Small groups are a vital part of the ministry in the church. The uncommon community that develops within the church through small groups is amazing. Imagine people coming together from different walks of life under the common banner of a life to be lived for Christ, putting aside personal feelings and motives for the greater good of the common body of Christ that unites all believers. Small groups in our church meet every other week for a time of learning through Socratic discussion, prayer, and fellowship.
But there are studies, and there are moments when I realize being a part of a small group is so much more than just a biweekly get together. We are becoming increasingly aware of the interconnectedness of the entire Christian body, of which each small group is only a small part.
Scripture describes the body of Christ as a single body made up of many members, believers, in the same way that our bodies are one body made up of many parts. “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” (Romans 12:4-5 ESV)
This unity brings with it a dimension of power when everything works properly, but with that also a sense of inseparability and dependence. When one part of the body does not work properly, the body is disabled, much as I am physically. In order for the body to be fully functional, each part, each person must do its part. Our relationships with other believers should be one in which we are always looking out for the needs of the body of Christ as well as communicating our own needs for which we need help from the body. We need to be constantly in prayer, frequently in fellowship, and open and honest in everything that we do.
There is one body, one church, one family. No matter how our personal feelings try to lead us into thinking about any other believer, our mission is clear. We are ambassadors for Christ. When one part of the body is not working properly, we need to put aside our personal comfort and pride, and in whatever way we are capable, administer spiritual first aid in much the same way we would take care of a physical injury or illness within our own individual physical body. If we allow ourselves to give into the temptation to put the needs ourselves ahead of the needs of the body of Christ, and allow our emotions to lead us astray, we need to confess and repent, in loving obedience to Christ and the sacrifice that he made, not only on the cross, but more fully in his act of humbling himself. Jesus was born as a baby, lived his life on this earth, and endured triumphantly the shame, humiliation, trials, and tribulations of living a human life.
With regard to the body of Christ, all believers are endowed with gifts given by the Spirit. These gifts are measured in proportion and doled out by a God who knows us better than we know ourselves, according to His will and our own individual makeup and abilities. We should not be comparing ourselves to others in the body or desiring the gifts given to others in the body beyond what Christ has given to us through the Spirit. We simply need to act on the gifts we are given as we are able, through the Spirit, to minister within the body of Christ.
Given the background of sin in our lives, we should be unashamedly humbled that God would have chosen us out of our sin and accepted us as we were. To be part of a family means to be identified with the family, to be under the headship of a father. With regard to the body of Christ as the family, God is the Father, Jesus the head. Despite having, in Jesus, a headship that is perfect, righteous, and holy in all he is and does, we can still feel alone when part of this family because we are sinful and selfish. We still very often look out for our own needs without regard to the rest of the family. Very often we isolate ourselves and don’t give ourselves wholeheartedly to the needs of the body.
But we can learn from Scripture that such isolation displays a lapse in judgment. In Proverbs 18:1 we read that “…whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.” The following verse may or may not be meant as a continuation of the thought in verse one, but the placement is curious, nonetheless, and if connected, insinuates that this isolation leads to foolishness. “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” And while not every verse in Proverbs is connected with those preceding and following, the placement of these two verses together lends itself to speculation.
What I have recently been learning out of this is that I need to pray more fervently for the members of the small-group and God’s family in general. I also need to not only pray “in Jesus name,” but everything I do should be in Jesus name. As an ambassador for Christ, my life needs to be a reflection of how he would interact with those he brings me in contact with, putting aside my own personal agenda. I am also learning more and more that I cannot live the Christ centered life on my own, individually, as it was not designed to work that way. As the one God is a communal Trinity, the essence of love in action, man was made in God’s image and needing a community of fellow believers to properly function and carry out His initiative on earth, and bring ultimate glory to his name.
As far as my immediate small group and other close friends within the body of Christ are concerned, I can reach out to them via text or email and keep up to date with how things are going, pray for them, and offer encouragement and aid as I am enabled.
God is good, and He is building His church, the body of Christ for His honor and glory.