As previously mentioned, in Christ City Church we have three places to belong – Sunday Gatherings (30+ ppl), City Groups (10-30ppl) and Life Groups (2-5ppl), where we encourage you to belong. We do understand that some of you may only be able to commit to one or two of the three because of work or family commitments (and that is fine!). In this blog post I want to answer three questions about Life Groups: what are they? Why are they important? And how can you get going in one?
(1) What are they?
Let me start with the big picture. The God of the scriptures is a triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In his very essence, God is a community. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit have been serving, loving, giving joy to and deferring to the other. C.S. Lewis describes this as the great dance. Since God made us in his image, he therefore made us for community. That is why we learn in Genesis 2:18 that the only thing that wasn’t good about the garden of Eden was that man was alone; he needed a partner, a friend, he needed to be in community. So we too need community; we need one another and we are not meant to be alone.
So how do life groups fit into this? Whilst it is good to have a wider community that cares for you (i.e City Groups), there is something unique about a smaller, more intentional, group. We see this with David and Jonathan (1 Samuel 18-20) who made a covenant with one another, loved each other deeply and swore friendship with each other in the name of the Lord. We see it in the life of Jesus who not only had 12 disciples who he spent more time with but within the 12 he took just three of them sometimes: Peter, James and John (e.g. at the transfiguration and in Gethsemane). Also, when we look at the life of Paul he clearly had a very wide community of co-workers whom he loved dearly (just read Romans 16 or Colossians 4) but there seems to be something unique in his relationship with Timothy, who is called his dear son.
In each of these cases we learn something about the importance of having intentional relationships, with a few people of the same sex, for mutual accountability, prayer, support and truth-telling. So that is what Life Groups are all about. Groups of 2-5 people who commit, for a season, to confess sin, share openly, support one another and speak the truth in love with the aim of helping each other grow in Christ. These groups can be led by someone older but are more often peer-to-peer groups.
The best summary of what they are trying to achieve is found in the famous Proverb (27:17):
As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.
(2) Why are they important?
If we go back to the story of David and Jonathan, David is under extreme pressure because, although he has just defeated Goliath and is hailed as a hero by many, he is under attack from the jealous and insecure king, Saul. So David has to go into hiding as Saul is hunting him down to kill him. This whole episode (chapter 19-20), is bracketed by statements about Jonathan’s commitment to David (1 Samuel 18:1 and 20:42). The friendship helped David fight against the evil. Without Jonathan’s friendship, David would not have survived and come through all the evil and trials he faced and so it is with us. We will not be able to stay to the path of righteousness through all the seasons, trials and temptations of life, without people who can help us, speak truth to us and pray for us.
In the first human friendship, between Adam and Eve, we learn that they were naked and unashamed, that is they were fully known (naked) and fully loved (unashamed). This is part of what it means to be fully human. We spend our lives pretending and covering up but deep down we want to be fully known and loved. So Life Groups are a place of trust and love, where you can be vulnerable to share your challenges, your insecurities, your sins, your fears and your joys, knowing that the other person is on your side, and, even when they say things that aren’t easy to hear, they want the best for you. The book of Proverbs is the place where the benefits of a few close friendships is most clearly described and encouraged and the folly of having lots of loose connections (companions) with no depth is exposed and challenged. Here are a few examples:
He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm (Proverbs 13:20)
A man of many companions may come to ruin but there is a friend who sticks closes than a brother (Proverbs 18:24)
He who listens to a life-giving rebuke will be at home among the wise (Proverbs 15:31)
Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds from a friend can be trusted but an enemy multiples kisses (Proverbs 27:5-6)
We need close friends, brothers and sisters in Christ, who we trust and love. We need those who will hold us to account, challenge us when we are starting to walk into error and stick with us in the tough times as well as the good.
(3) How do I get going?
If you have read up to this point and are convinced and want to get going with a Life Group here are a few suggestions as to how to make it happen. Firstly, go and talk to one or two of your Christian friends and see if they’d be interested. Secondly, if you’re looking for someone older, go and ask someone you respect and look up to and see if they would be up for it. Thirdly, speak to your City Group leader to see if you can do one with them or if they could connect you to someone else in the group who may also be looking for a group. Finally, if all that fails, be patient. Pray and ask God to give you one or two close friends over the next 3-6 months with whom you could form a Life Group with. This is not something we are going to programme or have an official structure for in Christ City Church. By its very nature it has to be organic as you have to find friends that you click with, trust and are willing to be vulnerable with.
Here are a few other tips once you have found 1-3 other people to commit to.
- Find your rhythm – time, place, frequency etc. Some groups might meet weekly before work for a coffee in a café. Some groups might meet once a month for an evening meal in a home. Find what works for you and be aware that this may take time and may change as situations change (a baby is born, you get a promotion, you move to another part of the city etc). Whatever you do, make sure it is sustainable, practical and life giving.
- Commit to a time-frame – whilst some Life Groups end up lasting for years (maybe even life), many groups will be shorter. So if you’re going to start one, commit for 6-12 months to your rhythm and then review things after 6 months and decide if you want to carry on and if so, what changes you want to make to keep the group fresh and life-giving. Additionally, you may want to multiply the group if you have other people that you know are looking for something similar.
- Decide on your meeting structure – in your first meeting decide on your rhythm and time-frame but also how you will structure your Life Groups. In the companion blog post to this one I have listed lots of resources and a few ideas of how to structure your group which will hopefully give you plenty of ideas to get going. Some may study a book of the Bible together. Others may read large portions of the Bible simultaneously during the time between meetings and then discuss how God has been speaking to them. Others may ask one another accountability questions, others may read a Christian book together and discuss a chapter at each meeting. Some groups may be more “friends hanging out and talking about what is going on” and the focus is more to do with developing the friendship and trust. Over time it may be good to change what you do in your Life Group to keep it fresh.
If you have any questions or suggestions then do comment below or speak to your City Group leader, or Steve or Leanne.