Charlotte and I talked about this on the way home last night from our life group Christmas party.
In so many ways, this life group reminds us of what a church ought to be.
Last night, we gathered at Scott and Jill’s home. Almost everyone from our group was there, including some people who are very special to the group. As you might expect, this house looks and smells like Christmas. Yet, what is especially nice is that it feels warm and inviting, and conveys a sense of home. After a dinner of Mexican “stack-up,” our children led us in a number of songs. One played the guitar while the others sang. One of our girls read the story of the birth of Jesus. Randal took the annual group picture. We then went for a hayride. Adults and children sat on bales of hay as we sang Christmas songs and enjoyed being together. We then came back into the house to get warm and drink hot coffee and wassail.
Maybe I especially enjoyed this because it reminded me of the blessing of being a part of a church where a person can experience “family.”
- A group like this can be “family” in the best sense of that word. For example, some people grew up without pleasant memories of being a family. Family was a place where people argued and fought. For some the holidays bring memories of loved ones getting drunk and acting in ways that are painful to remember. Years later, a group of believers like this can make new memories of laughter, joy, and encouragement.
- A group like this can be a place where one can know that he/she is loved regardless. Real love is gracious and focused on the needs of others. Contrast this to being in an environment where you feel as if you are constantly being critiqued and found lacking.
- A group like this can be a place that is safe. Last night four of our girls sang in front of 20 adults. Wow! That is incredible trust. As you might imagine, these adults responded with lots of applause and words of encouragement. I thought later of people I have known who have memories of preforming in front of adults only to receive teasing, digs, and even criticism.
A group like this is a place where we can learn to forgive. We learn that each one of us is flawed and in need of grace. In healthy small groups (which reflect healthy relationships), we practice forgiving and being forgiven. In essence, we experience church. When we practice this kind of love and forgiveness within the context of a small group of Christ-followers, we also learn how to practice that with our spouses and children.
Small groups are like churches. There is no small group of Christians that is perfect. Nor, is there a congregation that is perfect. Some of us seem to want this and occasionally a group or congregation will be held up by some as seeming to have everything in place. Maybe doing this gives some security.
The security of a family, a small group, or a congregation, however, is found in the Lord Jesus. In Him is found the flawless, finished work of Jesus.
Why is it that so many of us seek perfection? Why do we often seek perfection in the perfect mate, the perfect family, the perfect small group, or the perfect congregation? What is the down side of seeking perfection in other people/situations rather than in God himself?