At CityLights we have community groups that gather once a week at different times of the week and at different locations where Christians can come together to encourage one another, build each other up, share openly, worship, study God’s Word and be accountable to a group of people who are seeking to care for one another and reach out to the surrounding community. Because community groups are vital to our church, we need to understand why we are able to have community groups and why we need them. Understanding community is vital at CityLights church for our health and growth in the Lord. Communities are a vital and unavoidable part of our world. Your home, whether a hut in the jungle or a two-flat building in the Northwest Side of Chicago is your immediate community that is within another community – your neighborhood. Your neighborhood is within in another community – a city. I think you get my point…The city is within a county, the county is within a state, the state is within The United States of America, which is within North America, which is a continent within a group of other continents which make up our world. We are in a community whether we like it or not, small and big. God has purposed that his bride, the church be a vibrant community within a community bringing about change through the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Which brings me to my next question: Why are community groups at CityLights possible in the first place? It has to be solely because of Jesus Christ. If Jesus had not willingly taken the sins of his people upon himself and die in our place appeasing God’s justice and wrath, then you and I would not be writing or reading about church community groups because there wouldn’t be a church! If Christ had not washed our sins so that his perfect record could be credited to us, then God would have never have adopted me us his children. That is why community groups ought to be a representation of God’s love for the world by sending his son to die on a cross for that world. Community ought to be cross embracing, cross teaching and cross dependent and cross exalting. Community groups start with the gospel and end with the gospel. They start with the gospel that transforms a group of people living in authentic, vibrant, honest, trusting community who then reach out to the surrounding community to introduce them to the gospel.
Our church motto is, “Making disciples that touch their world with the love of Jesus,” and the only way we will be able to achieve this will be by embracing gospel centered communities. If community groups solely exist to produce studying the Bible, praying, fellowship, sharing a meal, and hanging out, then we have reduced the gospel to an a la carte menu that will differentiate from community group to community group. It will be a community group based on our likes and interests rather than the likes and interests of Jesus. In a community group, knowing why you exist as a community is vital because it gives you the rock solid identity required in order to obey the mission found in Matthew 28:19:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,”
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” – the gospel is for all people of all colors and backgrounds and cultures. We get to have the honor to make disciples here in Chicago, one of the most diverse cities in the world in order to display the glory of God. We get to show Chicagoans how to be disciples so they can also join us in worship of God and in the mission from God to bring others to become worshipers.
“Baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” – I think God is trying to point us to something here. I think he’s pointing us to his style of community. God wants his people to live in community. God’s intent for his people to experience community amongst themselves is something that is intrinsic to his character. Before the world was created, God was. God has neither beginning nor end. He is the Alpha and Omega – the beginning and the end. The reason we need to be part of a community group in this day and age at CityLights Church is because we are made in the image of God and therefore we are to resemble God’s character. Bearing the image of God was true of Adam and Eve and true of you and I today.
As evangelical Christians we hold to the timelessness of God (his eternity) and we hold to the wonderful, deep truth of doctrine of the Trinity. Just for a quick review, the doctrine of the Trinity can be summed up in the following three statements: God is three persons. Each person is fully God. God is ONE.
God has lived in community within the three persons of the Trinity for all time. There is perfect communion, love, respect, adoration, submission, and worship. To learn more about the the Trinity please visit our Doctrine Class Resources at https://www.lightinthecity.com/sermon/doctrine-trinity/.
The doctrine of the Trinity is of utmost importance when thinking about what the lifestyle of God’s people should be. There is much to gain and comprehend and apply to our lives when we sit back and observe God interact within the three persons of the Trinity in a Trinitarian relationship. This is applicable to our lives as Christians because God made us in his image and God intends that we reflect back his character and glory with our lives, and because we are image bearers of God, God intends us to reflect his character in the way we live in our communities. Because the Trinity is made up of three distinct persons but have a common divine nature and attributes, we see how three persons interact with each other giving us the standard that we ought to follow when we interact amongst ourselves in our community groups. Trinitarian relationship sets the course for how all other relationships in the world need to be.
At CityLights Church, we put a lot of effort into community groups and we try our best to avoid being a Sunday service driven church. We strive to be a church that its mission is not confined to a certain time on Sundays. That doesn’t mean that Sunday morning services are not important, in fact they are – the corporate gathering of the saints in a local body is vital and worthy of another blog – but God did not design us to live our mission only 2 hours a week on Sundays at 11:00 a.m. inside four walls, we must be ready to carry out the mission at all times.
Getting people to get plugged in to community groups poses some challenges. First, we must exchange our earthly culture and replace it with gospel culture. We are Americans and so therefore we like our privacy. Generally, we are not a people who open up to others we have just met. We love to have homes surrounded by white picket fences tall enough to keep others out but low enough where we can still look outside. We love to be glued to our TV’s, laptops, tablets and smart phones rather than have personal contact with others. We love coming to the Sunday all-you-can-eat feast but we generally don’t want any part of the daily portions throughout the week. Can you imagine what it would be like if you feasted every Sunday at Old Country Buffet and starved yourself Monday through Saturday? What would your doctor say about your health? Not too many good things! My argument is not that it’s either/or…it’s both/and! You need the corporate gatherings as much as smaller, more intimate gatherings. They complement each to provide an avenue for spiritual growth and maturity in God.
We appeal to you to embrace the culture of community groups. Some of us think we can do it alone. We think we don’t need help, or prayer, or encouragement, or admonishing, or confession. We are happy to show up on Sunday and enter and go out. Our mission is to go unnoticed! But this is contrary to the bible. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:14:
“For the body does not consist of one member but of many.”
You my brother and sister, are one of many members of the body – the body of Christ. God has gifted you with gifts and talents to share with others in community. God’s gifting for you is to build up your brother and sister! Imagine if you woke and your head says, “I don’t need the neck today…” Good luck backing up into a parking space or checking your blind spots while driving! This is silly isn’t? Yet this is what we, in fact, demonstrate is our heart attitude when we do not want to join others in what God is doing. Sometimes we feel that we are not gifted with a certain gift and are useless when God has indeed gifted each of his children. If you don’t have a certain gift, it’s because you need the person that has that gift. And if you have a gift, it’s because a person in the body needs your gift! Please take time to read 1 Corinthians 12:14-26 and you will see that God’s design is for his people to be in community, serving one another and building each other up because we are one body. Paul says in verse 22, “the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable.” Could that be you?
At CityLights we want our community groups to reflect the truth of the Trinity and the cross. Trinitarian and gospel centered community groups experience holiness, love, truth, humility, power and joy by the work of the Spirit and glorify God by reflecting back to him his glory through our image bearing. God does not need us, but in his wisdom he has made it so that he uses us! He works despite us and we need each other! At CityLights Church we want to be on mission with you and want you to grow in community. God has shown us his standard of living in himself in the perfect community within the Trinity. We alone cannot live up to this but through the cross, and his Holy Spirit, God the Father has given us the purpose and the means to do it.
If you have not signed up for a community group we encourage you to do so at https://www.lightinthecity.com/community/