by Ben Reed
When it comes to talking about the marks of a true follower of Jesus, it’s no surprise that Paul starts out talking about love.
Literally, Romans 12:9 says, “Let love be without hypocrisy.” This is significant because the hypocrite has one thing on his mind:
What will people think of me?
Not, “Who am I?” Not, “How can I serve?” Not, “How can I make much of the power of the Gospel to transform?” The hypocrite is primarily concerned with what others think of them, trying to make the outside look better than the inside. (Matthew 23:27)
Hypocrisy loves to hide.
We have this part of us that tries to hide and appear better than we really are. We don’t want people to see the “real” us. Because the “real’ us may be repulsive, scandalous, depressed, and unworthy. We think, “If you only knew the ‘real’ me…”
The great news about our approaching God is that we don’t have to hide! Christ died for us, right in the midst of all of our messiness. And the Church, authentic community, should be the same. But there’s a vast difference between the group leader who’s pursuing the Gospel with their group…and the one who’s not.
A me-centered small group leader
- Hides their junk.
- Tries to make much of his or her knowledge of the Bible.
- Hides behind the veneer of leadership.
- Hides behind pushing other people to share their story.
- Shares pain and heartache and difficulties and struggles using the terms, “him, her, they, them, and you.”
A Gospel-Centered Small Group Leader
- Shares their faith story knowing that it displays God’s grace.
- Shares their faith story knowing that it offers hope.
- Shares their faith story knowing that it breaks down walls that keep people from God.
- Pursues vulnerability because they’re not scared of being “found out.” They’ve already been accepted by the King.
- Uses the words, “I, me, and us” way more than, “you, him, her, they, or them.”
Anything less than genuine love (Romans 12:9) is cheapening the grace and mercy and kindness and power of God. Because it’s making much of you, and little of the God we say we love.
Being vulnerable with your faith story leads to Gospel health. And if our aim is Gospel-centered community, then we need to pursue genuine love. Love that says, “I know you, I know your story, I know your pain and your failures and your frustrations and your questions…and I love you still.” That’s what the Gospel says. (Romans 5:6)
And that’s what we should say, too.
*image credit: Creation Swap User Josiah Kopp
Ben Reed is the small groups pastor at Grace Community Church in Clarksville, TN. He’s also the marketing director for the Small Groups Network. Ben blogs regularly at BenReed.net. You can follow him on Twitter or Facebook.