Materials

  • Community: Taking Your Small Group Off Life Support by Brad House - this is what we will be reading through as we progress through this class
  • Handout - Each week, we will walk through a general handout with the basic information for that week's teaching
  • Community Group Guide - this will be utilized by Via Community Leaders to lead their communities into an understanding of the theology and philosophy of community
 

Process: Launching a Via Community

Step 1
Class: Community

This class is for Via Community Leaders to train them on the why and how of leading a community.

Length: 6-weeks

Step 2
Class: Basecamp

This is a short class to introduce someone to community and to provide a feeder into the life of our Via Communities from Via Church. This will be offered on a regular basis and will be the only way that someone from Via Church can enter a Via Community.

Who: Via Community Leaders & their (initial) community (this is also for people entering into a Via Community

Length: 2 weeks

Step 3
Guided Tour: Community

This is what every person entering into community will go through for the first six weeks of community. It will either be the Via Community Leader or someone trusted from the Via Community going through this material with them on a regular basis to give them the framework for what it means to live on mission in community.

Who: A Leader and those entering community

Length: 6 sessions

...that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
— Ephesians 2:15b-22

the Why of Community

When we consider what it means to have a Via Community, we have to start with examining the foundational reasons why community is important.

Table Discussion

Why is living in community necessary? Why is community a biblical compelling concept?

Living together in community, reconciled and united by the cross, is a physical demonstration of the grace of God.
— Brad House, Community

Discuss the quote above as it relates to the reason for community in the church.

 

The Significance of Community

The Bible gives us the reasons for community.

1. GOD

From our understanding of Scripture, we see a trinitarian God. Trinity means three-in-one and speaks to the three persons that exist as one God in essence. In the trinity, there is unity and diversity in community. God did not create us out of a need to have community, but community has always existed and we were made as an extension of that community.

2. THE CREATION OF MAN

God made man in his image and likeness. We were made to reflect him to the world. Scripture says that it is not good for man to be alone, that was the purpose of God creating a helper suitable for the man. We were not designed to live in isolation, but in accord with God himself.

Table Project

Around your table, discuss the significance of community as it relates to who God is and who he has made us. Collectively write a statement of why you think community is biblically compelling.

 

The identity of community

Tim Keller, in his book titled “Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism” speaks our identity when he says:

The question of identity is not “who am I?” but “whose am I?”
— Tim Keller, Preaching

SHATTERED COMMUNITY

When we consider the significance of community, we must realize that community was broken at the fall. The devastation of sin came to this earth and community was disrupted. Prior to the fall, mankind, creation and God lived in a perfect peace (shalom) with one another in a state that was beautiful and gloriously fulfilling. However, this was deeply broken when we decided to rebel against God’s loving command and believe a lie.

RESTORED COMMUNITY

Even in the midst of the fall, God points to Christ as the seed that will crush the serpent’s head. Indeed, in the fullness of time, Christ came, lived a sinless life, died on the cross (paying for our sin and reconciling us with the Father), rose again conquering death and is now sitting at the right hand of God praying for us. If our faith and trust is in Christ, we have been made new creations and God’s purposes are being restored in us. This process is called sanctification.

We see shattered community all around us.

What are some examples of shattered community?

Sanctification is not an individual fight; it is one we fight as a community. By speaking the gospel to one another and living out its implications, we participate in a corporate sanctification process. This is true community.
— Brad House, Community (p. 41)

What might this look like in the life of a gospel-centered community?


Church in the Margin

As our society continues to develop towards a more secular narrative, the church must grow in our ability to put on display the goodness of God’s Kingdom. How do we display this together?

The body of Christ must be seen and felt.

At Via Church, we are posturing ourselves to think more intentionally about not only how we gather but how we scatter.

GATHERING
These include the moments when we intentionally come together as a body of Christ to fellowship together, hear God’s Word, encourage one another, etc. on a large scale.

SCATTERING
These include really every other moment of life–in the marketplace, in the home, in the neighborhood, at the store, in the mall, etc.

These Via Communities will focus our attention on structuring the scattered moments of our lives around the mission of God.

These two components, like two pedals on a bike, must work in conjunction with one another. These will be the main two avenues of our church in the future.


The Three Primary Functions of Via Communities

Discipleship, Pastoral Care & Mission

 

1. DISCIPLESHIP

Discipleship is about trajectory. It is taking chaos and giving it direction. Our goal is not a destination as if we could run people through a program that spits out fully mature disciples. Rather, discipleship is about providing a means by which we begin to shepherd people in the direction of maturity. Think of a stream rather than a processing plant between two lakes. Discipleship classes and the like can only be considered a booster shot within a greater strategy for discipleship. This is because discipleship is a lifelong pursuit.
— Brad House, Community (p. 49)

Our process for discipleship needs to be: scalable (able to grow with increased numbers) and effective (actually accomplish what it sets out to do).

See Maturity Curve (Community, p. 50)

 

MODES OF DISCIPLESHIP

What is the best way to learn?

  • Mentoring: One on one
  • Classes: One on several
  • Preaching: One on many

Consider a fourth option:

  • One-Another Teaching Method: We each learn from and teach one another.

See Transformation Cycle (Community, p. 56)

At Your Table

Discuss how you were discipled in the faith. Be prepared to share some examples with the larger group.

 

 

2. PASTORAL CARE

The assumption that most people are doing just fine leaves the average members and attendees basically to fend for themselves.
— Brad House, Community (p. 58)

This is delegated shepherding authority to care for those entrusted to you.

See Pastoral Care Highway: Percentage of Care Methods (Community, p. 60)

1:1 Counseling
This is usually reserved for situations that require immediate attention. This is due to the fact that most situations rise to this level only after they've developed over a long period of time.

Recovery Groups
This will maintain a seasonal place in the life of someone who is struggling with a hurt, habit or hangup. The goal will be to progress into this program, then return to the context of community once something is able to be handed off to a Via Community Leader and a community can help the accountability/healing process.

Life in Community
This is the place where the lion's share of pastoral care will happen. In this context, someone will be known to the degree that care can exist for even fairly 'minor' issues in one's life and they can be addressed long before they metastasize into something far greater and more destructive.

The entire body is cared for in this way.

At Your Table

Write down reasons why this type of pastoral care structure is ultimately more healthy for the church. Have someone from your table present these to the larger group.

 

3. MISSION

This is the most significant and we would say should be the centerpiece of your Via Community. If a Via Community no longer holds mission in the center of their purpose, then they cease being a Via Community.

One of the reasons many believers are unengaged in mission is because they are unengaged in community.
— Ed Stetzer

Mark of Maturity: “We know we have successfully made mature disciples when we get to the place where people meet Jesus in our community groups.” (p. 62)

Success: “At the end of the day, success will not only be defined by how many people we reached with the gospel, but by the depth the gospel penetrated into their lives as well.” (p. 63)

Output vs. Outcome Based Ministry: We need to think more about the outcome of our ministry than simply the output.

At Your Table

Come up with various scenarios that could be an obstacle to mission in a Via Community and then brainstorm how to resolve these scenarios.

 

Definitions

VIA COMMUNITY

A family of individuals who live relatively close to one another and together are actively and continually engaged in a lifestyle where the mission of God is being accomplished in their lives and the Kingdom is put on display in their neighborhoods and communities.


Via Community is not:

  • An off-site Bible study
  • A demographic group [e.g., young marrieds, adults ages 35-45, etc.]
  • An affinity-based group [e.g., bowling group, etc.]
  • A group of best friends
  • A group of people that marginally know each other and rarely get together
  • A group that is disconnected from the larger body of Via Church but still meets
  • A group that is cut off from their community.
  • A group that is closed to outsiders.
 

VIA COMMUNITY LEADER

A trained shepherd, entrusted to:

  • care for those who are in their Via Community
  • center their community’s aims on the mission.

Via Community Leader is not:

  • The Event Coordinator - you don’t need to coordinate everyone’s schedules all the time
  • The Bible Teacher - it doesn’t matter how many lexicons you have on your shelf
  • The Host - your home doesn’t have to have a revolving door
  • The Person Who Picks Up the Food - your sanity is too important
  • The Person Who Coordinates Care for the Kids - again, your sanity is too important and this may not be feasible
  • A counselor - you need to know your limits and know when to direct someone to a pastor or counseling
  • A spiritual guru - you are better off pointing people to Jesus and thinking about ways that you reflect the hope of Christ in your day to day life than trying to be the one stop shop for spiritual wisdom - be humble
 

Next Session

Ownership (read chapter 3 and come ready to discuss)