Authentic Biblical Communities – Going
to the Next Level
By Maymie Lau
Our church went through the 40 Days of Purpose Campaign in November 2002.
We laid the foundation of the five purposes of life- Worship, Fellowship,
Discipleship, Ministry, and Evangelism. We knew that it was only the
beginning – it takes a lifetime to learn to cultivate these purposes
in full. In 2003, we saw the need to develop the platform to encourage
our people to continue to live a life of purpose. It is a platform
where people can support one another and learn to practice these spiritual
disciplines together. It is not that we do not have the platform – we
have our small groups and mid groups (gatherings where small groups
are assembled together) – it is the need to bring it to the next
Authentic Biblical Community is our next level. It is the new standard
we set for all our groups. It is a breakthrough (both in mindset and
in action) from our modes of creating pseudo-communities. Bill Hybels,
in his Bible Study series “Transparency,” writes that in
pseudo-communal relationships, feelings beg to be shared that never are.
Misunderstandings arise that aren’t dealt with. Doubts creep in
about the integrity of the other person, but it seems safer just to let
When we think of the Bible’s call to community, we know that we
cannot let our groups get stuck at the superficial level – where
all we talk about is the weather, the kid’s homework, or the boss’s
dog. When I think of all the time we spend amongst our groups, it pains
me to see that after so many years, relationships remain shallow, and
gossips are just part of the norm. It hurts me that Christians accept
the fact that groups gathered together in the name of Jesus are often
no different than the groups at the golf club or the Board of Trade.
As I read again and again the Bible passages that describe the early
Christian community, I am convinced that building “Authentic Biblical
Community” is the way to go.
Authentic Biblical Community is moving our people from biblically
informed to life transformed. It is the place where truth meets
gather together not just to “talk” about things and accumulate
more Bible knowledge. It is a serious submission to the authority of
God’s Word by obeying what He commands. Within the ABC, we invite
people to experience God in a personal way within a community setting,
no matter what their relationship with God is at the moment. People
are connected to meaning rather than mere activities. At the end, Authentic
Biblical Community is life transformation to the extent that saints
are reproduced. It is both church health and church growth!
Communicating ABC To Our People:
Once the vision was set, we laid plans to share it with our church,
level by level. We started with our Executive church board, then went
Point leaders, and then to our community committees, Small Group Coaches,
Small Group leaders, and finally to the mass congregation. We seized
every opportunity we could, sharing the vision over and over again, whenever
we were given the opportunity.
Throughout the process, we adapted Gareth Morgan’s philosophy of
the “Strategic Termites:” We operate out of a strong sense
of vision, while letting the detailed course of implementation emerge
from the evolving situations being faced. We build on ideas, actions
and events that we create, or spontaneously come our way. We are strategic
in the sense that, while our activity is open to the influence of random
opportunity, decisions and actions are always informed and guided by
a strong sense of what we are ultimately trying to achieve. We have "plans," but
don’t just implement plans for the sake of implementation and are
not constrained by plans. We are people who know where we would like
to go, but at the same time, we give room for the Spirit to do His work
and lead us step by step. 2
Core Values Of ABC:
Values are rules for living. They are deeply held beliefs that a certain
way of being or a certain outcome is preferable to another. Values
are externally demonstrated through behavior. An organization’s
values make an open declaration about how it expects everyone in the
organization to behave. 3 In order to build a culture of ABC, we have
stressed the following core values:
1. Humility & Trust
It takes humility and trust to share our weaknesses and struggles with
others, to reveal doubts and fear and show how vulnerable we are, and
to accept our differences and consider others better than us. It takes
humility to put other’s needs ahead of our own. Humility is the
KEY to authentic community building.
2. Submissiveness To God’s Word
In this pluralistic, postmodern society, every one has his/her own opinion.
It does not matter what your opinion is as long as I am allowed to keep
mine. This kind of mentality has quietly crept into our small groups.
We have seen Bible studies in which people quickly skim over the passage
and hurriedly jump into expressions of their own opinions. As the study
ends, each person brings home their own belief based on their own experiences.
As we build ABCs, the message that we send is: what you and I think is
not most crucial. The most important point here is what GOD thinks. If
this is what the Lord commands, then instead of trying to find a way
out, we support one another to obey. Therefore, our members are encouraged
to express their opinions based on the Bible passage, and not by simply
drawing conclusions from our own life experiences. They are guided to
read the Bible passage a few times, slowly, and to let the Word of God
speak to them, rather than letting themselves dictate what they want
the passage to mean.
Accountability reminds people that we are serious about following God’s
Word. It demonstrates the willingness and desire to be changed by God.
Within our Bible studies/group discussions, we ask application questions
that invite people to respond to God’s Word. They are questions
that tend to make them think a little deeper and to shake them away from
the “model answers” they have stored in their minds. We teach
our people not to treat these responses lightly, for their group members
will pray for them as they make these commitments to change. They are
asked to follow up with one another about these commitments during the
meetings to come. The attitude is not to pressure or control, but to
model the importance of standing on guard for one another.
Creating ABC In Small Steps
Building ABC is a very broad vision, and not everyone will be able to
grasp it immediately. We need to give people small steps to follow.
In one of our communities, the mandate is to have all prayer partners
(we encourage everyone to find a prayer partner within their group)
learn to share about their devotional life (honestly) within three
months. To some, this may seem like an obvious thing to do, but you
will be amazed at the number of people that never share truthfully
about their spiritual life with others. In another community, the goal
is to be on time to all meetings (this community has new-born babies
and toddlers, you know how hard it is to get out of the house with
youngsters). Another community’s challenge is to bring the Bible
along with them to every meeting. Just bringing the Bible with them
does not make them any closer to God, but it signifies their emphasis
on God’s Word as the first step. Still, another community in
our church will be showing the video “ Super Christian II” in
February – it is an excellent video about dropping our masks
and not being afraid to share our needs and struggles with others.
Since this video was made in the eighties, we built on the theme and
called it “Retro Night” (where people have to dress like
the eighties that evening). Community building takes time. We prefer
our communities build on three to four disciplines throughout the year,
rather than setting a long and demanding list, only to be disappointed
at the end of the year.
One thing we need to be careful about is instant expectations. You
will always find group leaders that are totally motivated and excited
the ABC vision and expect everyone to share their hearts in the next
meeting. We cannot expect lives to be transformed overnight; nor can
we push growth. Paul said in I Corinthians 3:6 “I planted the seed,
Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.” After all, we are partnering
together with the Spirit. We have had group leaders that expected his/her
group to grow in a certain way, and when the results were not seen after
a certain period, the leader got discouraged and blamed him/herself to
the point of quitting. As our coach prayed together with the leader,
they discovered that, although the group has not grown according to the
leader’s expectation, it did grow in ways that the leader did not
anticipate. At the end, we need to give room for the Spirit to “surprise” us.
Another important aspect is that we teach our leaders to accept the reality
that NOT everyone within our group is going to be a life-long best friend.
We need to understand that being authentic does not mean I have to tell
you everything about myself. Just because I do not tell you my darkest
sins, does not mean I am not authentic – I may be dealing with
that with God already. We need to acknowledge that we may not need to
tell EVERYONE everything at the same time. Our goal is to gradually move
towards being honest and transparent, but that takes time to be developed.
Deep sharing at immature timing can cause hurts – hurt to the sharer
(because the leader/member does not know how to react to it) and hurt
to the members (because the sharer accuses them for mishandling the information
and taking inappropriate actions).
As we fight this spiritual battle of building ABCs, we are reminded of
Philippians 1:6, “…being confident of this, that he who began
a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ
Jesus.” So, we invite our leaders to look for small victories.
We celebrate them and give our praises to God. We are confident that,
as we partner together with the Spirit and, by faith, keep doing what
the Bible tells us to do, years down the road, as we look back, we will
see that our community has been transformed according to His grace and
1 Hybels, Bill. (1996). InterActions Small Group Series: Transparency
(P.30). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.
2 Gareth Morgan. Imaginization: New Mindsets for Seeing, Organizing and
Managing, (new management edition) San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler, 1997
3 Barrett, Richard (1998). Liberating The Corporate Soul.(P.109) Boston,
Oxford: Butterworth Heinemann.
Used by Permission. Writen by Maymie Lau. Copyright 2004 SmallGroups.com