We now come to our last discipline in this guide. All through the Scriptures, followers of Jesus are instructed to be in biblical community and given powerful examples of what it could look like in our own lives.
I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. — John 13:34–35 CSB
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and signs were being performed through the apostles. Now all the believers were together and held all things in common. They sold their possessions and property and distributed the proceeds to all, as any had need. Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple, and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with joyful and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. Every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved. — Acts 2:42–47 CSB
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. — Hebrews 10:25–26 NIV
These verses give us both the instruction and model for biblical community, but we must remember that community always occurs in a fallen world. As such, no church-community will ever be perfect. Moreover, the busyness of life, the fluctuation of schedules, and the days of apathy we all experience will often get in the way.
But this is why biblical community is a spiritual discipline–something we must train ourselves to do, even when challenges persist. Moreover, many have found over the years that the discipline of biblical community helps them practice the other spiritual disciplines as well.
If you are connected to a Bible Study, it’s fair to say you’re going to read the Bible and pray. If you connect to a small group, there’s a good chance you’re going to read God’s Word, pray together, and even be challenged to serve one another and share Jesus with the people in your life.
In this way, biblical community is a wonderful over-arching discipline that helps motivate and encourage the other four. Moreover, in biblical community, you’re engaged in a relational dynamic where God’s Spirit is actively working to change how you think, feel, and live out your everyday life. That’s why we believe that genuine transformation can truly happen in biblical community.
But you must decide to make this a priority. No one can do it for you. However, if you decide to make this a commitment in your life, we believe God will genuinely change you to be more like Jesus and you’ll enjoy the benefits of that personally. In fact, here’s a challenge: over the next 6 months—make it a point to consistently engage in one or two of the practical suggestions we have below.
Take a risk, step out of your comfort zone, and embrace what God has for you in biblical community. The fact is, when we don’t have biblical community, we miss out on so much of the transforming grace God wants to give us through relationships with His people—messy as they sometimes may be.
With this in mind, here are some practical suggestions:
Weekly Church Attendance. This may sound elementary, but for many, getting to church every Sunday is quite a challenge—and we feel the difference in our lives. The truth is we need the consistent discipline of corporate worship, corporate prayer, and the corporate listening to God’s Word preached. It makes a difference. Even if every week is unrealistic for you in this season, shoot for a few times a month. Consider if this is a season when you need to give up some weekend commitments to make this a priority. Maybe that’s not an option for you in this season and that’s ok! But maybe this is a good time to plan for an extended season of making some adjustments and planning to gather with God’s people on Sundays.
Join a Small Group, Bible Study, or come to Marriage Night. Paul put it this way: “We cared so much for you that we were pleased to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us” (1 Thessalonians 2:8). Small groups, Bible Studies, and our weekly Marriage Night for couples are three ways we attempt to help people meet each other, get connected, start friendships, and experience genuine biblical community. You may have reservations; you may not like people or get uncomfortable in groups. That’s understandable, but these may be the very things God wants to change in your heart through a group of people seeking Jesus and helping you do the same. Just something to consider, but the point is simple: joining a small group can be a great way for you to experience biblical community. You can go online (www.stonegatefellowship.com) or call the church office (432)694-5100 to find out what this could specifically look like for you.
Serve in a Ministry Area. A great way to invite biblical community into your life is by experiencing it as a by-product of serving. There’s something special that happens when a group of people partner together in the struggle for something—a task, a project, or the salvation of a teenager. Again, if you haven’t already, call the church office to find out how you can plug in and serve in a ministry area. Not only will you serve others, but you may just experience God serving you by bringing some biblical community into your life.