In one of the latest releases by Re:Lit, the publishing ministry of The Resurgence, Pastor Brad House offers advice for “taking your small group off life support.” Personally, I have been heavily influenced by the ideas coming out of Mars Hill on small group development and keeping your “air war” (weekly sermon series) in sync with your “ground war” (what the small group talks about during the week). Finally in Community, we’ve got a book length treatment of the subject, and it doesn’t disappoint.
Community is a well written book and is full of “tweetables” (which are actually too long to tweet). Just to give you a sample, here are just a few of the ones that stuck out to me as I was reading:
The cross, then, is central to building a community within the church. If the church is going to offer an alternative to the brokenness and isolation in the world, then it must be a community that is transformed by the death and resurrection of Jesus. (p. 33)
Basically, the witness of community is more powerful than an individual witness. Loving your neighbors is much easier if you never have to deal with them. Living in light of the gospel is much harder in community where people sin against you. (p. 41)
There is no biblical support for personal, autonomous Christianity. If we want to truly make disciples that advance the gospel, we must not only see the importance of community, we must understand it to be essential to the church. (p. 47)
To own an ideology, vision, or mission, is to take possession of it, to make it your own. It is to internalize it to the point where not only can you reiterate it, but also you can teach it, defend it, and live it…when it comes to the mission of the church, our responses reflect our ownership more than any other aspect of the mission. (p. 69, 70)
Our churches are filled with people who agree with the mission but do not own it. Ownership is marked by joy-filled sacrifice that sees kingdom work as a “get to” because of what Christ has done, rather than a “got to” out of Christian duty. (p. 73)
As far as the actual structure and content of the book goes, it is split into three parts. Part one covers general theological foundations for human beings as images of God (chapter 1), the necessity of community (chapter 2), and taking ownership of your role in the church and group you’re a part of (chapter 3).
Part two then details what a healthy community group should look like. The first step of course is identifying what a biblical community looks like (chapter 4) before then describing what kind of mission this group of people should be on (chapter 5). To successfully carry out that mission, a healthy small group needs to consider how different community spaces function (chapter 6) as well as how their particular neighborhood carries out life (chapter 7). This part then closes out with a discussion of how to put together groups like this and to keep the organic community growing (chapter 8).
Part three then tackles questions related to how to shift the paradigms of your own church’s small group ministry if they aren’t on track. Any change at all hinges on fostering a general lifestyle of repentance (chapter 9). Once that is established, Pastor Brad then explains how they conduct small group boot camps to help cast vision and train leaders (chapter 10) before then giving a brief history of how it all unfolded at Mars Hill (chapter 11). There are then several useful appendices with community group plans, group leader job descriptions, and group coach job descriptions.
Throughout all this, I think several discussions in the book are key to reframing how we view community groups. I felt that the chapter on ownership (p. 65-81) is something that is greatly needed. Also, in light of some discussion on here, I thought the discussion of contextualization was on target and helpful (p. 107-109, 130). As far as practically re-ordering your own personal small group to be more mission minded (i.e. growing by inviting non-Christians) the chapters 6-7 and a literal gold-mine of practical advice.
Overall, I found this to be a book that is typical of what you would come to expect from Re:Lit if you’ve kept up with their recent releases. The book is size wise more like Vintage Jesus, Vintage Church, or Death By Love rather than say some of the other releases like Note to Self or Redemption. The book will find its home on the shelves of seminary students, church planters, and seasoned pastors who are either new to small groups are or trying to navigate the waters of change in their particular ministry.
Brad House, Community: Taking Your Small Group Off Life Support. Wheaton: Crossway, 2011. 256 pp. Paperback, $15.99,
Read an excerpt
Visit the publisher’s page
Thanks to Crossway for the review copy!