One of my dad’s best friends is a guy named Dave.
When we were growing up, my brothers and I called him “Uncle-Daddy-Mommy Dave,” because he would take care of us while my parents were on vacation.
Dave loves Jesus, and is a legitimately fantastic person whose list of merits would probably break the Internet if I were to write them all here. As we got older, Uncle-Daddy-Mommy Dave would let us host parties at his place, lend us his car, and was always teaching one of us to drive stick-shift or play drums or master those labyrinth games where you try to keep the ball from falling in the holes.
Fast forward 15 years. On the surface, Dave and I don’t really have much in common. We have different hobbies, we grew up in different generations, and to be honest, he’s a little bit old school.
But Dave is now not only one of my dad’s best friends; but one of mine.
Why am I talking about Dave? Well, Dave and his wife May are in my small group. There’s been a lot of discussion lately (such as here, here, and here) about whether there’s still a benefit of having small groups in churches. The obvious danger for all of us that we may become insular affinity friendship gatherings, or groups that meet to study scripture without ever leaving the safety of the living room to act on what we’ve been talking about.
I get it. I understand that temptations of navel-gazing, gossip, and inactivity are real and can cause lasting damage in a faith community. But I don’t think we should give up on the small group thing. Instead, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another” (Hebrews 10:23-25).
In my experience, when small groups are a) on mission together and b) part of the larger story of spiritual growth within a congregation, they are a real and beautiful expression of God at work in His people and in the world.
Last week Dave and May popped by for dinner and to help us distribute flyers for our upcoming Canada Day party. Our Mission Group is working together to host the event at our place again this year. Dave and May are there to support Kyson and me—day in and day out as well as with these big events—as we seek to see our neighbours’ hearts and lives transformed by God’s power. And we offer that same support to them.
Dave didn’t become “Friend-Brother-Colabourer Dave” by accident. It took incredible intention by leadership to set up a church built on geography-based, neighbour-focused Covenant Mission Groups. It takes a daily choice by each member to walk in the ways of Jesus. It takes planning and tough decision-making to order entire family life rhythms around shared mission and growth. And it takes humility to admit failure, to accept leadership from people who do things differently, and to speak the truth in love.
The beautiful thing is that we didn’t even necessarily like each other in the beginning, but God grew us into a community that loves each other for the sake of our city: a young guy studying to be a dentist, a family full of teenagers, a middle-aged single woman, a 31-year-old commercial transport mechanic. It’s not age or affinity that draws us together, but the Holy Spirit and the winsome life and mission He has invited us into.
Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate?
Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose (Philippians 2:1-2).