Leaders are built in community. Disciples are shaped in community. Children need healthy community to grow into well-adjusted adults. And church, parachurch, and mission leaders who help churches to build healthy leaders also need to be in true community.
Does anyone see a theme here?
I know there is a cost to this. My wife and I are in a Life Group on Tuesday nights, after many years of not being in one. Seven people doing Bible study for two hours every week. Some nights one of us doesn’t feel like going. We don’t want another Zoom call, or we don’t want to give up a full evening, or we are just tired.
But we go.
And we are getting to know the people and to be known by them. They have become our friends. And slowly, we are learning to love one another in Christ.
Years ago I read a book called Dangerous Calling. The author, Paul David Tripp, said churches need to make space for ministers to be in their own group – without leading – just to have a place for their own spiritual growth, failures, humility, and to be loved for who they are rather than what they do.
I’m in that Life Group for those relationships, to be in community and to be a normal Christian. And I believe God will use this to save me from many potential pitfalls.
I’m not going to talk a lot about our ministry when I’m there. Instead, it’s a time to listen to others and learn from others. We work at encouraging and praying for one another. For much of our time we study God’s Word and help each other understand and apply it to real life.
Sometimes it seems like Tuesday night comes too quickly, but it’s starting to feel like an anchor, like something that will keep me from moving too far away from being a real person, from being a real Christian.
After eight months we finished studying the letter of First Peter. And I had to really challenge myself, “Have I applied these teachings to my life? Have I truly been a doer of His Word?” But the point is that we are doing this together. And without this community, I cannot live out the Christian life that God wants me to.
The many “one-another commands” in the New Testament point me to the fact that without this group of seven people I would not have much opportunity to experience the power of the “one-another life.” But here, I have a chance.
We can’t always be serving groups; we also have to be in one. We can’t always be leading; sometimes we need to be a follower.
So, Christian leader, are you in a weekly or biweekly group of believers for your own need of community?
If this were a legitimate expectation for every ministry leader no matter how big their ministry became, far fewer leaders would feel loneliness or the pressure to perform. No matter how much influence they had in their own ministry, they would have none in that weekly Life Group – and that fact would truly give them life. They could become like the rest of the believers in the world: in need of humble growth in many areas of their life, and dependent on community to become a healthy Christian.