Flourishing in Community
Fall is here! School is in session, college football and the NFL are in in action, the weather is changing, and Starbucks has a pumpkin latte. Fall brings lots of changes for all of us. What does this change specifically mean for us as Christians? Going from summer to fall means our habits and routines change. We move from vacations and going to the lake on weekends to soccer and school. As our rhythms change, it is essential that we are intentional about reengaging in our rhythms that are most critical for our souls to flourish.
For my family and I, this summer was no different. In fact, it was more extreme than normal. We had a sabbatical, which meant we took intentional time away from the church and my role in the church as a pastor to rest and grow together as a family. The sabbatical in many ways was a dream. We were able to go as a family to Mexico and enjoy each other for several weeks in a row; it was a time my family will never forget. But as we finished our time and were coming back to the real world, part of us was hungering for something more. We missed community. We longed for our friends and Living Stones. We missed worshipping, Community Group and walking through the ups and downs of life with those we love. We realized we missed community because we were made to be in community.
As we look at the Bible, it supports what we experienced. The entire Bible is written to a group of people who are in community. We see God in community as the Trinity, the Old Testament in community in the people of Israel, and the New Testament people in the community of the Church. What we can take from this is the that the People of God will only flourish when they are in community with the People of God. At Living Stones, Community happens in two primary ways: Worship Gatherings and Community Groups.
My fear as a pastor for the people at Living Stones is that our business is going to keep us from reengaging in community this fall. Although we are made to live in community, our natural bent as Americans is toward business. It takes intentionality to be a part of community. For our family during this season of our lives, kids’ sports are pulling for our time and attention. As much as we recognized the loss we had in Mexico from our Living Stones Family, we daily have to be intentional to prioritize both Sunday Worship Gatherings and Community Group.
The average church member in the United States attends a Worship Gathering on Sunday 1.2 times a month. There has been a sharp decline in church attendance over the last decade (this came from a recent study, not sure where I read it). We have a similar decline in Sunday church attendance at Living Stones, even with those most committed to the gospel. Worship Gathering attendance is essential to the soul because it leads us into God's presence with God’s people. We spend 6 days focused on staying afloat with our busy lives and Sunday Worship Gatherings is our reminder of our need for the presence of God and his people. We all long for relationship because we are created for it. Prioritizing the Worship Gathering is essential for our souls and is where we begin to live into community with God and his people.
Community Groups take living into relationship with God and his people a step further. There are 3 parts to what make up a Community Group. Intentionally pursuing and growing in relationships with God — believers and those who do not yet believe in Christ. In Community Groups, we first focus on our relationship with God through studying the bible and praying together each week. We then focus on our relationships with others in the group and are intentional to talk through the relationships with those in our lives who are not a part of the church. And finally, we long to thrive in our relationships because God made us to long for that. As we pursue relationships in Community Group, we realize the only answer is the gospel. Jesus lived, died, and resurrected so we could be in the relationships we long for and Community Groups bring that hope to a reality.
With this change of seasons my hope and prayer for you is that Worship Gathering and Community Groups become regular rhythms for you and your family.
If you would like more information about community groups at Living Stones, click HERE.