At FPC, we are all about community groups. The essential work of the Church in the New Testament age in which we live is building up the house of God, the place where he makes his dwelling amongst his people. But whereas in the Old Testament the house of God was the tabernacle or the temple, in our time, it is us. Each believer is a “temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:19). Each believer is a “living stone” to be used in building up God’s “spiritual house” (1 Peter 2:5). “Therefore, encourage one another and build each other up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11). This happens partly at our Sunday worship service, but even moreso in community groups, where we can know and love each other more personally.
But there is a particular challenge to community-group participation at FPC, and that is the transient nature of our congregation. Transience is a fairly typical feature of life in big cities the world over. People come to the city for education and internships, or to prove themselves in their field, or simply for a few years of excitement before “settling down” in the suburbs. Few of these pursuits lead to a long-term commitment to living in the city, to “putting down roots.”
This is by no means to look down on such choices. It is simply to point out that they can inhibit the impulse to commit to things like community groups, given the background knowledge that the faces in the group may be completely different in six months’ time.
The question that needs to be asked, though, is what is my criteria for commitment? How long does someone need to be around for me to commit to being at least partly involved in their life, and they in mine? Six months? Two years? Indefinitely? If I justify the withholding of myself due to transience, well, transience is based on time. So what is my time? At what point do I feel a person will be “there” long enough for me to commit to them?
Committing to a person or a group of people is never something to take lightly. As Christians, we seek to build our houses on rock, not sand. For the storms will come, taking people out of our lives whom we have cared for, and who may also care for us. It can just as easily happen without a storm, too, perhaps moreso. But if we are waiting for someone who can give us a lifetime guarantee of being forever “there” before we can invest in them even a little bit, we will find ourselves doing more waiting than investing.
And it is not just the Church that suffers:
"To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable."
--C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves