What are comGroups? This seems to me to be the most pressing question to answer at this point in our journey toward VITAL comGroups. Yes, we need to understand what it means for comGroups to be vital—after all, VITAL comGroups are the vision for this year. But if we jump straight to their vitality without taking due time to understand what comGroups are, well, we only encourage confusion. A mist of confusion regarding what a comGroup is becomes a thick coastal fog when we begin speaking of their vitality. Let’s dispel the fog, shall we?
So, what actually are comGroups? Are they Bible studies? Cell groups? Affinity groups? Friends who gather weekly?—intermittently? Or maybe any ad hoc gathering of living human beings for any reason whatsoever? Certainly, the word cannot mean anything and everything, or else it means nothing and the vision for Vital comGroups is rendered meaningless. So what are they? Here is my advice in answering this crucial question. Crucify the cookie-cutter mentality. Think “center of gravity.”
Crucify the cookie-cutter mentality. comGroups are not defined by some rigid conformity to a list of finely tuned boundaries. Rather, they are understood by having a “center of gravity.” Think of a planet—why is a planet round? Because there is some great spherical fence in space that mandates the shape? No. It is because of the center of gravity. A planet’s gravity pulls equally from all sides. The gravitational field pulls matter towards the center of the planet’s mass and makes the overall shape of a planet a sphere. The center gives the definition.
That center, or definition for comGroups is this: comGroups are small, diverse groups of people pursuing the Jesus life together. This definition, this “gravitational center” that makes for a comGroup is liberating, not legalistic. It allows for comGroups to have a specific meaning, to not be an empty term, yet to exhibit healthy variation depending upon the small group of people God draws together to pursue the Jesus life. It allows for a deep commonality among comGroups, yet it doesn’t squeeze them all into a Spirit-quenching mold. They are not a one-size-fits-all kind of thing.
comGroups are not the small group version of The Stepford Wives (you know, that creepy movie where the wives of Stepford are replaced with ever-compliant robot versions). They are not legalistic cliques that are all to look the same, meeting an innumerable set of parameters and robotic protocols: “you must meet at this time, have this number of people in your group, read this, do that.” They are not mandated by church leadership as a way to micromanage or suppress the body’s varied gifts. Rather, they are a gift to empower all of us to serve God and one another—to pursue the Jesus life together. Or to use an analogy we have found very helpful, they are a trellis, a supportive structure that aids the organic growth of a vine. A comGroup isn’t the Jesus life. But a comGroup is a portion of trellis that is wrapped up and run through by the vital branches of the Jesus life.
comGroups are meant to empower us to minister according to the diverse gifts Jesus has given, not imprison us in one-size-fits all groups (ref. Ephesians 4:1-9). comGroups are meant to empower, not pamper the church through comfortable circles of elites. They are an orderly and organic effort to empower us all to serve, to do the work of the ministry. Remember, a key way in which to understand the Jesus life is a life of Spirit-empowered service.
So, is the mix-gendered group of believers I meet with on a weekly basis for love and support, laughter over a meal, and study of God’s word a comGroup? Yes, if we are pursuing the Jesus life together in a small and diverse group of people. Is a group of women that gather together on a weekly basis a comGroup? Yes, if they are pursuing the Jesus life together in a small and diverse group of people. Is the group of Christian co-workers (and sometimes visiting nonbelievers) I gather regularly with to pray and discuss the intersection of faith and the workplace a comGroup? Yes, if you are pursuing the Jesus life together in a small and diverse group of people.
Let me end with this: comGroups are not a Procrustean bed. Eh? A crusty what? This should be a memorable way to drive the point home! Forgive the morbidity that is about to follow. In Greek mythology, Procrustes was a troubled son of Poseidon who lived on the well-traveled road between Athens and Eleusis. He owned a certain-sized bed that he invited pilgrims traveling along the road to enlightenment to spend the night in along their journey. When the poor pilgrim went to bed for the night, the sociopathic and uniformity-obsessed Procrustes went about his terrible work of using a smith’s hammer to “stretch” the unwitting traveller to fit the exact size of the bed. For guests that were too tall for the “just-right-sized bed” he would amputate the excess length. Oddly enough no one ever fit the Procrustean bed. It was torture for all. There is something to learn here (aside from avoiding any motel called The Procrustean Inn should you ever happen upon one on a lonely highway).
comGroups are not a Procrustean bed. This would be torture for all, hampering ministry and attempting to place the Holy Spirit in a box of our own distorted design. We do not want to stretch people thin by adding one more group onto an already busy schedule, nor do we want to cut anyone off from fellowship in Christ because their comGroup has different contours than our own. comGroups are not an arbitrary standard to which exact conformity is enforced. They are simply and powerfully this: a small, diverse group of people pursuing the Jesus life together. So, crucify the cookie cutter mentality. Think “center of gravity.” After all, Jesus is the center of gravity that holds this beautifully varied universe together (ref. Colossians 1:15-20), and that includes graciously holding together this diverse body of his that includes people like you and me.