I’ve been reading and studying about, and practicing, home church, missional groups, organic discipleship and all those multifarious things for a few years now. There’s been some good stuff, some really bad stuff, and plenty in-between. When you read that much content in one area it is easy to become jaded, feeling like you’ve heard it all before and the inner-cynic says, “Oh, here they come again with their methodological practice that is guaranteed to transfer to my context.” Sometimes, though, the inner-cynic gets well reprimanded by a fresh, insightful and faithfully Biblical work that exhorts, equips and encourages. Community by Brad House is such a book.

 

It is another release in the Re:Lit series, an imprint of Crossway Books, and authored by a pastor at Mars Hill Church. They’re putting out a lot of content at the moment, and indeed I will be reviewing Pastor Bill Clem’s Disciple on this site soon. Not everyone loves Mars Hill Church, but I am among those who appreciates and esteems the work they are doing in their own church and in their church planting network, Acts 29. Their small group ministry has been phenomenal and a major artery in the body for grace, transformation and discipleship. So I’ll admit, the inner-cynic was already on standby when I started reading the book, but he was still, nevertheless, rebuked and rebuked well.

The book breaks down into three main sections: Foundation, Health Plan and Treatment. In the Foundation section, the theological basis of community groups is explained in terms of imaging the Trinity, being the Body and fulfilling our part in participation. Health Plan then goes on to define, or redefine for some, what community groups could and arguably should be. Finally, Treatment begins with a call to repentance and then gives some guidelines on how to take the theory and make it a practical reality in your own church.

House writes with clarity and conviction, and at times a healthy amount of dry humour that made me laugh out loud a couple of times. More importantly, this book has solidified my own thinking, corrected some mistakes and revealed some areas that are not just weak, but missing altogether. Whilst it is all so inviting, he’s also clear about the cost and the work required to transition a church into this kind of life together. The cost sounds worth it though:

“When we challenge the body (community groups) to contextualize their groups and engage their culture to reach the lost, we share with them the joy of ministry. We give them the opportunity to see the Holy Spirit transform lives and save people… When we share in the work and joy of ministry, we will begin to sacrifice and take risks for the gospel.” (p.76)

After all the theory and call to practice, there is some help in the form of chapter 10, titled “Boot Camp” where House lays out how they lead their own leaders through a seven week, 2 hours a week course to realign with the mission/vision of the community groups ministry. His own church needed a focus on mission, so that’s the main bent, but it gives a good framework to put your own training together. Finally, there are some other useful practical materials in the form of possible job descriptions for various levels of leaders and groups. These could be great starting templates for those who have never formalized the leading of their own small groups.

It is clear that House holds this type of ministry in high regard, and calls for a high level of leadership and accountability for those overseeing. This is the space where the nitty-gritty of pastoral work, discipleship and evangelism can happen in the ebb and flow of daily life. I commend this book to you as a great resource to investigate, reinstate or simply strengthen how you do community in your own church.

A review copy was provided to me at no charge by the publisher. No attempt was made to gain a favorable review, and all opinions and recommendations expressed are the author’s own.