One of Jesus' final instructions to his disciples is found in John 13:34-35: "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." Note that Jesus did not say people will know we are Christians by how many churches we build, how many Bible studies we complete, how many prayers we say, or how many people come to our church. The litmus test is clear: people will know we are Christ-followers when we love each other the way Jesus does.
Theologian Francis Schaeffer asserted, "Our relationship with each other is the criterion the world uses to judge whether our message is truthful—Christian community is the final apologetic." Our non-believing friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors are watching and deciding on the validity of the gospel message. We need others to help us live lives worthy of God's calling so that people will see the power of God's love in and through us.
Ultimately, small groups are a way of living out our purpose, both as individuals and as a collective group of believers—to be the church. We share a common foundation of faith and God has called us to live out the implications of that faith in a relational community, in the context that we call a small group.
—Carolyn Taketa is Small Groups Director at Calvary Community Church in Westlake Village, California; copyright 2012 by Christianity Today.
- How clear is your vision for small-group ministry?
- How familiar are you with the "one another" commands that lay out a vision for biblical community?
- What especially appeals to you about living life together with a small group of people?