BIG IDEA: Christian community is ultimately designed to be outward focused, concerned with those who don’t know Jesus, who suffer injustice, or who are relegated to the margins of society. There is one more circle of relationship we must incorporate into our time as a group.
And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”
But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.” ~ Luke 10:25-37
It’s important that we prioritize relationships with unbelieving friends so that they can experience God’s love the way we do. The easiest way to build influence with outsiders is to invest in the lives of unbelieving friends and, at the appropriate time, invite them to an environment where they can hear spiritual truth. This isn’t about selling someone on the idea of going to church. It’s about reaching out and getting involved in people’s lives so that they know the invitation is motivated by a genuine concern for them and that they’re not just a project for you.
One way to invest in the lives of people around us is to serve those in need. Jesus’ calls us to serve others can be uncomfortable for us. It’s easier to do nothing. We’re tempted to view poverty and sickness and human suffering as too large for us to make much of a difference. But Jesus didn’t call you to live in a cloistered community that holds outsiders at bay. He’ll take responsibility for changing the world, but he wants you to be involved in his work. It’s true that you can’t serve everyone in need, but you can serve someone in need. And this small community that you’re in the process of forming will benefit enormously from serving some of the people around you who are in need. That time spent serving together— doing something important with one another—will draw you into greater transparency. It will increase your trust—of God and of each other.
Individually, think about an unbelieving friend, neighbor, or coworker whose life you can begin to invest in so that when the time is right you can invite him or her to church. What is the best next step for you to take with that person?
As a group, begin planning to serve with one another. Talk about it. Do any of you feel a burden to serve a particular group of people in need— single moms, children living in poverty, AIDS patients, shut-ins? If so, this may help you figure out where you can serve. But the important thing is to serve someone. Once you start serving, do so on a regular basis—monthly, quarterly, whatever you decide as a group.
Don’t move beyond the planning phase until you’ve committed to move forward with your group and have signed the Group Agreement (that will happen next session). But once you’ve signed the agreement, get out and serve some people as soon as you can. If you don’t serve within the first few months you’re together, time will fly by and you may miss the opportunity entirely.
You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled its keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” ~ Galatians 5:13—14