Few would disagree that humans are social creatures that need community in order to live life to the full. Without someone to receive us and care for us at birth, none of us would survive. The question, then, is not if we need community, but rather, how can we build and maintain a healthy community.
1. (1 Cor 12:12-31) In this extended and well-known passage, the apostle Paul uses the metaphor of the human body to illustrate how the church should operate and cooperate.
A. Paul says that there are some parts of the body that we think are “weaker” or even “dishonorable.” In your view, what are some of the underappreciated roles in a local church?
B. If you had to label your role in the community of faith, how would you describe it? For example, are you a hand, foot, eye, appendix, kneecap, a belly, or some other body part? Explain.
C. Some would argue that this passage should not just be seen as referring to individuals. Instead, they would say that body of Christ actually includes all denominations, each of which has a special contribution to make to the overall body of Christ. In that case, then, Methodists might be hands, Adventists the shoulders, Baptists the arms, etc. How would you respond to such an idea? What if someone suggested that the different members of the body are actually made up of the different religions of the world?
D. Beside the body, what are some other New Testament metaphors/analogies that are used to illustrate how the church should operate?
2. (Mark 1:35-37) Which is most needed in the lives of Christians today-solitude, or community? What is most needed in your life?
3. No one would deny the benefits of a close community. It is also important, however, to acknowledge the dangers.
A. (Gen 11:1-4) Why did God need to scatter the community that was developing? When people gather together, do they tend to reinforce what is good, or do they tend to encourage godlessness? Is some community building contrary to God”s will?
B. (Luke 9:51-56) What are some of the most common dangers associated with community? How does a community avoid “mob” mentality, group-think, sectarianism, and isolation from others in the larger society?
4. (Luke 10:29-37; Gal 6:10; Phil 5:8) Do we have a special responsibility to care for the needs of those who are a part of our community of faith, or should we treat all people the same? Should insiders receive more care than outsiders? How do we determine who is “one of us” and who is not? Are we too lenient in guarding the borders of our community (and our church), or are we too particular?
5. (Rom 15:5; Col 3:13-15) How is it that community is established? How does a group of diverse people develop a sense of unity? Does unity depend on shared doctrinal beliefs? Is unity better built around a shared commitment? Shared purpose? Shared suffering? A shared enemy? Throughout history, those groups that seemed most concerned about correct doctrine have often been those groups that continually splinter because no one could agree on the finer points of doctrine! What lesson is there in this?
6. (Mark 8:38-41) In this passage, Jesus seems to extend the notion of community. How comfortable would we be acknowledging the work of God among others who are “not one of us”?