‘Community’ Review: Your Bible Study Ain’t Right Yet

Community groups (small groups) are not easy to execute successfully. Most churches tackle them incorrectly, like they are just another program or a once-a-week Bible study without much depth. Brad House has written Community, an amazing book outlining how not to do small groups and much more on how to do them in a way that keeps Christ the center of everything. Best of all, the book is barely 200 pages long, meaning you can easily finish it in a week or so and still take away great and godly wisdom on how community groups function in light of the Gospel.

How do you stay in the Gospel when practically talking about groups of people? Moreover, how do you even define a broad term like “community?” Luckily, House simplifies this by anchoring the definition of community primarily in 1 Peter 2:9-10. He revisits that passage as he underscores different issues within a community all throughout the book.

The author points readers into a new direction for small groups unlike most people have experienced before, a direction that requires organization, discipline, and authentic repentance. He spends good length outlining what both leaders and simple laymen need to repent of in a community; how else will people grow if they don’t repent of the sin directly in the way first? I feel that many Christian, practical books call for new methods in various fields but fail to talk about repenting of specific and relevant sins there.

In dealing with depending on the Lord to defeat sin that clouds true community, House also beats the drum on mission and how integral it is for Christians in small groups to passionately grasp it in their lives and neighborhoods. This is one of the heartbeats of the Gospel that can’t be missed (of course none can be missed). He also comprehensively covers what sorts of events and projects community groups can undertake in their neighborhoods, what a true small group leader looks like, and how churches should rally their groups together in an organized way without making them just another church event. Instead, the venue Christians should use to live out the Gospel each week should be their small groups.

The honesty in this book is powerful. House calls on leaders to take time to research the needs of the areas where small groups meet and readily admits that differing groups will reach out to places differently based on demographic factors. Also, he’s not afraid to name the sins that disqualify leaders and community groups from being effective for Christ. He provides statistics to reveal just how much the church has failed with community in recent years, and he displays many graphs and charts to visually lay out what he is saying. While the material is not complex at all, lazy leaders and readers should probably stay away from this one.

Another evident feature of the book is resources. At many points while reading leaders will wonder how in the world they will be able to integrate everything House is saying into their own communities, but he literally acknowledges that hurdle and generously gives a plethora of tips and valuable methods along the way (not to mention there is plenty of extra content at the back of the book to assist leaders further). Towards the end of the book he tells the story of community at Mars Hill and takes the time to talk about the lessons they’ve used for leaders and community groups over the years. It is humbling to see just how much House has poured what the Mars Hill team has learned and tried with community into this book. In short, there is plenty of inspiration here to help any leader brainstorm and seek the Holy Spirit in nurturing true community where they’re at.

The one thing I will say is that Community is pointed at a specific audience. I believe the best audience for this one is higher-up pastors, elders, and small group leaders (I say this being a community group leader of three years and a first-year CG coach). But even if the standard layperson purchases this, the impressive blending of practicality, theology, and motivation will not be easily missed. To be honest, this is one of my favorite books I was able to read in 2011. Thank you so much for this, Brad House. I have walked away from this book with so much insight that I’ve already been able to pass down to my leaders. It’s already making an impact.

Community: Taking Your Small Group off Life Support



Legacy Leaders

Photo courtesy of "insain-munki".

One cardinal mistake leaders often make is they forget about their legacy.

Whether in a business, an organization, a ministry, etc., many leaders do talk about a legacy. However if they fail to raise up new generations of leaders after them,  they are actually confusing their legacy with their reputation. Now everyone knows that reputation and legacy are two different things, but let’s break them down to get a better idea on them.

Reputation: These leaders are more concerned with the opinion of others rather than the end goal of where they serve. Their actions are almost always done only for social approval, and their confidence and identity come from the level of outwardly acceptance and praise they receive. As a result, oftentimes these leaders can be very moody. Relationships are important to these leaders for sure… insofar (haven’t heard that word in a while!) as they come back to boost their reputation. Here, authenticity is lost in selfishness. Working under these types of leaders is exhausting and can be depressing after long periods of time.

Legacy: To a Legacy Leader, the mission is the top priority in all they do. Personal gain is lost in the good of the end-goal, and relationships are marked by authentic love that seeks to push others higher in their strengths. These types of leaders don’t find their identity in their actions or what people think of them, which makes them productive and not easily distracted. Legacy Leaders know how to adapt to many situations, because they are focused on the long-term goals, not the short-term obstacles. While very focused, Legacy Leaders are humble in their actions.

Let’s look at it a bit further: think of a big jigsaw puzzle.

Legacy Leaders are important to have, because they realize they are just a piece in God’s puzzle. With this knowledge they see the vital role all the other pieces play. They notice this from the time they begin and keep a vision for when they are gone. Legacy Leaders have an un-canny ability to cast vision (whether it’s a natural gift or a practiced discipline).

Reputation Leaders are dangerous, because they see themselves either as the largest piece of the puzzle or as the main object of the entire puzzle. They view themselves as so important they pay little attention to the unique value of the other pieces, leaving the entire puzzle to be incomplete and sometimes permanently damaged — even after they are gone. Puzzles with Reputation Leaders need to carefully remove these pieces if they act stubborn with correction/training. This will ensure the survival of the puzzle and the growth of the other pieces.

If you are a leader at any level, you will fall into one of these two categories. I know leaders who fall into both sides. Unfortunately, most leaders end up on the latter. I know where I want to be in all leadership positions I undertake, though I have to keep my pride in check all the time.

What kind of leader are you? Do you know any Legacy Leaders? Reputation Leaders? What kind of results (or havoc) have you seen from them?