When I say "affinity-based small groups" do you know what I mean? In the American church today, we organize many of our small groups around certain "affinities." It could be "young families" or "20-somethings" or "singles" or "retired couples." Organizing our groups around that can be helpful. I'm thankful for the newly married small group my wife and I were in during our first two years of marriage. But affinity-based small groups may not be a gospel-shaped community. Think with me for a moment on this.
One of the things the gospel accomplished was to bring opposites together. A holy, righteous, God was united to an unholy, unrighteous people. Before the gospel, God and this group of lost sinners didn't have much in common. What the gospel did was unite these two together. If the gospel does that with God and sinners, we would probably expect to see that manifested in other areas of life like...community!
One piece of evidence of a gospel-shaped community is that it brings together people who may not have anything in common other than the gospel. One person might be a white, retired, factory worker with grandkids, while the other is a black, 30-something, single, executive. What could the two of them have in common? On the surface, maybe not much. This is the beauty of the gospel. It unites opposites.
So one evidence of a community that's been brought into existence by the gospel is diversity. The problem with affinity-based small groups is that you don't really need the gospel for it to exist. What can rally these people together is the commonality of being young parents, or being single, or being retired. Jesus can drift into the background while our struggles with being new parents becomes the focal point of each gathering.
What I would love to see in the American church is more diversity in our gatherings. I'd love to see people who have very little in common spending lots of time together because what draws them to each other isn't an affinity, but the gospel of Jesus Christ!
This week I will be giving away two copies of the book, The Gospel: How the Church Portrays the Beauty of Christ by Raymond C. Ortlund Jr.. To enter, simply sign in to the Rafflecopter giveaway below and enter either by following me on Twitter, on Instagram, or on both! Winners will be chosen and notified by email. At this time, I do ask that only those living within the 48 contiguous United States enter the giveaway. Thank you for understanding.
So I'm reading through Romans and I came across a couple of verses I never really stopped to think about before:
"I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong — that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith" (Romans 1:11-12).
These verses caught my attention. For one, Paul says he longs to see these Christians. Wow! That's striking! At the time he said this, he had never been to Rome. As far as we can tell, he's never even met these Christians and yet he says he longs to see them! So I'm thinking to myself, "Are there a group of Christians I can honestly say I long to spend time with?" If not, what's going in my heart that I need to plead with God to address?
But there's more...and this is the takeaway I want you to ponder.
Paul longs to spend time with these Christians so that, "...you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith."
The purpose in spending time with believers is mutual encouragement. One goal to have in spending time with other Christians is mutual encouragement.
OK, friends, let's point out the obvious. Gossip, criticism, snarky attitudes, and complaining are NOT encouraging! Can we all agree to work on eliminating these things from our Christian gatherings?
But there's more. What does Paul say is to be the mode of mutual encouragement? It's not, "you're so awesome," or "I'm great, you're great, we're all great!" That's not how this encouragement is supposed to happen. Paul says, "...you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith."
The best way for mutual encouragement to happen in our Christian gatherings is for us to talk about our trust in Jesus Christ! Getting together to gawk at Christ is encouraging! Spending time together to make much of Jesus is encouraging! Hearing about how God is using his Word to bolster our trust in Christ is encouraging!
Let it be so in our gatherings!
“Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden?’” (Genesis 3:1).
So says the satanic serpent.
“We may eat fruit from the tree in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die’” (Genesis 3:3).
So responds Eve.
But did Eve quote God correctly? You decide:
“You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die” (Genesis 2:16-17).
So declared God.
Did Eve correctly quote God?
Almost, but no.
Think about this with me. Eve got right most of what God said. She wasn’t off base by far. She got just one detail wrong: “and you must not touch it.” Delete this phrase and she gets a 100% on the test. Delete this phrase and perhaps her and her husband’s lives aren’t sent down a disastrous road. She got one detail wrong and Satan used it to destroy their lives.
Here’s my plea: pay careful attention to Scripture’s details. Details matter! Be diligent as you study it. Slow down and meticulously read every word. Pastors, your congregation needs you to be studious in your sermon preparation. You play an influential role in modeling for them what it looks like to pay attention to Scripture's details.
Getting one detail wrong was all it took. God bothered to put every word in the Bible for a reason. Let’s bother to pay careful attention to each of them.
This week I will be giving away three copies of the book, Taking God At His Word: Why the Bible Is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means for You and Me by Kevin DeYoung. To enter, simply sign in to the Rafflecopter giveaway below and enter either by following me on Twitter, on Instagram, or on both! Winners will be chosen and notified by email. At this time, I do ask that only those living within the 48 contiguous United States enter the giveaway. Thank you for understanding.