Community Groups (C-groups) are an important part of life at Emmanuel. It is through a C-group that many people first begin to build relationships with people in Emmanuel. We encourage guests to visit one of our groups to help build relationships in the church and go deeper in applying the weekly sermon. We have groups that meet Wednesday and Thursday evenings, as well as Sunday afternoon and evenings.
In this post, I wanted to give a little information on what we hope to accomplish in our Community Groups, and to point out that there is a theological underpinning for our desire to utilize Extend the Impact in the context of our Community Groups.
We don't want Community Groups to become just another teaching point.
One of the things I think plagues the modern-day Christian is too much access to too many Bible studies. Think about it. You can spend hours a week in multiple different Bible studies, sermons, and small-groups that give you lots of information, and expose you to many different parts of Scripture. The only problem with that wide exposure is that we seldom take time to meditate deeply on any of it. We may study lots of things, all of them good, but none of them deeply. For this reason, we don't want our C-group time to be merely a time for "another" thing to study.
Community Groups at Emmanuel are intended for building deep, helpful discipleship relationships built on what God is saying to your local church. C-groups at Emmanuel are designed to provide the two elements that are crucial for growing in Christlikeness: the Word of God, and a fellowship with committed fellow believers. While c-groups are free to choose the content of their groups, we do recommend some or all of the teaching/discussion time include our in-house Extend the Impact handouts located at the Welcome Station between the two front doors of our building.
Extend the Impact is one way we can extend the teaching/preaching ministry of the Elders. The (mostly) expositional preaching ministry of our church is intended by God to feed the people of Emmanuel Church. There is no doubt that Bible studies and sermons preached to other churches can be very helpful for individual spiritual growth, but a good theology of the local church needs to consider that the main teaching diet of a particular local church is intended to come through the elders of that church. If we are all meditating deeply on the same passages, and working together to live out the same Biblical principles, and we are encouraging one another and speaking truth to one another, then we are more closely aligned with God's design for the local church.
The theology is simple: the Sunday sermon is for more than just an hour on Sunday. The Sunday sermon that is preached in the weekly gathering of the entire church is the main discipleship engine of the church. We gather around the Word, we sing it, we pray it, we read it, we preach it, we hear it, and we see it. Elders, appointed by the Holy Spirit, are to feed the flock by prayerfully teaching and applying God's Word to God's people in a specific church.
Read these passages and consider how important community life around the preached Word of God is for obedience to these verses.
Acts 2:42 (NASB 95)
They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching
and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
Acts 20:27–28 (NASB 95)
For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God.
Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock,
among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers,
to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.
2 Timothy 2:2 (NASB 95)
The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses,
entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
Hebrews 13:7 (NASB 95)
Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you;
and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith.
Hebrews 13:17 (NASB 95)
Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls
as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief,
for this would be unprofitable for you.
The teaching/preaching ministry of your church is important to your church, and should therefore be important to you.
So, the encouragement is three-fold:
First, take time in your C-group, your D-group, or Bible study to discuss the sermon, the preaching series, and the things the Holy Spirit is teaching our people through the preaching ministry. You don't have to spend the entire meeting doing that, though some groups do. But we do ask that you spend some time reviewing the biblical principles and making application of what God is saying to our church, week in and week out. This constant reinforcement will extend the impact of the main discipleship engine of the church.
Second, learn to be a better hearer of the preached Word. Take advantage of the tools made available to you such as sermon handouts. Learn to be attentive to the main point(s) of the message. Make not of biblical principles and important ideas in a journal or on the blank pages at the front and back of your Bible. Commit to never leave a sermon without a point on which to meditate, and something to apply.
Third, pray often for the ministry of the Word at Emmanuel. Pray for those who teach, and pray for those who hear. May we all grow up in Christ together as we live out His Word with each other's help.
May God add His rich blessing to the preaching ministry of Emmanuel Church, for generations to come.