What is a Healthy CG?
Pastor Eugene describes four marks of a healthy Care Group (CG).
Circuit breaker season may be over, but it may still be a while before we can gather again as a church. Yet, whether in or out of season, our life together as God’s people goes on. We are still called to faithfully put into practice Scripture passages like Hebrews 10:24-25: “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
At a time when safe distancing and small gatherings have become the new normal, our Care Groups (CGs) take on an even more significant role in fostering community. CGs are a key expression of our life together, helping us to stay connected while we are apart. My CG has been meeting online regularly to pray for and encourage one another with God’s word. I’ve been strengthened by these virtual gatherings. I’m sure many of us can also testify to the encouragement we have received from our own groups.
Healthy CGs matter. But how should we assess the health of our groups? Subjective, personal measures of a group’s “health” are not enough. After all, we as Christians are not unique in our desire for community. Humans are social beings who desire relational connections with others. Therefore, the question is not so much whether we seek community, but rather what kind of community we seek. Put another way: Do I want community on my terms, or am I willing to let the Bible shape my understanding and practice of community?
In his book Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer made this penetrating observation: “Those who love their dream of a Christian community more than they love the Christian community itself become destroyers of that Christian community even though their personal intentions may be ever so honest, earnest and sacrificial... Those who dream of this idolized community demand that it be fulfilled by God, by others and by themselves. They enter the community of Christians with their demands set up by their own law and judge one another and God accordingly. It is not we who build. Christ builds the church.”
Indeed, if Jesus is the builder of God’s house, then we must follow His blueprint for community. For this reason, our CG leaders met for an online training session this past weekend to hear what the Bible has to say about healthy, biblical community. But healthy CGs are not solely responsibility of the leaders; we all have a part to play.
So, what does healthy community look like in Scripture? From Acts 2:41-47, we can observe four marks: gospel, gather, grow and go.
The gospel that saves us individually also unites us as one people of God. Healthy, biblical community is created by and centred on the gospel. The early disciples received God’s word and continually devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching. God’s truth directed and shaped their life together.
Specifically, the early disciples were committed to the truth about Jesus—the gospel. Therefore, Paul tells the Colossians that his ministry is focused on proclaiming Jesus, so that believers can be “presented mature in Christ” (Col 1:28).
As we behold the glories of Christ, we are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another (2 Cor 3:18). A basic spiritual truth is that we become what we worship. We thus become more like Jesus by knowing and treasuring him more. And we know Him more by listening to His word. Hence, Bible study per se is not the goal; it is the means to see and savour Christ more, so that we become more like Christ. A healthy CG focuses on knowing, applying and living out the truths of the gospel together in community. A healthy CG member is committed to hearing, trusting and obeying God’s word with others.
The early disciples met together regularly. They did not isolate themselves from others but assembled with other believers for mutual encouragement. They were devoted to the fellowship of the saints, as they shared in worship and prayer.
When we share in Christ, we also share our lives with our brothers and sisters in God’s family. This is a diverse household, comprising believers of different ages, cultures, nationalities, ethnicities and walks of life. The gospel transforms our relationships. It moves us out of our comfortable circles of familiar friendships. Christ’s love compels us to welcome those who are different from us, so that they too can find a spiritual home with us in God’s family.
We display the character of Christ in how we relate to one another. We put on “compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness and patience”. We bear with one another. We forgive as Jesus has forgiven us (Col 3:12-13). We allow God’s word to permeate our relationships, by speaking His truth in love to one another: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” (Col 3:16)
Enjoying comfortable, familiar relationships is an insufficient indicator of a group’s health. While it’s good to delight in one another’s company, we meet for an even more fundamental and vital reason. We gather in order to encourage one another. Encouragement is spurring people on to start and to continue following Jesus. It could be through words of admonition or exhortation. Sometimes, encouraging relationships may make us uncomfortable because they challenge us to change to become more like Jesus!
A healthy CG is a welcoming community that fosters holy, Christlike relationships to build up the whole body of Christ. A healthy CG member is committed to knowing and loving others, including those who are new or different, for their encouragement in the faith.
The early disciples grew together. Their community was characterized by lives of increasing holiness, love, joy and generosity.
How do we define growth? A growing CG means more than merely increasing numbers and regular attendance. Growth is evidenced by spiritual fruit in the lives of believers, as their faith in Christ deepens.
Paul’s prayer for the Colossian Christians reveals what this looks like: “We have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.” (Col 1:9b-12)
Jesus is the source of growth. We grow by knowing him more, because in him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col 2:3). The goal of growth is to please God by living for His glory. Such a Christ-honouring life is marked by love, obedience and good works. It is characterised by an increasing knowledge of God. It demonstrates hope, perseverance and joy in trials, as God empowers us to patiently endure. It evidences gratitude to God for His grace and mercy.
A healthy CG comprises members who help one another to grow in Christ in these ways. A healthy CG member seeks to strengthen fellow believers. He or she is an active member of the body of Christ, committed to the spiritual good of others.
The gospel is God’s power to rescue us from sin and to transform us to become like His Son. Having tasted the goodness of Christ themselves, the early disciples sought to make Him known. They lived in the world as His witnesses. God gave them favour with all the people and added to their number. Paul exhorts us to also be mission-minded, by praying and working for the advance of the gospel. We are to “walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” (Col 4:5-6)
What does this mean for our CGs? A healthy CG is a prayerful community that multiplies gospel opportunities and communities. Our groups ought to be dynamic, not static. Are our groups like stagnant pools that merely collect water, or are they channels of grace flowing out to refresh many others?
A healthy CG member is either a sender or a sent one. Some of us may stay to build others up in order to send them out; some of us may be sent by others. We co-labour in evangelism and disciple-making, in gathering and welcoming new members, in growing others in the faith, and in planting new groups that further the cause of Christ. Together, we go for the gospel.
So, if you are in a CG, commit yourself to building healthy, biblical community. And if you are not in a group, can I encourage you to join one for the gospel’s sake? Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about how you can join a CG.
This week, we will hear from Luke 9:28-36 concerning the glories of Christ. May God open our hearts to behold the King in his beauty, so that we joyfully trust and obey him!
Looking a little further ahead, our next members’ meeting—the Quarterly Congregational Meeting—will take place at 11am on Sunday, July 5 via Zoom. All English Congregation members are encouraged to attend. We’ll be hearing about how God is working in our church, including welcoming new members and introducing our new interns. You can join via this link or QR code below:
Scripture calls Christians to join with other believers in a local church. Church membership is good for our spiritual health. To find out more about becoming a member of GBC, please contact Pastor Eugene (email@example.com). Our next membership class, Church Matters, will be conducted online over three consecutive Sundays, from July 19 to Aug 2.