One morning on the Christian radio station I usually listen to, a local pastor of the “church of the week” talked about the nature of the church. He said the teens from his congregation had written essays about the church, and all of them used the word safe in their descriptions. The pastor went on to say that this is an accurate portrayal of the church.
What do you think? Does safe describe the heart of Christ’s church?
Perhaps it’s a matter of perspective. We do want people to feel like the church, and every small group within it, is a safe place. They will be accepted for who they are and where they are in life. They will not be attacked or abused.
On the other hand, God’s Word portrays a church that is dangerous. It’s in a war for the eternal destinies of humankind. It’s a place of surrender and sacrifice. Peace comes in the midst of all this, as we put our trust in Christ. We are eternally safe because of his suffering, but we are on the front lines of a battle every day.
I think that is the gist of what Jesus was trying to teach his followers in Matthew 10, when he sent out the twelve to do ministry. He told them, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34).
That does not sound very safe to me! It has always fascinated me that in this passage Jesus says he did not come to bring peace, and yet he is the Prince of Peace. He said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).
Perhaps Jesus’ words in John 14:27 hold the secret for great small groups. The world defines peace as safety from trouble, but Christians know that in this world there will be trouble. Jesus has overcome the world, however. While difficulties and hardships will come, we do not have to let our hearts be troubled. As Christians, we do not need to seek safety and comfort. That is not the purpose of Christ-centered, kingdom-minded small groups. We seek the mind of Christ—his purpose, will, and peace in the midst of whatever may come our way.
As Christians, we have peace because we have Christ. He gives us life to the full in the midst of troubles.
-Michael C. Mack, World’s Greatest Small Group