At the church where I minister we call our small groups "Community Groups" for two important reasons:
First, they are a place where authentic Christian community takes place. They are a place to know and be known, love and be loved, serve and be served, celebrate and be celebrated. They are an environment where intimacy and trust and accountability grow. They are the body of Christ in action.
Second, they are a main place for the church reaching into the community, as each person and group reaches its oikos—a Greek term meaning household, with an applied meaning of a person or group's web of relationships or sphere of influence. Our groups use the slogan, "The front door of the church is the front door of every person's home."
We want to be part of Christ's commission for his church: to go into the world around us and make disciples, baptizing them, assimilating them into Christ's body—both spiritually and relationally—and teaching them to obey everything Christ has commanded us. Our groups are also a place where people experience Christ's continuing presence with us.
To go into the world, we have to be willing to go onto their turf—to meet unbelievers where they are, not where we expect them to be.
But someone will say to me, "But if we strive too hard to reach the world by going where they are, it may result in compromise!"
Jesus said it is the sick who need a doctor, not the well (Matthew 5:31). Jesus never changed his way of ministering to the downcast because he was afraid of his position being compromised. (As God himself, it seems his reputation was much more at stake than ours.) He was chastised by the Pharisees and teachers of the law for eating with tax collectors and sinners (Matthew 5:30). ...