Dead or Alive?

What impact is your small group having on your local community?

"It has been a week since his car moved, the mail is piling up, and there are no footprints in the snow from his house. I knocked on the door and made a couple phone calls, but no one answered."

That was my dad talking. It had been a week since he had seen his next door neighbor Roger—a single guy who has no family. No one really knows Roger in the neighborhood, and growing up his house reminded me of the movie Psycho. I later learned that the police could not enter into Roger's house until two or more weeks had passed since anyone had heard anything.

Loving Our Neighbors

A number of years ago someone challenged me to draw a map of my neighborhood. I drew our street and the streets that attached. Then the person said, "Now draw all of the houses." That was a little tougher, but I got it.

The next step was for me to label all the houses with the names of the people that lived in each one. That was really tough.

I knew the people on either side of my house, and the names of the people across the street. But the people four houses down? No way. I was then asked to identify three things that I knew about the people in houses that lived around me, which was humbling. Here I talked about having a heart for sharing my faith with others, but I didn't even know the names of people within walking distance of my house.

How would you do in that situation? Go ahead and get on Google Maps and check out your neighborhood. Who lives there? What can you tell me about them? What are their interests? Where do they work? What is their story?

It's an important experiment. We can read through the Bible and study it inside and out, but where do we live it? In our neighborhoods. In our homes.

Moving Beyond Information

People say to me all the time, "Matt, I want to go deeper; I want to dive into the Bible and find out what it means, and I don't want to get into a small group that won't do that." That's because I am constantly talk about the importance of service and loving our neighbors as a small group.

Certainly, it's great to want to study as a way to grow in your relationship with God. But is it possible that you can also grow in your relationship with God by talking to the neighbor who just got laid off from work? Is it possible to become more like Jesus when you go to the neighbor next door and say you are sorry for how you have been mean to them two different times? Could it be possible that we are stretched more by telling the single mom who lives down the street that we will watch her kids when she needs to go shopping than we are by underlining the verse that talks about caring for widows and orphans?

I am not saying that it is bad for a group to get together and study the Bible, but I do think we are missing the point when we stay in the huddle for too long and never enter into the game.

Back to Roger

My dad, through police help, eventually found out Roger was in the hospital with a ruptured appendix. He visited Roger that day in the hospital and found out more about Roger than he ever knew before. Roger sat there with tears in his eyes telling my father how much his visit meant.

That day my dad didn't just know the words of Jesus; he lived the words of Jesus. He went deeper. That day he took his eyes off of himself and focused the eyes of Jesus on Roger.

What about you? Take some time to draw your neighborhood. Who are the people that live around you? How can you be Jesus to them?

Maybe for you it isn't drawing your neighborhood; maybe it is drawing your office, or your classroom. Wherever you find yourself in community, may you be Jesus to those around you.

—Matt Graybill is Director of Community LIFE for the "Lives Changed By Christ" church family in Pennsylvania. Copyright 2010 by the author and Christianity Today International. Used with permission.

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