Why Life Groups are Important
By: Brian Marston
Jesus’s work always involves people. Of course, there were things He did alone with the Father…but these things were always to prepare for being with and helping people orient themselves in a way that would build a strong and healthy community, in order make a difference in the kingdom of God here on earth.
As we begin studying the very beginning of the “Sermon on the Mount” in Matthew 5, we see that Jesus is reaching out to all people and calling them to be a part of His kingdom. As we gather in Life Groups outside of the Shepherd Church buildings, we can study and practice Jesus’s words in this sermon that teach directly about community and relationships as they direct us to care for, support, and encourage one another.
Jesus’s instructions and guidance give us proper perspective about other people. He teaches us to be the salt that brings God’s flavoring to the people of the world, and then to be light for all to see His love through our generous living. He tells His followers not just to avoid the sin of committing murder or adultery, but to view others in a way that is devoid of hate or lust, which bring about murder and adultery in one’s heart. He talks about genuine integrity and loving difficult people by taking on a Christlike perspective of them.
How do we view other people? Do we view them as a nuisance to be overcome—or as a child of God who is being called into his kingdom?
Jesus instructs His followers toward this kind of community because He wants to use my life and your life as an example of His kingdom!
Jesus then talks about things that keep us from being that example—showing off for people and pretending in front of them as we try to look more spiritual than we are—and He uses giving, prayer, and fasting as examples. He teaches that forgiveness is one of the most vital practices in our life for us to experience joy and peace and flourish as human beings.
He summarizes these concepts with what we have named, “The Golden Rule,” when he says, “in everything do to others as you would have them do to you” (Matthew 7:12). In other words, I need to ask myself, “What would I want people to do for me?” and then take the initiative and do it for them. Sometimes that means encouraging people, or letting an issue go, or being a listening ear. But it’s always loving them.
I cannot take shortcuts to live this life that God has called me to live. The gate and road are narrow and oftentimes difficult, but I want to be a tree that bears good fruit (Matthew 7:16). If I’m not doing what Jesus has instructed, I’m just foolish. My house (my life) and all that I have built will be washed away unless I lay a foundation with actions that follow Jesus’ teachings. He will help me to stand firm.
So, when I read these Beatitudes as an invitation for all to enter into God’s kingdom, my goal is to orient my perspective of people with God’s perspective of people. I need to live my life where I am helping to usher people into God’s kingdom, not being a barrier for them.
All of this is done as we interact with one another in the relationships that we build in Life Groups during the week. We are constantly viewing one another through a certain lens. Jesus is guiding us to view people through His lens—a biblical and spiritual lens of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Deep inside, all people long to be a part of a community; to have relationships that foster each of those spiritual fruits; to be cared for, encouraged, and loved. Life Groups are places that bring these relationships to life and God’s will to this earth as it is in heaven.
Brian Marston is a Life Groups Pastor here at Shepherd Church.