By Emily Pilkington
If someone were to ask you what it means to be a Christian, how would you respond? Having faith or belief in Jesus’s death and resurrection? A recognition of your sin and need for a Savior? A personal relationship with Jesus Christ? Each of these statements are true and essential. But they miss an important element, and this might be because of our cultural context.
America has a reputation for rugged individualism. American Christianity, especially evangelicalism, has too often been guilty of cross-pollinating with this individualism in unhelpful ways. Far too often we view our faith as individual and private. We believe things like, “All I need is Jesus and my Bible.”
Our self-sufficient approach to life would’ve been quite foreign to the Bible’s original authors and audience. Their identity as both the Old Testament and New Testament people of God involved collective interdependence. From cover to cover, God’s constant refrain is, “I will be your God and you will be my people.” God created his people not just for relationship with him, but relationship with each other. A people meant to function as Christ’s own Body that needs each and every part. It’s not good for us to be isolated from one another.
The Christian Life was Never Meant to be Lived in Isolation
Tish Harrison Warren echoes these ideas again in Liturgy of the Ordinary:
“But while an individual relationship with Jesus is an important part of the Christian life, it is not the sum total of the Christian life. Our relationship with God is never less than an intimate relationship with Christ, but it is always more than that…But if Christianity is not only about my individual connection with God, but is instead about God calling, forming, saving, and redeeming a people, then the church can never be relegated to elective status…We do not know this Messiah solely through the red letters in the gospel texts. We know him in his fullness because we are joined to him in his Body, the church.”
Following King Jesus is a group project. It’s not something we can do on our own. One of the best ways for Christians, especially those who are part of a big church like The Crossing, to do so is by joining a small group.
Here are three reasons joining a small group can make a big impact:
1. Life is hard.
God never promises his followers a life of ease. In fact, Jesus himself guarantees the exact opposite when he says, “In this world you will have trouble.” Small groups are safe places for us to process the challenges of this life. They are places where we can honestly share our insecurity, fear, and suffering.
When I struggled with undesired singleness, I felt safe to share my loneliness with the women in my small group. When my husband and I struggled with infertility, we were able to share our heartache candidly with our small group. Our small group was there through miscarriage, a high-risk pregnancy, surgeries, extended hospital stays, and hard medical diagnoses praying, bringing meals, texting encouragement, and offering tangible support. They were the primary way that God cared tangibly for our family through a variety of difficult times and we tried our best to do the same for them.
2. Meaningful relationships with others make life worth living.
Loneliness was the very first thing that God called “not good.” Before a serpent spoke, before our first parents rebelled, before sin even entered the world, we learn that God’s good gift of life together with others is part of God’s good design for those made in the image of a relational God. Adam lived and walked with God in the Garden. He knew a level of intimacy with his creator that none of us will experience until Jesus returns. And yet, God says it was not good for him to be alone.
We see this idea alive and well in the life of Jesus throughout the Gospels. God the Son was in perfect relationship with the Father and the Spirit, but he also lived a life filled with human friendship. Small groups are a practical way to combat the loneliness epidemic present in our world today. They are a practical way to make friends and enjoy life together with others the way that God intended.
3. Sunday mornings are important, but our faith was never meant to be confined to a worship service.
In Colossians 3:17 we read, “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Every part of our lives is meant to be an act of worship.
Small groups help us to apply what we learn on a Sunday morning to our relationships with our roommates or our kids. They help us to see the work God has given us to do in our office, in our homes, or in our classrooms as important to him. Small groups create an active learning environment where we can bring our questions, thoughts, and learn from and with others. They are places that we join together and serve in ways that are far more powerful than what we can do on our own.
Are you looking ready to get involved with a small group at The Crossing? Sign up for one of our Small Group Previews (online or in-person) this January to find out how to join.