tend to peg people into a stereotype pretty quickly. There’s angry guy, cry-baby, johnny talks a lot, jokester, and Silent Sam. Now, while that is an entertaining exercise I NEVER reveal to my group, it probably isn’t a good perspective. People have histories. Everyone does. When you get beneath the surface and spend time with those in your group, you will pretty quickly start to see that a lot of what makes a person who they are comes from their past experiences. So be careful to label people. Instead, especially early on, take the time to get to know one another. One of the best exercises I’ve seen to this end is “life-mapping.” This is when a group takes a weekend away and over the course of the weekend, everyone shares their story (30 minute version). Whatever you do, remember everyone has a story. So give them grace as you build community with them.
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