This week was the launch of the Fall season of NBC‘s “Must See TV”. Now, I‘m not a huge TV guy except for the occasional Man vs. Food or Shark Week on Discovery. But I will openly admit that I‘m an avid Michael Scott & Co. fan. It‘s really hard to not make comparisons to The Office and our Church Office. I‘m musing about who on our team I think is most like Dwight as I write this!!!!
However, I was most excited to watch a new comedy called “Community“. It‘s based at a community college with a strange yet stereotypical cast that forms a study group (think The Breakfast Club of the 80‘s). I loved the quick wit and cheesy dialogue and it always warms my heart when Chevy Chase surfaces. But more than anything I was intrigued at how a group of disconnected individuals could find commonality and friendship.
I was particularly gripped by the crowning observation made by the makeshift leader of the study group: “You just stopped being a study group. You‘ve become something unstoppable. I hearby pronounce you a community.”
What brought about this shift from study group to community? How does this happen in the life of a church and in its small groups? Does it happen with some groups and not with others? Is there a formula? Well, the answer to the last question is a resounding “NO” – there is no formula, but there are some consistent factors that contribute to the nurturing of real, authentic community in people‘s lives. In all my years of being in small groups, I have found the following three elements to be present.
1. Care: The Bible says over and over that we should “love one another” and “prefer one another”. These challenges don‘t come easy. Many of us have enough to care for with our immediate families and our personal well-being. It‘s tough to then extend ourselves beyond that. Yet, the life of Jesus shows us how to be people that care for each other. Community is developed when its members intentionally and authentically care for one another.
2. Conflict: Oddly, one key element to community life is conflict. Every good story has conflict and so does every good relationship. Nothing bonds hearts together like a good brewing of tension and turmoil. Granted, it‘s those very elements that can ruin community as well, and yet, when it can also serve to unite a group of people more than anything else. Conflict, and it‘s hopeful resolution, is what sucks us into a good novel or television program, and it is what forges depth of community in churches and families.
3. Chemistry: Finally, one can‘t overlook the aspect of pure chemistry. Simple put, you gotta enjoy being together. Yes, there may be times of conflict (that‘s normal and often helpful), but overall, there must be a sense of “man, I like hanging out with you.” It‘s that chemistry that Denise and I have enjoyed when it comes to the small groups we have been a part of. Currently, we are meeting with a group of people for our LEGENDS small group at WSFC and frankly: we dig these people. They‘re just fun to hang with. It‘s that kind of chemistry that makes community enjoyable.
We are all called to be in community (see Acts 2 & 4). God designed us to go beyond just a “study group” or “acquaintances”. He lives in community (the Trinity) and desires the same for our lives!