Love in Suburbia
Hello Church Family,
I hope you’re having a productive week, one in which you’re resting in the grace of God.
In his brief but powerful book, The Mark of the Christian, the late Francis Schaeffer penned his now-famous proposal that the final apologetic for the Christian faith is the observable love that Christians have for one another. He went on to explain: “This is the whole point: The world is going to judge whether Jesus has been sent by the Father on the basis of something that is open to observation.”
But that presents a problem for a medium to large-sized church: How do we actually show love to one another in ways that can be easily recognized? It would be simpler, it stands to reason, for a church of one hundred to maintain tight communion than a church ten times its size and with multiple services. Nevertheless, if love is what makes a Christian community grow, if that’s what hurting and lost people are attracted to, how does a church of over a thousand people in a suburban context (where people often leave for work at daybreak and return home from another city late in the evening) put it into practice?
The answer, I believe, is in the small groups of the church: what we call Growth Groups. In the context of these smaller gatherings, people are able to make visible the very demonstrations that Schaeffer commends in the aforementioned book: confession, forgiveness, mutual assistance, practical help. In the groups that I’ve been in over the past few years, we’ve had help fixing a leak, moving furniture, transporting children, installing a patio—when my next door neighbors wondered aloud, “Who was carrying all those bricks to your back yard?” I could tell him, “Oh, those are some of my friends from church who are in my small group.” More importantly, in our group, we’ve learned to forgive one another, assist one another in theological thinking, identify and expose blind spots, and accept each other despite our differences. Nothing pictures the grace of God better than those things.
Of course, we know that small groups are not the answer to every ill that plagues the church. They’re simply means to an end. The goal is authentic biblical community. Not something we have to create, but something we’ve been born into by virtue of our salvation. Something we get to participate in and model.
If you’re not experiencing that level of community, then perhaps you’re neither enjoying nor showing the type of observable love that strengthens your own soul and draws unbelievers to Jesus. If that’s the case, this is the perfect time to sign up for a Growth Group. This Sunday, the launch of our Get Connected season, there will be a table set up on the Heritage Patio area labeled “Growth Groups.” Many other ministries will be featured as well.
Why not take the time to invest in the lives of other believers? Who knows … your neighbor might notice the love on display and ask you about Jesus.
For God’s glory,