Spend the week studying Romans 12:3-8. Consult the commentary provided and any additional study tools to enhance your preparation.
DETERMINE | which discussion points and study questions will work best for your group.
PRAY | for our pastors and this week’s message, the upcoming group time, your group members and their openness to God’s Word.
LANDING POINT | You belong in the family of God and have a special function in the Body of Christ.
Remember the 4 Rules for Small Group Discussion
- Confidentiality. What’s said in the group stays in the group.
- No cross-talk. Be considerate of others as they share. Refrain from side conversations and texting during group time.
- No fixing. We are not in the group to fix each other. Jesus does that part.
- Sharing. Be sensitive to the amount of time you share. Don’t talk too much or too little. Every person brings something valuable to the group.
As your group time begins, use this section to introduce the topic of discussion.
Last week your group discussed the first of three core questions. That question was, “Who am I?” The Bible tells us our true identity rests in who we are in Christ. Knowing who we are in Christ helps us understand who we are, who God is and what difference it makes in how we think, live and relate to others.
This week you will focus on the second question, “Where do I belong?” We all want to belong somewhere. That is, we want to be known and accepted by others in a community that loves and welcomes us. This desire is universal.
The continued fracturing of families and the rise of social media in our culture has fed this desire for community. Look around and you will see that people are hungry for community. And they’re looking to satisfy that hunger in a number of places. Examples include: clubs, a favorite sports team, social networks, online gaming, etc.
This makes the question of where you belong all the more important. Paul understood this and wanted believers to understand two things: 1) we were created for community and 2) we find true community and purpose in the Body of Christ. His main message was this: you belong in the family of God and have a special function in the Body of Christ.
What other examples can you name of places people go to find community? What elements of community are found in these places?
Do you sense a hunger for community in yourself? Have there been times in your life where that hunger was more pronounced? If so, when?
Select 2-3 questions to discuss as a group.
Created for Community
God created us for community, and He wants us to experience life together. In this way, we reflect the image of God, because the Trinity exists in the community of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Throughout the Bible you see God creating community again and again. In the garden God saw that it was not good for man to be alone. So he created Eve for Adam and they lived in community. God established Israel as a community with common beliefs and practices. Likewise, God created the church as a community of Jesus’ disciples who followed His teachings. This community is seen in Paul’s metaphor of the body in Romans 12:4-5. We exist as different members who are united in a common identity (Christ) and purpose (to make disciples, cf. Matt. 28:18-20).
John Donne once said, “No man is an island.” How does this quote relate to what was stated above about community?
Why is it important to see the identity and purpose of your community? How does that affect the way you think and act?
Three aspects of interpersonal community
Pastor and author R. Kent Hughes identifies three aspects of interpersonal relationship that help us understand what community within the Body of Christ looks like:
A body part that’s separated from the body cannot function or serve its purpose. In the same way, individuals within the Body of Christ need to work together for the body to function and serve its purpose. Our unity is a powerful witness to the world.
Before He went to the cross, Jesus prayed to the Father for believers to be united as one: “I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity” (John 17:22).
How can our unity as believers be “a powerful witness to the world”?
God calls us to be united. But that doesn’t mean He’s called us to all be the same. There is diversity within the Body of Christ. This diversity expresses the beauty of God as Creator. Each of us is unique; no two people are alike. Each of us brings dreams, desires, talents and abilities into our community. We are an incredible tapestry of personalities, stories and gifts. And all these serve a specific function within community.
In what ways do you see diversity in your group? How is this diversity a benefit to the group?
We get ourselves into trouble when we try and live isolated from others. In fact, that’s what the enemy tries to do. He wants us to isolate ourselves, because sin can go unchecked outside community. We need each other. We need people who know us and share our values and beliefs. We need people who can call out sin in our lives. We also need people who encourage and inspire us to be the people God made us to be.
There are no expendable parts in the Body of Christ. We each offer something that enhances and beautifies life. If you know who you are, you understand that God has given you a specific place and function within the Body of Christ.
What could you do to better understand the place and function you serve in the Body of Christ?
Select 2-3 question from this section to answer.
We live in a highly individualistic culture. You can see this in how some people talk about their relationship with God. They regard it as something between them and God. However, the Bible shows us something different. Your faith is supposed to be lived out in community. To be part of a body, you have to be connected to the body.
How would you persuade someone otherwise who said, “I don’t need to be part of a church. My faith is between me and God”?
What’s one change you could make to be more connected to your community?
Affects how we treat others
The Bible describes our community as a family. This means our relationships are supposed to go deeper than church membership. As the family of God, we are brothers and sisters brought together by God Himself to show the world community at its best. Love and forgiveness should permeate our relationships. If one person hurts, we all hurt. When one person is blessed, we all celebrate that blessing.
How does seeing fellow believers as brothers and sisters in the family of God change your view of Christian community?
What would it look like for your group to “show the world community at its best”? Be specific.
Select 1 question from this section to answer.
Part of a bigger story
Each of us is part of a bigger story. We were created for something bigger than ourselves. When we realize this, we begin to see greater purpose in our lives as individuals and as a community. Seeing that you have a role to play in God’s Story changes the way you look at yourself and your gifts. It also changes the way you view community. Living within God’s bigger story adds something sweet and eternally significant to life.
How does seeing that you have a role to play in God’s Story affect the way you see yourself and gifts?
What are some practical ways you can start living within God’s bigger story?
Thank God that you belong in His family. Praise God that He is a loving Father who knows you personally and has given you brothers and sisters who love and accept you. Ask for wisdom and vision to know your function within the Body of Christ and how that can bless others. Pray for ways your group could show the world community at its best.
Midway through this week, send a follow-up email to your group with some or all of the following:
Read 1 Peter 4:8-11 and reflect on how it relates to Paul’s instructions in Romans 12:3-8. What do these passages have in common?
Ask the group to share anything they learned or experienced this week that helped them understand more clearly the question, “Where do I belong?”
Identified by your love.
Before His arrest and crucifixion, Jesus dined with His disciples in the Upper Room and gave them His final instructions. In John 13:34-35 Jesus told His disciples, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” The identifying mark of a disciple is love for fellow believers. If the world looks at the church and sees backbiting, gossip and bitterness, they won’t see Jesus. Paul also talks about love as the indispensible feature of believers in 1 Corinthians 13:1-13.
Love in action.
Following Romans 12:3-8, Paul shows his readers love in action. For Paul, love was more than a sentiment or something you simply express in words. Love must find its way into actions that demonstrate care, concern and benevolence (seeking the wellbeing of others). If believers are to be united as the Body of Christ, they must follow Paul’s instructions in Romans 12:9-13:
“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.”
Centrality of community.
God created men and women to live and grow in community. Life is something that was meant to be shared. If you remember, the only thing not good about creation before the Fall was the fact that Adam was alone. That should tell us something about the centrality of community. Psalm 133:1 exclaims that it is “good and pleasant” when God’s people live together in community. Acts 2:42-47 gives an incredible portrait of community among believers in the early church. People in this community had everything in common, shared their possessions freely, met in one another’s homes regularly, gave to the needy and worshiped together. Peter instructs his followers to do the same in 1 Peter 4:8-11. Paul exhorts the Ephesians to “be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:2-3). God calls His people to the same kind of community reflected in these scriptures. When this kind of community is lived out, God’s love goes on display in powerful ways.