The foundation for community groups at Cross Point is based on the vision for the overall church: to be a community of believers radically devoted to Christ, irrevocably committed to one another, and relentlessly dedicated to reaching those outside God’s family with the gospel of Christ. Each group is expected to pursue all three things: discipleship, community, and evangelism. We see this being modeled for us by the small groups in the early church.
They spent their time learning the apostles’ teaching, sharing, breaking bread, and praying together.
The apostles were doing many miracles and signs, and everyone felt great respect for God. All the believers were together and shared everything. They would sell their land and the things they owned and then divide the money and give it to anyone who needed it. The believers met together in the Temple every day. They ate together in their homes, happy to share their food with joyful hearts. They praised God and were liked by all the people. Every day the Lord added those who were being saved to the group of believers. (Acts 2:42–47)
Discipleship: Radically Devoted to Christ
It’s clear in this passage that the early church spent time not only learning from the apostle’s teachings but also living it out together. Our group leaders at Cross Point are asked to simply be one step ahead of those they lead in their journey to be more like Christ, and they should be willing to take someone else along with them. We recognize that discipleship is not a cookie-cutter process. Each person will grow differently and at a different pace than everyone else. The key is to help them identify where they are and what it will take to help them get to the next step. We will dive into this in another chapter, but discipleship is not easy and it’s not fast.
Community: Irrevocably Committed to One Another
The groups in the early church “ate together in their homes, happy to share their food with joyful hearts.” Community is not a difficult value for Cross Point’s groups to implement, because it starts with our senior pastor, Pete Wilson. If you attend a Sunday morning service at our Nashville campus (the campus where Pete speaks), you will likely find Pete between services hugging and talking to people in the lobby. At some point someone will have to drag him to the stage for the message. Even though there are thousands of people who now attend on a weekly basis, Pete still takes time to talk to anyone who wants to talk to him.
You will also find worship leaders and band members greeting people at the doors or, on a rainy Sunday, running into the parking lot to walk someone in with an umbrella. There is no green room hiding at Cross Point.
A new church member, who had been attending for a couple of months, asked me during a lunch, “How do you guys create community as a church? As soon as you walk in the doors you feel it!”
The answer starts with leadership. Pete models and the church follows. This translates all the way through our community group leaders. Community is essential, but it’s easy to stay there and not move on to number three.
Evangelism: Relentlessly Dedicated to Reaching Those Outside
From the passage in Acts it’s obvious that evangelism was essential to the early church groups: “Every day the Lord added those who were being saved to the group of believers.” Of the three building blocks for groups, evangelism is the most difficult one to continue practicing. It’s easy for groups to slip into the “us four and no more” mentality. As soon as a group becomes inward focused, it becomes a holy huddle and not the Great Commission. At Cross Point, we train our leaders to look at the example Jesus gave us. Jesus had his small group of twelve, but discipleship was accomplished through the mission. They were consistently taking the words of Jesus and putting them into practice. James 1:22 says, “Do what God’s teaching says; when you only listen and do nothing, you are fooling yourselves.” Our group leaders need to know that the curriculum is important, but it’s worthless without living it out.
Thomas Nelson Inc, Ln: Small Groups for the Rest of Us (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2015).