Newbreak has always had a strong view of community. We are proud that the majority of our Church are involved in Life Groups and plea with all who make Newbreak their home to get involved in a Life Group. So, we wanted to give Pastor Brooks Fuller, who oversees the Life Groups ministry, a chance to speak to some key questions. His responses provide insight as to why it is better to find our identity in the context of community is better than an isolated and individualistic view of identity.
In what ways does the Bible make the case for someone to live in a community versus as a solo person?
I would argue that the Bible is a giant story of God inviting us into community with Himself and with other people of faith. In the garden, God clarified that it wasn’t good for man to be alone so He provided Adam a companion named Eve. She was different from Adam but was a different type of companion from all of God’s creation (Genesis 2:18, 20-25). Adam and Eve lived in harmony with one another and with God until sin entered the picture in Genesis 3. After eating the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve hid from God and hid from each other by creating coverings. It’s interesting that they sought isolation from God and from each other. The vulnerability, oneness, and trust that they shared together were fractured by sin. Feeling disconnected from one another is a fruit of our fallen world.
The whole Bible highlights God’s plan to create a community of faith that would share a common belief system, ethic, and eschatological course.
God birthed the Israelite community and tasked them with living out their faith together in the midst of a broken world. The Messiah came through this covenant community, which provided a way for the whole world to experience reconciliation and community with the Triune God. Through the work of Christ on the cross, God reconciled our broken relationship with Him (2 Cor 5:18-21) and broke down the walls that separated us from one another (Gal 3:28). We are now members of one Body (1 Cor 12:12-27) and part of the family of God (1 John 3:1-2).
According to Scripture, what are some key benefits of being in community?
I’ll put it under a few categories.
Community is how we sharpen each other.
One benefit of being in community is that it provides us with opportunities to spur each other on to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24). Proverbs 27:17 says: “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” This sharpening process can feel uncomfortable at times but I often grow the most when someone challenges me to remain faithful or to see a situation in a different light.
Recently I was talking with one of our Life Group Coaches over Zoom and she asked me how I was doing with everything. We have both been on a journey of growing in our compassion so I was happy to provide an update. I told her about a situation in the news that really impacted my heart. I felt great compassion for one person but felt great anger towards another. She very gently encouraged me that I need to pray for God’s heart of compassion for both parties. She was right and I knew it. It took me half a second to acknowledge it but I knew that the Lord was working through her to speak to my heart.
2. Community provides encouragement.
Another amazing benefit of being in a godly community is encouragement. Life can be hard, discouraging, and demanding at times. In Hebrews 10:25, the author instructs the Church to make sure to keep meeting together and to intentionally encourage each other. The Lord knows that we need encouragement and He gave us the Body of believers to speak words of affirmation and encouragement into our hearts. In fact, God has even gifted some within the Body a special gift of encouragement and an awesome ability to build each other up.
3. Community picks us up when we fall down.
In Galatians 6:1, Paul discusses what should happen when someone stumbles and falls into sin. He says that the community of faith should “restore” that person in a spirit of gentleness.” Community helps bandage our wounds and picks us up when we fall. The word for restore in this passage expresses the idea of a broken bone being mended and a torn net being fixed. The goal is healing. The goal is to mend something so that it’s stronger than it was before. You can’t do Christianity alone. When we fall, we need help getting back up. We need the kindness and love of our brother and sister to help make us whole again.
How can American Christians who are part of a highly individualistic culture learn from cultures that have a strong view of community?
I think one of our values as Americans is the idea that I can do it myself. Most of us have heard the American phrase, “pull yourself up by your bootstraps.” The basic idea is that I can succeed by myself and I don’t need anyone’s help to do it. The ironic thing about this expression is that it’s physically impossible to do alone.
It’s very easy to apply this individualist, “Lone Ranger” mentality to our Christian faith. We can easily isolate ourselves from others and measure our spiritual maturity by our devotional life alone. When we do this, we ignore the Scriptures that teach us that we are members of Christ Body (1 Cor 12:14-16), that loving God and loving your neighbor are connected at the hip (Mark 12:30-31), and that we are called to “love one another as Christ loved us.” (John 13:34).
How did Jesus love the disciples? He spent time with them. He ate meals with them. He washed their feet. He served with them. He taught them. He corrected them. He did life with them. He gave His life for them.
The disciples learned very quickly that Jesus was calling them to love others as sacrificially and willfully as He did with them.
Personally, I learned this lesson the hard way. When my wife and I moved back from Chicago in 2015, we were really struggling to find a church community. We visited over 20 churches and eventually gave up because we didn’t find the “right one.” After missing several Sundays in a row, we started to really miss the support of the Body. At the same time, I was dealing with some health issues and it donned on me that we needed support and were missing the encouragement and care of our Christian community. Soon after we joined up with a local church plant pastored by my friend Isaac Roberts, which led us to Newbreak Church.
How do Life Groups meet a person’s needs for community?
Life Groups help provide weekly opportunities to develop deeper relationships, discover shared commonalities, and find meaningful support through group members. They help us live out our Biblical mission to love God and love our neighbor through acts of service.
When I reflect on my own Life Group experience, I am so thankful that I can be honest with what I’m going through and the guys in my group will just listen, offer their support, and give me a hug when I need it. We share our lives with one another. It’s not fake or forced. We are from different backgrounds and experiences but we have discovered that our faith and care for one another binds us together. I would encourage everyone to find a group to support you in the same way. It is something we all need!