Why are you at community group? What is your motivation behind being here? What are you expecting? Nobody ever walks into a situation without some preconceived notions about how things should go, and will go. Every one of us has a mental map of how we want our time to be spent. And so each of you has walked into this community group with ideas and notions that will affect how the group interacts. Some are thinking, ”I won’t share much.” Other’s are thinking, “These people cannot handle knowing the real me.” And still some, “There better be a good snack, I didn’t come here for water and warm fuzzies.” 

I remember my first college guys group. I was invited to participate in bible study and a time of holding each other accountable for our spiritual checklists (reading bible, praying, etc.), as if God has a star chart for His children. I recall walking down the dorm hall to a room with five guys sitting and chatting. It was the start of another school semester. Most of the guys in the room were religion students, which made this like a Jedi Council at our school. I walked in and took my place in the circle. The student organizing this group opened things in prayer and then began a lively discussion over the bible. By the close of the discussion we went around the room and answered a few questions that went something like this: 1. How was your quiet time? 2. How is your prayer life? 3. Is there anything else that you need to share? 4. How can we pray for you? I was the last one to answer our checklist for this week’s session, but that night would not close with a warm fuzzy. I laughed for a second and then asked these religion students if that was as personal and as deep as they were going to get. Frustrated, I let them know that I wasn’t going to waste my time week in and week out. 

They were confused. They didn’t understand my frustration. They began to defend what they were doing, when the bombshell exploded. I simply asked, “What is the biggest thing you struggle with? What is the one sin you hide so that no one knows?” I went first in sharing and the look on their faces was priceless. They had signed on to have a “feel good” group, not a let “Jesus transform me” group. They were not expecting to have to share struggles, or pains. They wanted someone to be able to vouch for them that they were doing their duty. They were definitely pushing some doody around the circle, but they weren’t interested in loving God with all they had. They were interested in playing religion, which is a dumb hobby. 

Each of us can sense when people are holding back. Each of us have been in conversations where we were more than hesitant to share what was really going on. Many of us are scared to fully examine who we are and what we have become. It is much easier on us to push blame off on others. We would rather make a suggestion that others do things so that we don’t have to. It is easier to expect the church to do all of my spiritual lifting, than for me to do it personally. We have all been in this place and many of us are still there. But here me out. 

I want to share a critical part of small groups. In order for these groups to be as effective as they can be, each person in the group must be committed to gospel transformation. This means honesty, trust, and acceptance. This means having the same compassion and care as Jesus did when he encountered those folks who were truly seeking God. Too many of us have fallen back into the habit of playing church and not encountering Jesus. How would you respond to a man who admits a porn problem? Would you drop your jaw, or shake your head? What if a woman admits an affair? As we work through this series entitled “Fact to Face With the Gospel” you will see how Jesus displayed the gospel in his dealings with lepers (the untouchables), with prostitutes, and with religious people. 

I want you to know community is messy but necessary. God has created us for relationship with Him and others. If you are truly going to let God have His way in your life, you must realize that Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection has given us right standing before God, if we are truly His children. This means God accepts you, and is desperate for your transformation into Christ-likeness. We should then be desirous of the same in each other’s lives. Are you willing to wade through the trenches with those in this community group? Are you willing to pick up your wounded brother or sister and stand by them no matter what the cost? Or do you not possess this ability? 

Wherever you stand after reading this, my prayer is that you will be transformed by the power of the gospel as you seek to understand what true community is. I want Christ to transform you from a lump of worthless scrap to a beautifully crafted masterpiece. And God’s idea of masterpiece may be different from your view. God desires for us His Church to proclaim the gospel to all peoples in all places. He has placed us in North County to love Him, and love each other while together with him we transform our community by the power of the Gospel. 

Can you envision our area transformed by the power of the Gospel? Do you believe that God is able to save? This life long pursuit of the gospel has the power to transform. Your commitments to living out the truths of the gospel are critical if God is going to unleash His Spirit on this community. I am praying for each of you and cannot wait to see God masterfully craft you into a masterpiece. Are you ready for the Master Potter to mold and shape you?