You know, doing life together. 😉
This is a phrase Christians throw around, referring to a community of people who interact outside of the church’s walls. We call them small groups. Or at LifeChurch.tv, we call them LifeGroups.
They might meet weekly or monthly to discuss the sermon topic, study Scripture or a book together, go bowling, run a 5K, share meals in each others’ homes, or provide comfort and camaraderie during difficult seasons.
If you’ve ever truly allowed a group of people into your lives, it can–and will–get messy. Because life is messy and we are messy people. Bob Goff, author of Love Does, says he stopped going to Bible Studies a long time ago. He realized that for years he was learning the original Hebrew or Greek phrases and memorizing a lot of facts about Jesus like who his mom was, how many ships there were in the Sea of Galilee, or the disciples’ occupations, but he didn’t really know Jesus. He still meets with the very same men, but now they have Bible Doings. They discuss what the Bible says and what they’re going to do about it in everyday life. Practical.
Joey and I are fortunate enough to have experienced many of these meaningful groups of people (Life Groups) in our short 9 years of marriage.
The first was our crew at Compass Wilderness, an outdoor adventure camp based in Durango, CO.
Joey and I, along with about 10 other young people, led groups on rock climbing, white water rafting, hiking and rappelling trips.
We shared our struggles, our ultimate Frisbee strategies, told our life stories and prayed for each other daily.
It’s amazing how braving a thunder storm in a tent above tree-line or hanging off a rock face at the mercy of someone else will bond you for life.
The second was our LifeGroup in Waco. This was a like-minded group of seminary students and their husbands and wives.
We challenged each other spiritually in a way I haven’t experienced since. We took turns leading discussion weekly and shared our life stories over decaf coffee and chocolate chip cookies. One evening we found spiritual significance in 80’s classic rock lyrics. Thank you, Scott. We held annual murder mystery parties.
We camped together.
Argued over Spades tournaments. We each adopted a different candidate for the 2010 presidential election and held a mock debate. It was epic.
Several of these fantastic people are now career missionaries overseas, one’s an English professor, a few are serving in our local churches, and two of the girls are preachers.
We recently got together with two of the couples at my parents’ house on the lake.
It was so fun to catch up and laugh comfortably despite the six years that passed between us. Joey and I were reminded that these friends ask the best questions.
The third we experienced in Slovenia. A girl named Katy and a guy named Josh and Joey and I ate just about every meal together, hiked through the Alps,
went canyoning (basically jumping waterfalls), rafted the Soca river, held a local VBS, and shared the love of Jesus with locals in coffee shops.
We watched episodes of Seinfeld on a Dell when we were homesick.
We didn’t know each other prior to that summer of 2008, but we felt like family when we left in August.
The Slovene couple who owned the campground where we stayed befriended us and even came to visit us in the U.S. the following Christmas.
Nothing like a foreign language, foreign culture and foreign pizza to unite four young Americans.
The fourth was our small group at First Baptist in Norman. This group of people welcomed us with open arms and helped us build the community that we didn’t realize we’d need so desperately once Finn came into our world in 2012.
They brought us meals to the NICU, left gas cards and encouraging notes on our doorstep, and were “the Church” for us when we needed them most.
The fifth grew out of that small group I just mentioned. It became a close knit group of four families. You’ve heard about each of them throughout these blog posts. We celebrated every birthday together, walked to Starbucks together with our families on Saturday mornings, had girls’-night-outs and boys’-night-outs.
We made meals for each other when life got out of hand. Swapped hand-me-downs for the kids. Watered each others’ flowers while on vacation. We even vacationed together (minus the Hagers) in Mexico this summer.
Although we never officially sat down for a Bible study together, this group of people “did life” with us and showed us Jesus more than any other group of people we’ve known.
They saw us at our worst and at our best. They prayed with us. Confronted us. Laughed with us. Advocated for us. Brought us onion burgers to the ER. We experienced true friendship with these people and we miss them dearly.
God is already creating community for us here in Tulsa and I pray these friendships flourish in time.
Joey is so passionate about fostering this type of community that he is the LifeGroups and LifeMissions pastor at LifeChurch.tv Broken Arrow. He loves helping the big church feel smaller by connecting people and encouraging them to experience life together. If you need community, plug into one of these groups at your church. Or come to my church, LifeChurch.tv ! There are about 20 of our locations across the country.
God is Three. Jesus chose twelve. Man should not be alone, so God created Woman. Because life was intended to be communal.