A Christian must surrender to the lordship of Christ – part 5

Surrendering to the Lordship of Jesus requires spiritual community

The second component necessary for surrendering to the Lordship of Jesus Christ is spiritual community.  For this component, many churches refer to the word fellowship.  However, this is an outdated word in our culture.  Most un-churched and under-churched individuals do not resonate with this word, yet churches refuse to let the word die.  According to www.dictionary.com, fellowship means to experience relationship and community.[1]  Many church leaders have different views about how fellowship happens.  We schedule a potluck in the fellowship hall and think people are engaging in relationship and community.  Instead, people often sit with their families or close friends and never participate in new relationships or new community.  The results that come from potlucks often disengage people from potlucks because of those same results.   We need to use caution when painting a picture that relationship and community happens in one static form.  Acts 2:42 reads, “people were devoted to the apostle’s teaching and to the fellowship.”  This relational experience is not superficial, but requires mutual relationships that are deep, meaningful, and intimate.  The Greek word used in Acts 2:42 is koinonia.  The deepest meaning of this word is intercourse.[2]

Individuals need churches to demonstrate spiritual community as biblically as possible.  Spiritual community is rare, but almost never happens during a weekend worship experience.  Our weekend experience should be an invitation for people to engage in a dynamic spiritual community.  Church leaders should always push individuals to value relationship on the deepest level possible.  There could be a correlation in our ability to form intimate relationships on earth with our ability to obtain intimacy with Christ.  I have doubts one can happen without the other.  I will explore several avenues for experiencing spiritual community.  Each avenue can be treated equally if the participants are pursuing an experience that goes beyond superficial.

The first model is the Bible study or Sunday school model.  For many people, this setting has been about learning and not an avenue for spiritual community.  In fact, Sunday school was designed in the 1700’s to teach factory children how to read and write.[3]  Since its inception, Sunday school has evolved to meet cultural needs.  Sunday school classes, along with Bible study groups, are great introductory paths for people who want to know more about the Bible, but not necessarily invest in the life of another person.  Learning information has always been the primary focus of Sunday school classes in America.  On that note, there are people who have been in the same Sunday school class for decades and have learned how to integrate relational aspects into their class sessions.  As much as spiritual community is possible in this setting, it is abnormal.

The second model is the small group model of spiritual community.  The small group model began the authentic transformation process in my life.  I was first introduced to the small group model in 1999.  We had been in our church for about eighteen months when we were invited to be part of this new thing our church was exploring.  My wife and I spent much of the next seven years with a cluster of people in that first small group.

Approximately four years later, I attended a small group seminar at Ada Bible Church in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area.  The keynote speaker, Randy Frazee, had some remarkable things to say about small groups.  This man has much to do with how I think about small group ministry and how geographical proximity should intersect with the local church’s small groups.  During the seminar, Randy Frazee talked about having a presence and availability to his neighbors.  In fact, he said that he did not schedule any meetings after 6pm so he would be available to his neighbors.  Frazee, in his book “The Connecting Church 2.0”, has valid arguments when it comes to rediscovering how spiritual community and proximity intersect.  One of his key points is about the Theology of Place.  He said, “God could have communicated with us through divine emails, texts, and tweets, but he chose instead to go through the hassle of actually coming down to be with us.”[4]  This is a great reminder that Jesus chose to spend most of his time with people.  We read throughout the gospels about moments when Jesus is spending time with his disciples, sharing meals with friends, healing the sick and ailing, and investing in the lives of others.

In our first small group model, the ideal itinerary had an icebreaker, worship, Bible study, prayer, and dessert.  We always had dessert!  Once a month, we would share dinner together.  That group worked well for us because most of us were in some aspect of church leadership.  We had a common interest regarding our church and wanted to push one another further along in our relationship with Christ.  It took maybe two years for our small group to become brotherhood.  We launched something we dreamed about and finally achieved our goal after two years.  Our family moved from that community almost nine years ago, and those relationships have remained healthy year after year.

There are so many benefits to gain from having a regular meeting time with 8-12 other people, but it is not meant to be a final landing place as we surrender to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.  When a small group works well, the group should develop a hunger for deeper relationship and deeper community.  A small group is an important part of the process of authentic transformation and full surrender to Christ.

The third model is the larger group model that many churches rely on as the first source of spiritual community.  In many ways, we have confused corporate worship and communal worship.  However, this setting can be a reliable avenue for experiencing relationship and community.  For example, the Orange Conference in Atlanta, Georgia is designed to bring thousands of leaders together for the purpose of refining skills and rejuvenating energy levels.  In the midst of thousands of leaders, ministry colleagues have an opportunity to connect through a variety of ways.  The Pastor’s Conference at Moody Bible Institute is another opportunity for the same type of connection.  By conferences do an outstanding job and creating environments for experiencing community.  These settings do not come close to experiencing the type of relationship required for spiritual community, but a step in the right direction.  The same applies for the local church weekend worship experience.

The fourth model is the close accountability group model.  This model often becomes lumped within small groups, but has a higher community potential and deserves its own separate category.  This model of accountability groups can be initiated by using Life Transformation Groups.  The Life Transformation Group (LTG) system was introduced to me by the book “Cultivating a Life for God” by Neil Cole.  In page 40 of our class manual, the LTG model would fit in the first category of relational environments.  When a person reads about this model, he will discover LTG’s are the most intimate path in surrendering to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.  Every Christian, who chooses to surrender to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, should strongly consider being involved with a Life Transformation Group.  An LTG can be a final resting place in the search for authentic transformation, as well as spiritual community.  An LTG can catapult a Christian to the next level of surrendering to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.  As we discuss how surrendering requires doing life together, we will explore how LTG’s facilitate this process.  Best of all, the LTG is very straightforward.

[1] http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/fellowship

[2] http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G2842&t=KJV

[3] http://www.christianitytoday.com/ch/asktheexpert/whendidsundayschoolstart.html

[4] Frazee, page 109.