Why Community Groups?
Kevin Ro: The older I get, the more convinced I become that most, if not all, people are living really isolated and lonely lives. We live in a culture that subtly discourages community in so many ways. You can do so many things – buying groceries, making bank deposits, and even ordering food – all from the comfort of home without having a single face-to-face conversation with another person. I think that the biggest problem, though, is that most people (even churchgoers) are doing their best to live God-less lives. It shouldn’t be any surprise to us, then, that living apart from the only One who’s capable of satisfying our hearts (and apart from the people around us that He’s provided in our lives) results in isolation and loneliness.
I think that community group allows people to take a small step toward embracing the fact that we’re simultaneously needy and needed people. Sunday service is definitely necessary and has its place, but I think it’s difficult to build relationships that go beyond small talk if Sundays are the only touch point you have with church. We tend to run away from more intimate relationships where we have to open ourselves up and submit our struggles and thoughts before one another, but I do think that that’s one of the main ways that God uses to shape and grow us as believers.
Sarah Kim: Practically speaking, it’s hard to connect with people on a deeper level through just Sunday worship alone. Community groups are another avenue (and an important one at that) through which we can foster deeper relationships and community. I believe that we need additional avenues (outside of Sunday) through which we can continue to foster relationships. Community groups specifically, allow people to be in a more intimate environment. For introverts, like me, Sundays can be a bit overwhelming with a lot of people and it takes a lot of energy to connect. By design, since Community Groups are smaller in size, it provides an opportunity (and another context) to have a deeper/personal level of relationship with those in your group.
Hee Jun Rho: Community groups are an important way for us to candidly and thoughtfully work out the Gospel together. As we regularly walk alongside each other in this manner, we can experience and extend the grace of Christ in the everyday challenges of our lives. We can be honest about our brokenness and uncertainties while also wrestling through the truth of Scripture and learn what it means to speak truth in love to each other; not at each other. As Kevin and Sarah have already touched upon, community groups are where we have the opportunity to care for each other in specific and meaningful ways as we grow in depth of relationship with each other. This is where we can learn to look beyond our own needs to those of others. We also recognize that, given everyone is coming from different walks of life with unique spiritual journeys, not everyone may yet share our vision and values. Community groups are an important way for folks to see and experience Metro’s vision and values for themselves, and determine to what extent they embrace community-dependence for themselves.
How has Community Group shaped you?
KR: As a relatively self-reliant individual, the Metro core value I’ve struggled with most over the years has been “Community-Dependent.” As I’ve grown in my acceptance of the fact that I’m not self-sufficient by any means, God has provided community group as a place to practice submitting myself to others (by sharing personal struggles and sins) and allowing them to speak truth into my life. This goes against everything I’ve ever believed, but doing this has challenged and shaped my beliefs and character in pretty amazing ways. Also, being able to hear from other people has been helpful to show me that I’m not the only one who feels a certain way or struggles with certain things. It’s encouraging to see how the reality of the Gospel is affecting the lives of those around me, and it provides opportunities to pray for and with one another as well.
SK: This past weekend the worship core team met and it was a similar question: where is the one area that the Gospel has shaped you? My answer was, Community. I see this in two ways: 1) How I allow people to shape me and 2) How I reach out and engage with others. First, in regards to how people have shaped me. I’m such a self-righteous person, who has a very elevated view of self. There are people around me who have loved me in a way that allows for truth to be spoken and for sin patterns to be revealed. I have been the beneficiary of having people who walk with me and help bring about repentance and encourage me along the way to cultivate fruits of repentance. On the other hand, the corresponding response to that is, how do I better engage with other people? How do I walk with others and care for them well? The struggle for me is giving until it hurts, especially in relationships. I usually give only when it’s convenient for me or when there is something in it for me in return. When relationships require more sacrifice or work or when I don’t see the benefit, I tend to disengage. Community groups continue to challenge and shape me in that way; it allows me to engage with others and to be engaged with others. It’s in the context of community (and community groups for example) where I am able to be vulnerable with people and allow them to see more of who I really am. It’s also when I allow others to challenge me and shape the way I think and perceive myself. But ultimately, I don’t deserve that love and care from others. When we are each doing that with one another, it’s a reflection of the same sacrificial love that was demonstrated for us on the cross. If I truly believe that I was loved in that way (when I was so unlovable), I believe that should continue to compel and empower me to love others in a similar way.
HJR: Having led community groups for a number of years, I have found the experience to be a humbling privilege. The experience has been humbling because it’s not my own patience or understanding or winsome words that lead folks to greater faith and repentance but rather it’s Christ working through my weakness. I am constantly reminded of 2 Corinthians 12:9, where Jesus asserts, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” And the experience has been a privilege because of the mutual entrusting of spiritual care in our community groups. This is not something we can demand nor assume from each other; rather, it requires sacrificial love, as Sarah noted, and an undoing of spiritual rugged individualism, as alluded to by Kevin. For me, it’s also been a joy to see a number of folks in my prior community groups now leading community groups of their own and flourishing in the Gospel!