In last month's issue of "Small Group Dynamics," I described what I see as a behemoth problem for small groups and small group ministries, especially in America. I believe this problem is an obstacle to real spiritual growth through groups. The problem is a lack of authentic community as compared to that of the prototype: the church of the New Testament.
Real Community: What Is It?
Actually, the primary problem is a misunderstanding of what real community is. Merriam Webster Dictionary defines Community as:
A unified body of individuals b : the people with common interests living in a particular area; broadly : the area itself. c : an interacting population of various kinds of individuals (as species) in a common location. d : a group of people with a common characteristic or interest living together within a larger society.
The word community, comes from the same word as commune: a place where people live together and share everything; communism: a theory which advocates a state of society in which there should be no private ownership, all property being vested in the community and labor organized for the common benefit of all members; and communion: an act or instance of intimate communication or sharing.
These definitions provide us with some prerequisites for authentic community: (1) proximity, (2) intimacy, (3) regular interaction, (4) sharing of things and life.
Community in the New Testament is defined best in Acts 2:42-47:
They joined with the other believers and devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, sharing in the Lord's Supper and in prayer. A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together constantly and ...