A few years ago I preached a message at a thriving church where I served on staff. It was at the time small groups were gaining momentum. Every church around the world and especially here in the USA was all about getting people of the same interest, same profession connected in the same group.
Unfortunately, I began to notice that all the cool people were joining groups with other cool people – you know, like some did in high school. And the not so cool people we being left out. So I preached on a passage from Romans 12:16:
Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.
After my message I was sent into the office of the big man on campus (senior pastor) where I was grilled for a few minutes. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with wanting to hang with like-minded folks, but if we really want to live in authentic community, we need to understand what community really is.
According to Henri Nouwen, “community” is a place where the person you least want to live with always lives.
When we surround ourselves with the people we most want to live with, that is not community – that’s a club or a clique, not a community. You see, it is very easy to start a clique but not so very easy to start a community. EGR (extra grace required) is what it will take to start a community. It is going to take you some hard work, humility and love.
I think that is the reason a lot of people hate authentic small groups, small churches small towns. Because –
The man who lives in a small community lives in a much larger world….The reason is obvious. In a large community we can choose our companions. In a small community our companions are chosen for us. – G. K. Chesterton
This is exactly, I believe, where God is calling the Church. To love people no matter the color of their skin, their accent, their economic, intellectual, social or political background. That is where true and authentic communities really begin.