“I really like your community group. You all actually share ‘real’ prayer requests.”
It took this newcomer’s matter-of-fact comment, after just her first visit to our group, to illuminate for me a profound reality regarding the collection of women whom my friend Annie and I are privileged to lead: our prayer requests were truly genuine. Much to my dismay, I had somehow missed this reality and the veritable miracle that was happening in our midst: our group’s members, some of whom had never shared these “real” types of prayer requests ever before, were opening up about their lives and were modeling what it looks like to live in authentic community with each other. These girls were not satisfied with settling for superficial small talk but, instead, were setting a new standard for vulnerability in our group. As a result of their courage, they opened the door for God to use the painful parts of their stories to encourage and challenge the rest of us, and, consequently, they fostered a greater dependence on one another and, ultimately, on Christ.
I really wish I could say that this transformation from surface-level to deep and vulnerable sharing occurred within no time for our group, but that simply would not be true. Nor would it be true to say that we as the leaders had much to do with it at all. Instead, the reality is that this change occurred by the grace of God and through months and months of Thursday night meetings where members listened well to each other, kept confidence, and built trust. The authenticity that our group’s visitor witnessed that night was the direct result of our girls following up with each other via texts and emails, offering accountability, and praying for one another on a weekly basis. It was not a sudden cultural change for our group but rather a slow, somewhat glacial, movement away from pretense and toward genuine friendship.
While we all thank God for this gift of depth that we’ve found in our community, we, like any group, have our own perennial problems. Even though we love each other deeply and wholeheartedly, we still hurt each other’s feelings, listen poorly, forget to follow-up, or merely fail to love each other as we ought. Nevertheless, we still experience God’s grace that enables us to forgive each other, just as we have been forgiven, and to continue to pursue Christ together.
If you’re unsure about this whole community thing, I challenge you to have the courage to explore it. God simply did not intend for us to live life in isolation, nor did he plan for us to only ever share the easy and “cleaned up” parts of our lives with each other. Rather, he calls us to community: to sharing meals and laughter and tears and tales of God’s goodness to us, even in our pain. Your experience in community with others at MPC might be uncomfortable, most likely will be challenging, but absolutely will be worth it. My own experience in a community group has served to make me more like Christ, and I pray that you are able to testify to this gospel transformation in your own life too!
If interested in leading a Community Group, please contact Caroline Cross.