Community: Take your small group off life support by Brad House

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In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, he admonishes and corrects these new Christians not because he wanted them to accomplish more good works, but because he deeply desired that they be more than just good works. Brad House reflects on this theme in his book on how Christians in small groups can be more than just Christians in ordinary small groups meeting needs. He states in the introduction to the book, “I want to bring together theology and ministry philosophy with practical application and strategy that is worked out with effectiveness” (House, 2011, p. 22). We consistently live and work within small groups whether they are educational classes, mission groups, church committees, car pools, family, and any number of other types of gatherings. This book is essential for church group leaders and members to study because church is a community of God’s people working within God’s purposes. Christian communication scholars should study the precepts in this book in order to develop an alignment of human to God thought processes. 

To view small group dynamics through the eyes of Jesus empowers Christians to a better understanding not only of Christ, but our earthly and eternal purpose because Jesus came to give those who are called by His name abundant life which is powered by the Holy Spirit’s indwelling who exalts Jesus and magnifies the Father. Viewing small groups the way God designed them, especially in the book of Acts, empowers secular scholars to see perfect community generally called group dynamics. House deftly focuses group dynamics through the lens of Jesus with the main theme throughout the book being that of repentance and having Christ the head as well as the center of each group. 

In his book, Brad House basically shakes the Etch-A-Sketch of today’s church community groups and redraws the small group dynamics using biblical principles and standards; and he defines groups (care groups, focus groups, study groups, community groups, and the like) as the New Testament church was developed by the words of Jesus and the ministering of the Apostles. As House points out, the small group of 120 members almost immediately blossomed by 3,000 on the day of Pentecost and then again growing by 5,000 as recorded in Acts 4, eventually growing into a megachurch down through the centuries which has shaped human history. We can draw a conclusion from this that, as God designed them, small groups work wonders. House goes back to basics by using the Apostle Peter’s definition of church:
1Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's possession, so that you may proclaim the virtues of the one who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light, 10 who once were not a people, but now are the people of God, the ones who were not shown mercy, but now are shown mercy. 11 Dear friends, I urge you as foreigners and temporary residents to abstain from fleshly desires which wage war against your soul, 12 maintaining your good conduct among the Gentiles, so that in the things in which they slander you as evildoers, by seeing your good deeds they may glorify God on the day of visitation. (Lexham English Bible)
Using this scaffold, he builds community group structure.

House (2011) pours the foundation for small groups within the church by addressing the purpose they have and the needs small groups can fill through the group identity of Christ not Christian identity. The difference is Christians are human and fallible, but Christ is perfect with perfect design. There is also a multi-faceted purpose in how small groups interact with each other as well as in other functions of the church such as worshiping and preaching. The final outcome should be “transformation in the lives of all disciples” (p. 23), not how many good works the group did. He points out that our modern way of doing church and community has hamstrung small groups due to systems and programs with no real anchor in who they are in Christ. 

The second key concept is building upon the foundation with the mortar and bricks of biblical principles of community. He illustrates the need for a solid look at what church is offering by way of real community through the plumb line of Peter’s definition of church. He notes tactical avenues to understand the basic functionality of community which creates an environment which encourages ownership, involvement, and ingenuity.  House discusses God-ordained functions of small groups and correlates those functions grounded in God-breathed principles from the Bible. One of these aspects is his discussion of bridges and barriers.

The last concept is the organic structure of God-centered groups. Repentance is the major running theme in the book, and church small groups must have that heart transplant in order to overcome the initial resistance to change which all churches undergo. He offers some realistic examples of how to break out of the old boxes and inspire incorporation of new models of community based on the New Testament church; however, I will discuss how he uses some communication theory to support his structure. He points out the decision to follow the biblical way of community rather than the program-oriented ways church works under today takes contrition, prayer, dedication and endurance. This moves small group community into a godly realm.
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