Well, it’s Sunday afternoon. . . time to push back the. furniture, get the paper cups and plates out, tell my teenager one more time to get off the phone and clean her room, carry my extra chairs to the living room, put the cat outside, and the dog in her cage! Am I getting ready for a party? Not exactly. . . but close. I’m getting ready for a small group of friends to come over. As I take one more look around, I wonder what will happen in this room tonight. What experience does God have in store for us? I ask him one last time to lead us where we need to go and help us see the special needs in each other’s lives.

And so we gather–grandparents, middle-agers, and young families with.energetic children. We sing together; we pray together; we share our week’s experiences with each other. We share where the Lord has led us. We share where we have gained victory and where we have stumbled. We have spent quality time and quantity time building this very special relationship. We have laughed together. In the last two and one-half years, we have worked through so many things. The peo­ple in just this one little circle have experienced unemployment, cancer, unexpected pregnancy, death of a parent, the pain of suicide, and fam­ily separation. We have also celebrated new births (both physical and spiritual), new jobs, and answered prayers. We have even been through the pain of starting another group because our number grew to such a point that intimacy was limited. We’ve created a “safe place” to talk openly about our anger, frustrations, uncertainties, lack of faith, and our hopes and dreams.

Our world is so hurried and busy. . . and often so impersonal. I’m just a number, or at best, just another face. We rush past each other and our “How are you?” greeting is merely a string of words not meant to elicit anything personal. Many people have not one person in their life who really cares “How are you?” God puts so many people in my path each day, and often I’m just too busy with my own agenda to see them. They became just another blur in my hurried life. So, in my liv­ing room on Sunday nights we gather and ask the question, “How are you?” and really mean it! As we look to the future, we must better learn how to provide “community.”

M. Scott Peck in The Different Drum writes, if we are to use the word “community” meaningfully we must re­strict it to a group of individuals who have learned how to communi­cate honestly with each other, whose relationships go deeper than their masks of composure, and who have developed some significant commitment to “rejoice together, mourn together,” and to “delight in each other, making others’ conditions our own.”


This small group of very ordinary people has literally been a sup­port group to me during the last two years of my life. Shortly after we formed our group, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. This group has been “Jesus” to me and my family. They met our many physical needs; but far more important than that, they met my spiritual needs. A sense of community is such a great need as we prepare our church families for the future. Even the world at large is seeing the need for commu­nity. In a recent article I read, our first lady, ‘Hillary Rodham Clinton, stated that if we want to begin to solve our deepest national problems, we must think of ourselves as community. She is so right! We all need that place to “connect.” The community that exists in our small group is the first time I have seen a feasible way for “one another” ministry to occur. In this small circle of friends, we can “serve one another in love” (Gal. 5:13), “carry each other’s burdens” (Gal. 6:10), “confess our sins to each other” (James 5: 16), and “pray for each other” (James 5:16).


Our attempt at community is not just to encourage and edify each other, it also provides a place to bring the unchurched into a non-threat­ening environment. That has to become of major concern to us! In the past we have often spent too much time and energy standing in one place trying to keep all of the “saved” satisfied. We must move our fo­cus from “satisfying the saved” to telling the story of Jesus to our lost friends and neighbors! For most of us, this will involve a paradigm shift. In the past we have been content to “trade church members,” but this concept has not increased the kingdom. Our focus must move to the unchurched who have the same pressing need as we do for commu­nity in their lives. Just maybe, the first step toward Jesus and his church is through my living room.


So here I am again. . . it’s Sunday afternoon. Time to move the furniture back. Yes, it would be much easier to go to the building, sing, pray, listen to the preacher, and go out with friends to a favorite restaurant. But somehow, after I’ve seen what can happen in my own living room on Sunday night, it’s just not enough!


Reprinted trom IMAGE by permission.