This is day 3 of my interview with Mike Mack. Mike is one of the long-time leaders in the groups movement and is one of the most prolific writers on the topic. Mike knows more about groups than almost anyone I know. This is one guy every one of us ought to be reading.
Check out what Mike has to say about why churches don’t always create community.
Rick: Mike, as you know, churches do not always create community even though that’s their target. What are the markers that a church may be gathering people but aren’t creating community?
Mike: I think the markers are the one another passages in the New Testament. I regularly ask groups (or ask our coaches to ask) questions such as,
- Are you encouraging one another … daily?
- Are you spurring one another on to love and good deeds?
- Are you accepting one another … just as Christ accepted you?
- Do you admonish one another when necessary?
- Do you honor one another above yourselves?
- Do you carry each other’s burdens?
- Do you confess your sins to one another (to at least one other person in the group) and pray for one another?
- Do you each use the spiritual gift you’ve received to serve others? (Is everyone sharing ownership in this group?)
Groups can assess themselves on these in an honest discussion. I developed a simple evaluation tool using the one anothers that you can download from here.
Rick: What are the elements of community every group must build into group life so that that group is experience true biblical community?
Mike: Real community life is messy, as Heather Zempel has said. It can be fun and enjoyable, but it’s also sometimes hard and takes work. It takes GUTS to live in healthy, authentic, Christ-centered community. It must be:
- Genuine, marked by being authentic with one another, taking off the masks we wear everywhere else. Paul said we are to love one another with genuine affection (Ro. 12:10).
- Unconditional, meaning we love each other “anyway.” We accept one another and forgive each other unreservedly, treating one another with the same grace that God has extended to us.
- Tangible, in deeds not just words. We serve one another and take care of each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. When one person has a need, everyone else jumps in to help.
- Sacrificial, laying down our lives for our friends. We put their needs above our own, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.
All of this takes great commitment and is costly. It also sets us apart as the Christian community—the body of Christ—from the rest of the world.
Rick: A lot of the churches I work with aren’t experiencing true biblical community. They want to transition their groups from just being about Bible study or just being about friendship. They often ask, “How do I go about getting the groups that have been meeting for years to rethink and revisit how they do group?” What guidance would you give these groups point people?
Mike: I face the same thing as I work with churches. It’s not an either-or proposition, but both-and. I work with these churches to consider what makes their groups biblically healthy. All seven of the vital signs of a healthy group are essential, and they all work together to develop biblically functioning community where disciples are made, grow, and serve.
It begins with a group learning to put Christ—not their leader, themselves, their issues, or what they study—at the center. When a group meets in his presence, under his power, and for his purposes, they will naturally live out the other healthy patterns for a group. The other six vital signs are all built on this strong foundation.
Rick: Mike, I can’t thank you enough for spending this time with me. You have some incredible insights that shouldn’t be overlooked. I look forward to hearing more from you in the future.
Mike: Thanks, Rick. I appreciate you and your ministry. With you, I dream of a biblical small group within walking distance of every person on the planet making disciples that make disciples!