Shared life

Key to making missional communities work well is a shared life. This is surely at the heart of New Testament Christianity. It is also about sharing our lives together. Doing ordinary life together. Having our lives intersect.

That requires a certain size. We’re talking about 10, 20, 30 people. You can’t share your life with 100, 200, 300 people. This is one reason (there are other reasons) why one of our values in TCH is ‘growing churches by planting churches’. Church becomes a network of smaller communities.

But we are not talking about house groups or small groups or home groups as those are commonly conceived. Please get that idea out of your head. We are talking about something radically different. Home groups are usually a meeting. You have ‘home group night’. It’s an event. We are talking about a community of people who share life together.

Do not think of structures. Don’t think it’s enough to have small groups which are part of a larger group. It’s about developing a radically different culture. So small groups matter, but having small groups is not enough. We are talking about a shared life – not just a small group meeting.

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12 thoughts on “Shared life

  1. Isn’t it a bit of an overstatement to say, “You can’t share your life with 100, 200, 300 people”? You can’t share your life in the same way with everyone of them. But aren’t there different levels of sharing life? And aren’t there some really important ways that you can share life with 100+ or even 300+ people?

  2. Andy,

    “[Are] there some really important ways that you can share life with 100 or even 300 people?”

    I’d love to know how this could be practically possible…

  3. Andy,

    I agree that there are different levels of sharing; I think “sharing our lives together” is something much more intimate than can happen with 100-300+ people. We are called to share our spiritual gifts for the edification of the larger church body (as in the Sunday morning gathering), but the sharing of life in a smaller community involves much more than would be possible with such a large group.

    Tim,

    These are good thoughts. How would you go about changing the culture of a group that has seen itself as more of an “event,” as you put it?

  4. Not sure I’m the person to ask as I’m a church planting! I suggest you subscribe to the community aspect of GCMCollective.org – there are discussions on this topic there. I think you teach it and model it and disciple people one-to-one. some people have done it by giving house groups a mandate to share lives and do mission together. Others have started with a small group within the wider church.

  5. Tim, I read your book Total Church last year and really loved it. I was really convinced by the emphasis towards smaller gatherings, and the church being the outworking of the gospel and getting people introduced to Christian community being one of the best ways to evangelise.

    However in this blog you seem to be saying the house churches (or very small churches) seem to be the absolute best way of doing church. Is this not pushing it a bit far? The small groups at my church are certainly not perfect however it does seem to be possible to be part of a church that is both bigger (around 120 in our case) and yet still have home groups where people genuinely care for each other, and look out for each other. I think you can share your life with 100+ people – clearly not in the same way as you can up to say 30 people but what you say appears on face value very black and white and discounts the encouragement that can happen from individuals to larger gatherings. I imagine you wouldn’t disagree with this so maybe you could clarify where I’ve misunderstood. Many thanks.

  6. Even now 8 months in I’m not convince my GC in the Edge is ‘radically different’ community-wise from a home group or small group in most decent churches. Sure, I see Dan & Dan during the week for a coffee or to watch the football/election debates but that’s a normal part of most peoples’ church experience. The only other person I see outside of our weekly meeting, most weeks at least, is Andy for a trip to Burngreave.

    I think we need to be careful about being too prescriptivist about where community takes place and where it works. I felt a really strong sense of community from very early on at Avenue which was approaching 100 people at the time. Like others have said, it wasn’t the same level of community with each person but to varying degrees I felt like part of the family.

    I get the need for community and I acknowledge that it’s more than a meeting but I think the attitude of the members and what the community is centred around (the gospel) are the major determining factors, not numbers or whether we call it a small group, cell group, house group or gospel community.

  7. I’m sorry if my post was misleading. It’s not my intention to say household churches are right and other forms of church are wrong – not because our church is not currently a household church! Indeed I was keen in my post to say it’s not about structures. The point of the post was that, while some form of small group is important, having small groups – in whatever form they come – is not enough. It’s about developing a shared life – whether in household churches or house groups that are part of a larger body. Structure is not the determining issue. As I said in the post, “Do not think of structures.”

    It’s not my intention to criticize other churches. And I’m certainly not claiming that we are better than every one else – I’m not a complete idiot! The thoughts in this post came in response to repeated questions on the issue when I was in the States last year. If your experience of church is of a rich community life then you are blessed. The experience of many people is different.

  8. It seems to me that what you’re arguing for is a more rigorously applied understanding of what the gospel does in uniting us in community with our fellow believers, which is absolutely right. One can’t help but notice the calls throughout the new testament to love one another, to share one another’s burdens and to love one another as Christ has loved us.

    I would agree that on a practical level this is more readily and easily applied at the level of “small groups” (read groups of small number), however, it would seem that we also need to work hard at working this through on the “big group” level as well. In the NT the apostles often have a genuine love for and concern for the larger groups of Christians they write to… being unceasing in prayer for them, and sending workers to work amongst them.

    I wonder if the most practical way that this needs to be worked through in our churches is continuing to proclaim the gospel? As we grow in our understanding of the gospel and it’s impact in uniting us as the temple of God’s Spirit, this will surely lead to us living out what we’ve already been made in Christ.

    Any thoughts?

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  10. Hey Tim and people,
    Great to read these things… I’m a church planter in France, close to Paris ! What are we doing ? We started sharing life with our community !
    We believe that our faith has to be firstly live through “lifge shared” ! And God is doing the big job in hearts ! Some details : barbecue partys, helping each other for doing works in our houses, helping to baby sit, etc. and having a moment right after a dinner together where we’ll read and share the Bible… just normal shared life ! And then, we’ll gather every “groups” together…. oups… every communities ;-)
    I don’t believe a church needs to be only in many small groups of 20 people completly separate. I don’t believe a church needs to be only a huge crowd in a big building !
    I believe in a lot of sharing lifes groups connected who are gathering all together in environments where other people will be attracted and will love it ! That’s it.
    Thank you Tim for this post.

    Lorenzo MONGE

    PS : sorry for my english guys, I’m a french/italian guy in France !

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