I want to share something that has made a huge impact on my life today. This has been something that empowers me and gives me a strong community. Today I want to talk about small groups. Often times we can feel disconnected or alone, and this is a dangerous place to be. Satan loves to prey on the lonely people. I know this because for a long time, I felt lonely. In middle and high school, I didn’t fit in and hadn’t found my tribe. Spiritual attack was more difficult and temptation grew stronger. Then I entered into a small group, a group of brothers my age that loved me and held me accountable for what I was choosing to do. I entered into a circle. See for a long time, the church has just been about rows; listen to the pastor and try to remember what he said two weeks from the message that spoke to your heart. We’re human, we don’t always remember messages, but when we enter a circle, we enter a dialogue. We become an active participant to God’s greater plan for our lives.
Life is hard. We go through some of the toughest trials imaginable, whether it be a loss of someone close to us, heart ache from the hurt others have done to us, a lack of vision over our lives; we have all been through these. Sometimes it is hard to understand how to get through it all. This caused me to think about one important element in my own life and walk with the Lord, community. As humans, we are built to crave community, without it, we physically and emotionally cannot grow. This then led me to ask myself, why is community such an important element to not only our physical well-being, but also to our spiritual walk? To be honest, I have never really looked at the reasons why it is so beneficial, I only knew that I like to be in community with others. Sounds funny right? How can I enjoy community and not know the reason why we need it. As I was thinking about this, I searched for scripture that deals with this idea. Two verses kept coming back and was a perfect of picture of what community is. Hebrews 10: 24- 25 says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another.” As well as Proverbs 27:17, which says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” While praying over these verses, I believe there are three reasons why community is so vital to our journey in Christ.
Community increases our individual growth.
In my walk with Christ, small groups played an enormous role in my life. Back in my ninth grade, I felt outcast. My old church was not a healthy growth place for me, and yet I did not seek to change. When my parents first went to Daystar, I wanted nothing to do with any of it, I was done with youth groups. One day my mom told me that a youth small group was going to be at my house, and that I would be at it. I didn’t want to be there, but I was forced (I know, forced to be at a small group that would change my life, oh woe is me). The first night was incredible, it was the first time I had been able to talk to people that were real in their faith, they didn’t wear masks to save face, they were open and honest about their struggles. I was changed forever. After that evening I kept going, got involved with serving, made friends who I will love for the rest of my life. I now serve with the next generation in elementary and high school, I intern with the youth ministry, and I truly own my faith. I say all of this to show how that community was the catalyst for my spiritual growth, and without it, I don’t even know where I would be. That line in Hebrews says how we spur each other on, I am now able to help others grow in their walks and create life change. I am so thankful for community.
Community increases encouragement.
For myself, and most likely many of you, I need encouragement. As I said earlier, life gets hard, and people say words that can cut us to our core. Whether it is said as a joke, a sarcastic comment, or a purely malice deed, words hurt us. People don’t realize the power of the tongue, and people act carelessly with that power. This is why we need a community that gives encouragement. I am so thankful for my family, they have always supported me through the toughest times in my life. My parents will always listen and speak life giving advice and encouragement that helps me grow and be wise in my walk. I am so thankful for that, I love them for their words. I have been around “friends” that just speak death, and maybe you have these people in your life and are thinking of them now. My advice on that is, get rid of them. Show these people love, but don’t invest in them if all you receive is hurt and pain. Surround yourself with a community that provides support and encouragement. Trust me, you will live with so much more joy. This is the importance of the last line in Hebrews, find people that you can receive encouragement from.
Community gives wisdom that you can give to others.
I want to state the verse in Proverbs again, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” That verse sums up the final aspect of community. As you grow and receive encouragement, which is the sharpening of iron. The second, states that so one person sharpens another. That person is you. That person is me. We aren’t made to just receive and receive over and over, we are to give back to those in community around us! Our human nature is to be selfish, but Christ tells us to live selfless lives. Share with those around you, speak to those you care about. Earlier I talked about how I was in a small group that changed my life forever, and now as time has passed and I have graduated, I lead a small group. I want my students to see how valuable they are in life, how they should run after their dreams, and pursue Christ in everything they do. I do this because I was told these same things, and I am so grateful for that! Speak life to those around you, I always try to encourage my family because they continually encourage me. I want to be careful with my tongue because I know what it feels like to be told by others that you aren’t worth it, or that you will never reach your dreams. Those are lies, the truth is that we are children of the one true God, and we should act like that towards everyone. Sharpen others just as you have been sharpened.
This is the picture of that first small group that I was in, some weren’t in this picture, but these were the people who first taught me about community. I hope you see just how vital community plays a role in our lives. Not only do we need it in order to grow in our own spiritual journey, but we need to be intentional about those who we are in community with. We shouldn’t just receive, but give because we have been poured into so much. A simple conversation could change a person for the rest of their life. That is the value of community, community is the place where people are loved, where people find peace in their trials, and where people find wisdom from the people that care about them. Be intentional about your community, speak life to those around you, encourage one another, and sharpen those around you.