At the time of writing, Chris Yue was the Assistant to the Minister, Chinese Presbyterian Church, Vancouver.
The group sat speechless as Sue shared about her marital breakdown, divorce and subsequent depression. Her tears seemed to be contagious as slowly one by one, everyone in the room had tears flowing down their cheeks. But still, not a sound could be heard except for the occasional sob or sniffle. Finally, after what seemed to be an eternity, Dave broke the silence. "I don't know what to say," and after a short pause, he continued, "but I want you to know that you are not in this alone. Would it be alright if we prayed for you?"
Sue's tears became heavy sobs as she struggled to contain her emotion. One by one, every person in her home group stood up and laid hands on her while they prayed. Although it seemed that no one knew what to say to Sue, everyone seemed to know what to say to God. They communicated their deep love and appreciation for Sue. They prayed that she would find peace and rest in God's arms. They even confessed for their lack of sensitivity in the past months and asked him for wisdom to know how to care. Sue had never experienced this kind of love before. And it was this night that she gave her life to Christ.
Sue's story, while miraculous and wonderful, is not unusual. Small groups (whether in the form of home groups, Bible study groups, or cell groups) have always been used powerfully by God. He must have understood the power of community when he spoke about it in prayer just before his death in John 17. He must have known the power of community when he asked his closest friends to pray for him as he went to the Garden of Gethsemane.
It is important to note however that there has been a resurgence of small group/cell based churches at the end of the twentieth century and beginning of the twenty-first. The busyness of our schedules, the pace of our lives, and pervasive individualism that mark our culture today, cry out for Christian community. Even our worship has become increasingly focused on the self. We only need to look at much of the contemporary Christian choruses to see that the emphasis is heavily on the vertical relationship with God — with very little said about the horizontal relationship with one another. This is not to say that our relationship with God should not be our primary focus and responsibility but we only need to glance at 1 John to see that our love cannot and should not stop there.
It breaks my heart each time I take the time to actually connect my heart and emotions to what I see and experience around me in the world each day. I never used to understand why people wanted Jesus to come back so badly. There are broken relationships, severe depression, disease and illness, homelessness, people lacking identity and purpose. And that is within our churches.
What would Sue have done if she did not have that home group? We too do not have to face our trials alone. We have each other. And if you think you have enough community in your life, I guarantee there is someone out there that needs to be blessed by you.
We need each other. God knew it.
How will the world know that Jesus is sent by God? John 17 says it will happen when we are brought into complete unity with one another and with him.