A few summers ago I got a call. “It’s likely cancerous. We need to schedule a procedure immediately.”
With a lump in my throat and a quivering chin, I called my life group ladies to ask for prayer. Each asked what they could do, although I wasn’t even sure what I needed. I felt too numb to know. Within just 48 hours I had several women stop by to lay hands on me and pray, a few freezer meals, offers for childcare, a bouquet of my favorite blooms, and a number of thoughtful handwritten cards.
I had always loved my life group for the fun we had: laughs over drinks, swapping silly stories about our kids, praying, and serving the church together. But this was different. I’ve never felt so vulnerable, but I’ve also never felt as loved. Thankfully, I now have a clean bill of health, but I will never forget how brushing shoulders with cancer showed me the rich love of God’s people (Galatians 6:2).
We all carry baggage, fear, shame, grief, pain from our past; and it’s all too heavy to carry alone.
This is just one small part of my own story, and I know you’ve got your own. We all carry baggage, fear, shame, grief, pain from our past; and it’s all too heavy to carry alone. And then there’s the good stuff too: the hope, the joy, the peace. All of it is meant to be shared.
What does that look like at Coram Deo Church? Life groups! Life groups are designed to answer a biblical call for the church body to care for one another. My life group gathers regularly for potluck suppers where we open God’s Word, encourage each other, and pray together.
In the flesh
In an age of social networking, live-streaming, video chat services, and the ability to be instantly connected in some way to everyone from Grandma to the royal family: why should we even bother with in-person community? Because we truly weren’t designed to journey alone. Through this strange pandemic year, the world has fought hard to persuade us that we’re alright on our own. Our culture has bought the lie that aloneness and autonomy are moral merits. As Christians, we know that this can’t possibly be true! We are dependent on Jesus to save us because we’re lost in our sin. But being dependent on Jesus doesn’t mean we can exist without Christian community any more than a foot can survive being distanced from the rest of the body (Romans 12:3-13).
Jesus himself, while certainly capable, chose to travel and serve primarily within a community. God didn’t just shoot us a Facebook message. He showed up in the flesh and sojourned along with us, loved us, cried, and celebrated with us. Regularly partaking in Christian fellowship is obedience to God. After all, it’s impossible to follow the “one-another” commands* without being, well, with one another.
God didn’t just shoot us a Facebook message. He showed up in the flesh and sojourned along with us, loved us, cried, and celebrated with us.
Getting together with our life group, simple as it may be, is one of the most profound things that my family does every week outside of Lord’s Day worship. You see, gathering regularly declares to the watching world that no, following each other on Instagram is not enough. In a season where being together is controversial in and of itself, a potluck dinner with open Bibles is not just dinner, but the planting of a Gospel flag in the ground. The world desperately needs this: a group of people following Jesus together regardless of their differences in background, class, race, personality, and which football jersey they wear.
What if it’s weird?
We need each other and our differences are needed too. We aren’t scared of your baggage. Nobody is too far gone to be brought into the fold. No amount of awkwardness or complexity is enough to make you unwelcome here. Yeah, that means you too.
Maybe you are like me, an awkward introvert. If so, I get it. The idea of showing up to someone’s house I barely know as a “new person” in a group? That’s pretty hard for me too. And if you’re just getting back into the swing of socializing post-lockdowns, that can feel especially clumsy and intimidating! Before I was a part of a life group, I worried about fitting in. But let me tell you: if you are in Christ, you already have something in common with your new group, and it’s the biggest, most meaningful commonality you could possibly have.
...if you are in Christ, you already have something in common with your new group, and it’s the biggest, most meaningful commonality you could possibly have.
It can be all too easy to treat the church like a social service where we show up weekly, get what we want, and head into the next week without much actual connecting or commitment. If this is your current comfort zone, I’d like to encourage you to pray about that. Have you ever considered that your brothers and sisters might actually need your unique gifts (Romans 12:4-8)? If you’re already connected in a life group, I’d like to encourage you to be on the lookout for those who aren’t. Draw them in. Extend the invite. There is always room for one more.
God has extended a personal invitation to each of us into fellowship with the Trinity. But being joined with Christ cannot be less than being joined with his bride, the Church (Ephesians 3:18-19). We are saved as individuals, yes, but he also saved us for and into a family. And he did it on purpose. That means all of us, regardless of class, gender, race, or age. The old, the young, the shy folks, the sticky-fingered little kids, the spiritually mature, the brand-new Christians, the singles, the married, the interesting, the slightly annoying, the impossibly awkward, or the trendy and suave—we are all united under the same King.
In C.S. Lewis’ novel The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, there’s a scene where the White Witch stumbles across a group of misfit woodland creatures mid-feast. She is utterly outraged when she learns they are toasting to the return of Aslan, the real ruler. Evil is shaking with fear after being exposed as a fake. As the curse is melting, the authority of darkness is crumbling too. But more so, it’s a revelry to the glory of the founder of the feast. There is no better reason to party than uniting under the banner of the Lordship of Christ! This is what life groups are: shoulder-to-shoulder in the trenches of life, and shoulder-to-shoulder raising a glass to the one True King.
Friend, I promise you there is a seat for you and your household at this table. You’re invited, and trust me, you don’t want to miss it.
Join a Coram Deo Life Group today: www.coramdeochurch.org/lifegroups