If you've been going to Sovereign Hope for any amount of time, I sincerely hope and pray that you are a part of a Community Group. I was blessed to be able to see this ministry begin a little over four years ago. They serve an important function in the ministry of the church. Primarily, community groups exist to contribute to the church in three main factors: pastoral care, mission, and Bible study.
I want to focus on that concept of mission as it applies to community. What does it mean to be on mission as a community? When was the last time that your group considered what its mission is?
I would submit that part of being on mission is about living your life with the understanding that you are sent. Go with me on this. God is a sender by nature (Genesis 12:1-3, Isaiah 6:8). This sending God sent His Son into the fallen world to reconcile that world to Himself (John3:16). God then sends the church, both the corporate church and the individual members of the church (Acts 1:8). The sending God sends the Spirit - the third person of the Trinity - to empower and enable us for His mission (John 14:26). We the church are to be His missionaries in the world and to the world (Ephesians 3:6-11). So if being on mission as a community means understanding that we are sent, allow me to describe a few ways in which a community group can be sent.
1. Missional community groups are sent to people.
There are people in your life, and the lives of the other members of your community group, who are in desperate need of a Savior. Odds are that somebody in your group right now is there because of their relationship with another member of the group who invited them. The people in your group, even if they've been a Christian for a while, have or are going to experience trial and hardship, and God is going to use your group as a means to pour out His blessing on that person. In community, we work the Gospel out and apply it to our everyday lives. It is a safe environment in which you can speak the truth of the Gospel to each other and correct one another lovingly. This prepares you then to share the Gospel with your non believing friends, neighbors, and coworkers. One of the primary means of evangelism in the church is that the people of God would go out into the world and make disciples by speaking the truth of the gospel (Matthew 28:19-20). Let us never cease in inviting others to partake in the joy that we have found.
2. Missional community groups are sent to a neighborhood.
If you took a map of Missoula and put pins in it where all of the Sovereign Hope community groups are, you would see that God has sent these groups intentionally to affect the area around them. He has sent groups to be on mission in places like the South Hills, in East Missoula, on campus, and even in the surrounding cities like Lolo and Frenchtown. Rather than annoying the neighbors by being the house that has all the cars parked around it every week, how much better would it be if the neighborhood knew that it was better off because a group of Christians lives there? I know that this might be a new or daunting idea, because in America our culture has moved from the front porch to the back yard with a giant fence around it. It starts very simply though, by just talking to your neighbors. Recently, my wife Stacy and I have been blessed by having a front porch to sit on in our apartment community. It's amazing how many more people we meet and get to talk with just by doing what we would be doing inside, outside. We get to say hello, introduce ourselves to people we don't know, and reconnect on an almost daily basis with the people we do know.
The point is not to be super intense and rush to the point where I ask everyone on my block if they know Jesus and want to dedicate their life to him. I just want to get to know my neighbors, which in turn will lead to larger areas of involvement and mission. This can take on many forms: being involved in neighborhood watch, patronizing the businesses in your neighborhood and getting to know the staff there, going to the park near your house rather than the nicer one across town, bringing housewarming baskets to people who move in nearby. All of these are tangible ways that your group can be on mission in the neighborhood it was sent to.
3. Missional community groups are sent to a city.
Part of Sovereign Hope's mission statement is to engage the city with the treasure of Jesus. None of you live in Missoula by accident. God has sovereignly ordained each and every person in this church to be there at this time and in this place. As a community group, how can you serve the city as a whole? Individually, your member's can and maybe should be involved in local government and organizations, school boards and clubs. As a group, Sovereign Hope has many opportunities to serve the city such as Family Promise and the City Forum. I believe that the city of Missoula will be forever changed because of the ministry of Sovereign Hope Church.
4. Missional community groups are sent to the world.
The second half of Sovereign Hope's mission statement is for the nations. As Americans, we have been sent by God into this country to bless and serve the rest of the world. How can your community group be on mission for the nations? Maybe it means that you come together once a year to help with Operation Christmas Child, or partner together to sponsor a child through World Vision. Perhaps it means that you know and support missionaries in other countries with prayer and with finances. Or even just imagine that your group became so passionate about the mission of God, that you decided to go together to share the gospel in a foreign country or state.
Here is my encouragement for you: We serve a God who is all powerful, all knowing, all holy, and yet full of mercy and grace. This God has graciously invited us to join Him on His mission and has sent His Holy Spirit to empower us where we fail. Just like a father teaches his kids a skill or trade or takes them to work with him, our Father invites us to partake in the work that He is doing. So spend some time as a group to pray about where God is inviting you to be on mission in the place where He has sent you.