Google+ Followers

Friday, February 08, 2008

The Seven Hour Small Group

Rather than reflecting on something from class yesterday, I'd like to offer some thoughts on a different kind of experience I had last night. After a long day of class (8:00 AM- 4:30 PM) a group of three college friends met me at the Seminary and we went out for the night. This group of guys and I used to meet on a regular basis in college for prayer, accountability, and growing together as Christ-followers. As we drove to a local restaurant, we realized that it had been over six years since the four of us had been together. In truth, it felt more like six days. We picked up right where we had left off, and for the next seven hours, we shared together our hearts, our dreams, our pains, our joys, our passions and our faults. Truth was spoken, grace was given, and God was glorified in the way that we entered into this deep community. Although I got back to my dorm late and tired, I felt as though we had only been together for a few short hours.

Now, you might be tempted to dismiss this as nothing more than a reunion of old friends, but I will tell you it was more than that. It was a level of Christian community that I have rarely found before or after that group.

I bring this up because I believe all of us long for that level of knowing and connection, and yet very few of us know how to find it or create it in our lives. Even having experienced this group, I have had a very difficult time recreating it in my post-college life. I've spent years in small groups and never found this same kind of Christ-centered community.

Why? Why is this so hard for us to find in our modern world? As I've thought this through, I've identified four characteristics that were present in our lives as we forged this deep bond.
1. Proximity: we were all at the same school and rubbed shoulders on a regular, almost daily basis. We had common experiences and events which we could then process together.
2. Frequency: we met regularly and the idea of skipping out on the group was unthinkable. Sure, weeks came where it just didn't happen, but those were exceptions to our routine.
3. Intensity: when we would come together, we didn't spend much time "shooting the breeze" or just catching up. We saw each other enough throughout the week that this was less necessary. Our times were marked with honest sharing, truth-telling, and fervent praying.
4. Commitment: Perhaps most importantly, we had so entrusted ourselves to one another that we knew we could say absolutely anything and find the heart of Christ in one another. No one was walking out, getting offended, or giving up. We were in the battle together, and knowing that someone had committed to you on that level made real community happen.

As I look at our general inability as people to create lasting community, these four traits are more difficult to come by. They require sacrifice. They require risk. They require a firm belief that God has called us to this. Could we all begin to move in this direction?

I would welcome your input and thoughts. Why is it so hard to develop this kind of powerful community? Is it worth the work to make this kind of thing happen? How can we get there?

May God draw you deep into community with himself and others around you as you journey in His grace,



llamapacker said...

Very interesting, Nick. Made me think I was reading one of the books I am now reading. Very similar comments.

The book is called Building a True Spiritual Community, Larry Crabb.

Pastor Nick said...

Very interestig- I've just been reading "Connecting" by Crabb which is also centered on the power of community. He's got great ideas on the topic.

llamapacker said...

Very interesting, Nick. Thought I was reading one of the books I have on my nightstand to read at night. It is called Becoming a True Spiritual Community, by Larry Crabb.

Matt said...

I think that in the times that we live in, people are hesitant to enter into this kind of community because like you said, it takes work. People seem to be busier these days, and something like developing community is going to take up more of our precious time. We look at it as an imposition when in reality, it is what God calls us to...true fellowship.

Pastor Nick said...

A couple of us were talking about that very thing yesterday. Real community is hard because we can't just add it on to our lives. It takes a pretty radical commitment to make it happen, because it can't be forced into an hour or two a week. It's about our whole approach to life.
Thanks for your insight.

Anonymous said...

I don't know that I could ever have that. I don't trust people that easily and the threat of gossip is too much for me to get beyond. There are many people in whom I confide, but no one person has the whole picture of "me". I often joke that if they all got together I'd be in trouble! It's a nice goal to shoot for, however, and at some point I may give it a shot. But it is true that my life is WAY too busy -- I honestly don't have time for friendships...they require more work than I have time. I am very happy for you that you were able to experience that -- it is a rare thing indeed, and should be treasured.


Pastor Nick said...

You're right Britt- it really is hard to develop. We had the advantage of this group starting in college, which shortens the time it takes to really get deep.

I think we have to get to a place where we're really convinced this is something we need. I am, but I've also experienced it and so that makes me long for more. Perhaps that's part of my role as a leader is to help stir up that hunger and desire in others, so they will take the risk.