by Zach Below
Imagine a map of your city. Imagine that on this map every church was represented by a bright light. Now imagine that every small-group gathering from every church was represented by a flame. What would that map look like? I imagine the map would be filled with flames in every corner of the map. I have to believe that there would be very few neighborhoods not represented by a flame. While our churches shine bright spotlights on our communities, it is our small groups that reach the shadows and alleys.
I can’t help but think of the location where my first small group met. It was in a neighborhood called Reitz Hill. Our church had a number of small groups on Reitz Hill. Even more, I know that within a few blocks of our meeting place were a number of churches that also had small groups meeting in the neighborhood.
The troubling question that follows this thought is, did anyone even know we were there? Towns all across America are full of small groups of Christ-followers sitting comfortably in living rooms behind closed doors. Does the outside world even know we are there?
I can’t think of this hypothetical map without thinking about what would happen if every group stepped outside and entered the community it represented. What kind of impact would it have if every small group actively participated in the cities they want so desperately to change?
There is great potential within our groups to be the lifeblood of the cities we live in. We all have the call of personal evangelism. We can and should be witnesses in our individual daily lives. However, we can’t forget that one of God’s greatest gifts is the church. The world needs us to be present as the church, not just individuals. Small groups are poised and ready to be that representation.
Here are four small-group principles for maximizing kingdom impact in our communities.
1. Be Willing—The first thing we must do may be the hardest. We must be willing to step out of the comfort and predictability of our living rooms. We must step away from our formulaic practices from time to time and allow the people of our cities to see small groups of believers actively playing a part in the community. I’m not suggesting we abandon all our current small-group practices. However, we must be open to allowing the community to hijack our group when necessary.
2. Be Present—Over and over throughout the Gospels, we find Jesus among the people. He is never hiding away like some mountaintop guru waiting for people to come to him. Jesus always seems to be smack-dab in the middle of the pulse of the community. How often do our groups get out and walk in the pulse of the community together? Do you think those outside the church would be more likely to describe our groups as a vibrant piece of the community or the crotchety old recluse who yells at the neighborhood kids to stay off the lawn? To impact the community, we must be a part of the community.
3. Be Consistent—We have to keep showing up. Consistency is no easy task. It’s much easier to schedule quarterly service projects than to make the commitment to engage in the community calendar regularly. This may mean scaling back what we do in group time for a season so that we can intentionally be a part of what is going on around us.
4. Be the Invite—In all things we do, we must intentionally represent Christ. The world needs to see small groups of believers actively involved in the community they pray for. As we walk in the rhythms of the community, we must intentionally carry Christ along the way. As a result, we become the invitation. We don’t say, “Come and see Jesus at our church building.” Instead we become the invitation to come and see Christ alive and active in our communities.
What is one practical step your small group can take to promote kingdom impact in your community?
If you are looking for ideas of first-step activities for your group, check out your town’s community calendar. In our city, we participate in high school football games, festivals, local neighborhood associations, movies in the park, and much more. We would love to hear some of the ways your small groups connect with the community.