A few years ago I was sick – really sick. I lost about 20 pounds, had stomach aches, constantly felt nauseous, and had a number of other symptoms you really don’t want to know about. The doctors ran lots of tests, and finally, after four weeks, discovered the problem. I had a parasite. Giardia intestinalis, to be precise, a microscopic single-celled parasite that makes it’s home in the intestines. I just called it “Little Jerry.”

It is somewhat unsettling to know you have something living inside of you, feeding on you, exploiting your body while contributing nothing in return. It’s amazing to see how microscopic organisms can affect the whole body. For weeks I was unable to function normally. I didn’t work. I couldn’t exercise. I nearly stopped functioning.

Something very similar happens when the Body of Christ gets infected with parasites. You know what I mean: people come into the church or your small group (which, by the way, is the church) only to take from it, not to give. Today we often call this “consumerism.” Regardless of what its called, it affects the whole Body, and if not cared for, can make it so sick it cannot function at all. These “parasites” pay no heed to Paul’s instructions in the second chapter of his letter to the Philippian church:

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others (Philippians 2:3-4).

Relationships in the Body of Christ are designed to be symbiotic, not parasitic. In symbiotic relationships, each part benefits the other, and both benefit the whole (synergy). This is a good definition for authentic Biblical community. 

In my next post, I’ll share a prescription for the Little Jerrys in your group. 
 

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Michael Mack has been involved in small group ministry as a pastor, writer, trainer, and speaker for more than 25 years. He founded SmallGroups.com in 1995 and started Small Group Leadership in 2012. He became the 12th editor of Christian Standard magazine in 2017 and continues to speak in churches about small groups, discipleship, and leadership. He lives in Pewee Valley, Kentucky (just outside Louisville), with his wife Heidi. They have four young adult children. Michael enjoys mountain and road biking with a group of friends. See the "About Michael Mack" page under About Us for more about him.

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