Small groups play a powerful role in the local church. In previous posts I’ve talked about recruiting small group leaders, equipping leaders, creating alignment in your small group ministry, and promoting small groups. But what is the driving force behind all of these efforts? Why are relationships so crucial in the church?
When each one of us was born, we were born into the global family of human beings. But God also designed us to belong to a specific family…a place where we find nurture, care, love, and safety. The same principle is true with our spiritual family—the family of God. 1 Peter 1:3 says, “All honor to God, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; for it is his boundless mercy that has given us the privilege of being born again so that we are now members of God’s own family. Now we live in the hope of eternal life because Christ rose again from the dead.” Rick Warren says:
“You become a part of the human family by your first birth, but you become a member of God’s family by your second birth.”
So what happens in our spiritual family? Being rooted in relationships with other Christ followers empowers an extraordinary process of connecting and growing. A foundational truth is at work:
Relationships are a place to belong and become.
Sociologists suggest that our society is experiencing “crowded loneliness.” Although we’re surrounded by people, we lack a sense of belonging. In fact, research by the Gallup organization revealed that seven in ten do not know their neighbors. Furthermore, one-third of Americans often experience loneliness. These feelings are also prevalent in the church. Author Randy Frazee observes:
“The ‘hard to swallow’ premise is that today’s church is not a community but rather a collection of individuals.”
Meaning is found in the context of relationships. We find meaning in our relationship with God. We find meaning in our relationship with our family. And we find meaning in our relationship with the family of God. In Romans 12, the apostle Paul makes a comparison between our physical bodies and the family of God.
In this way we are like the various parts of a human body. Each part gets its meaning from the body as a whole, not the other way around. The body we’re talking about is Christ’s body of chosen people. Each of us finds our meaning and function as a part of his body. But as a chopped-off finger or cut-off toe we wouldn’t amount to much, would we? (Romans 12:4-5 MSG)
The organs in your body find their purpose and meaning when they are connected to your body. If your heart, lungs, or kidneys were cut out of your body, they wouldn’t have any meaning or function. Your organs only have meaning when they are connected to your body. The same is true in the body of Christ. We find meaning when we are connected to Christ’s body…to His family.
Unfortunately, some followers of Christ do not think the church (the family of God) is necessary. In fact, some people do not even like, much less love, the church. They proudly tout, “I love Jesus, but I hate the church.” There’s just one problem with that statement: The Bible calls the church, “The Bride of Christ” and “The Body of Christ.” How can you love the Head but not the body. As Rick Warren observes, that would be like me saying, “I love you, but I hate your wife.”
You might say, “But you don’t know how other Christians have hurt me.” You’re right, I don’t know. But I do know this: Pain caused by the body of Christ is not a license to cut-off the body of Christ. Ephesians 2:19 says, “Now you are no longer strangers to God and foreigners to heaven, but you are members of God’s very own family, citizens of God’s country, and you belong in God’s household with every other Christian.”