It Takes A Community to Build a Home

Last Sunday at Waterbrook we had a special service. It was billed as “Don’t Bring Your Friends to Church” Sunday. It wasn’t that we really didn’t want any visitors at church that Sunday, instead we wanted everyone to know it was a Sunday in which I’d be speaking directly to our church family about family issues. To be honest, if I was considering visiting a church, this is the exact service I’d want to attend. As one of our first time guests said to me last Sunday after church, “This kind of service really gives a glimpse into the heart of the church family.” Exactly!

One of the key points I was sharing was the value of CONNECTION in a church family. It’s easy to walk in and out of Sunday morning worship services and say you’re part of a church. In fact, people do it all the time. Then, one day they die, and when the family calls the pastor to do the funeral they say say their late beloved was a long-time member of your church. Except, you can’t find anyone who knew that person. In other words, they may have attended the church some, but were never part of the church family.

At Waterbrook Bible Fellowship, we challenge people to connect to the church family at three levels. We simply call them the Large, Medium, and Small group levels. More or less than one connection at each level may mean your doing too much (it’s possible, even at church) or not connected deep enough. Here’s a synopsis of what those levels include in our setting.

Sunday morning worship services. This is the community setting where we join with others. It’s a large group time to hear God’s Word and respond to God’s truth and character through corporate worship. It’s not targeted you individuals, but the group as a whole. When preparing a sermon, I never think of it in terms of applications to specific individuals. We develop the order of the service and content in a way that makes it accessible to the maximum amount of people. Likewise, you may meet a new person, but you won’t develop a deep friendship during a worship service. Everyone should be committed to being present for our corporate worship together as the Body of Christ.
Hebrews 10:25 > “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another– and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

This is the level in which you do begin to connect with other individuals through a group setting. It can happen in a Bible study group or class. You’ll probably talk about ways in which the Scripture/teaching is applicable to all of you in similar ways. This can also be a service ministry setting where you work alongside others (in the nursery, AV booth, ushering, work projects, teen ministries, etc.) and build a relationship built on your ministry together. You, hopefully, grow deeper through your service and encouragement of one another. It’s idenitifying with a smaller group over a more defined purpose you all share. You may all share a similar interest, calling, or gifting that unites you together for a purpose. This is a fairly comfortable commitment level. Some peopel will fill their cup with only this level of connection.

This is the level where you connect individually with just a few other people. It can happen in a mentoring setting with a couple people who are further along on the journey and help you through your situation; or in a small group with others who are at the same lifestage as you are. The small group is the people with whom you most intimately share the journey of your life. This is where you speak most directly and specifically about how God’s Word and will should be impacting your life situations. This is also where you’ll find the deepest level of care and shepherding, among the people who care about your most. I’ve heard this referred to as Life Groups, Journey Groups, Accountability Groups, Mentoring Partners, and so on. At Waterbrook, we call these groups Home Teams.

The best growth doesn’t happen as a church adds more and more people to the large group setting. You can keep adding worship services, but still remain shallow as Christians. You can build more church buildings but still have people disconnected and alone. At Waterbrook Bible Fellowship, we ask every person to be involved at each of these three levels for maximum growth and care. Though it doesn’t guarantee a healthy spiritual life, we believe it provides the best potential conditions for you to grow. A church that keeps adding chairs to the auditorium where they sit in rows and watch one person teach week after week is not likely to move people forward in connecting to God and other people.

I’m challenged by what Ed Stetzer wrote in a recent blog post:
If the church life revolves around one person’s speaking gift, it is incredibly difficult to move to community. A community “won” to a single voice is not won to community, but to spectatorship. Thus, when pastors say, “it’s all about the weekend,” they tend to create an audience rather than a biblically functioning church community. This is still true if your church is an oft-criticized seeker megachurch or your verse-by-verse preaching point. Either way, if you get thousands sitting in rows but can’t move them to sitting in circles, true community is hard to find.

As a guy who travels around speaking, I understand how quickly it can happen. For the last few weeks, I’ve spoken at a church close to my own house while the pastor is on a short sabbatical. But even in delivering biblical messages, I’m not engaging in biblical community with those people. It takes more than a stage to create a community. The temptation must be fought that a mass of people gathered to hear one person speak is equal to biblical community.

A gifted communicator can draw a crowd, but biblical community will sustain a congregation. A great orator is fun to have at worship, but cannot build community during the other six days and 23 hours of the week. Great preaching will be used by God to bring others to faith and sanctify God’s people, but it will also encourage the body to do life together on mission.


Read the rest of Ed’s article at this link> The Problem with Pastors as Rock Stars
Watch the video of the sermon from August 28, 2011 that addressed this topic.> videos

– Jeff

Posted: September 3, 2011 
Filed under: Deep Thoughts with Pastor Jeff, Leadership, Pastor Jeff, Spiritual, Waterbrook Bible Fellowship
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