By Susi Lamoutte
Homegroups. What are they? Many churches have some kind of small groups: Covenant Groups, Family Groups, Core Groups, Cell Groups, Men’s Groups, Women’s Groups, Recovery Groups….They can be called many things, and have many purposes. At Santa Barbara Community Church the purpose of a Homegroup is discipleship in community.
As Christians, we are not intended to follow Jesus alone. Throughout Scripture there is community. In the Old Testament God’s people were called the nation of Israel. In the New Testament Christians are a grouping of people referred to as the Church. To believe truly in God assumes membership in a faith community.
The apostle Paul uses the analogy of a human body to describe the church—a body that individual Christians are linked and connected to in order to function together. Just as the parts of the human body interact with one another, so do the members of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12). In 1 Corinthians 12:27, Paul writes that, you are the body of Christ and each one of you is part of it. Believers live alongside one another and they influence each other. Paul instructs the New Testament churches on how to live life together as the body of Christ. Paul tells them, amongst other things: to be kind and compassionate to one another, and forgive each other (Ephesians 4:32); to submit to one another, and serve one another in love (Galatians 5:13); to encourage one another, and build each other up (1 Thessalonians 5:11); and to carry each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2).
You may have noticed as you read through Paul’s directives for how believers should interrelate that he uses the wordsone another and each other over and over. If we are not in relationship, we cannot be encouraged by, or encourage other believers as Paul is describing. Without community we will not love others, have anyone love us, have help carrying our burdens, or receive forgiveness… You get the idea. We cannot do these things on our own. The concept of Christian community Paul is advocating happens within the context of the church. We believe that homegroups are a crucial means of promoting this community.
Discipleship, another key component of homegroups, also works best when we are in relationship with other Christians. Discipleship, technically speaking, means being a follower, a devotee, or a student. As believers we are people who follow Christ. When he walked the earth, Jesus gathered the original group of disciples and they traveled with him—watching, listening, and asking questions. Nowhere in the New Testament is there a description of a Christian disciple who is out there on his or her own.
Consider some specific teachings about discipleship in the New Testament: Paul says that believers are to let the word of Christ dwell in them richly while teaching and admonishing one another (Colossians 3:16) and they are to restore each other when one is caught in sin (Galatians 6:1). James writes that if one should wander from the truth, someone should bring him back (5:19). The author of Hebrews instructs us to spur one another on to love and good deeds, and to meet with each other for mutual encouragement (10:24-25). Each of these New Testament instructions regarding discipleship requires community.
Santa Barbara Community Church takes both discipleship and community seriously. Homegroups are designed for a group of people to meet weekly for two hours. During that time, group members study the Bible together, they pray and worship God, and they intercede for one another. Homegroup is a place where members of SBCC can build relationships and connect with people in a smaller, more personal setting than they encounter at Sunday worship services. Homegroup members can get to know each other, enjoy their time together, and spur one another on to live their lives to the glory of God, despite life’s circumstances. If you consider SBCC to be your church, please, join a homegroup this Fall and enjoy the gift of the Body of Christ.