Collective Discovery: Why We Need Groups to Grow
Deep down, do we really believe we need the perspective of others?
I am beginning to believe more deeply than ever that we cannot thrive, cannot know God as we were meant to, cannot create his kingdom here on earth by simply drawing close to those who think and act like we do.
God has used several teachers to reveal this lesson to me lately.
Timothy Keller, in a profound sermon, Hope, Race, and Power, tells a story about C.S. Lewis. Lewis regularly met with two friends at a pub to talk about God and life. After one of these two friends died, Lewis wrote that, with the death of the one friend, he had also lost a part of the remaining friend. Elements of his living friend were only brought out in the presence of the friend who had passed away. Keller connects this to our need for others, God’s design for diversity and unity.
This got me thinking:
Maybe I cannot fully know a person without experiencing them in a group, and maybe God intentionally brings many people in a community (virtual or physical) through a similar challenge or spiritual transformation so that we can learn that lesson together.
Through this set of lenses, instead of seeing someone’s wildly different experience with life, God, and others as a threat to my own, I can see it as a different angle, a new feature in the discovery of God’s mysterious nature. Instead of responding to someone’s alternative strategy for change as oppositional or unnecessary, I can invite and explore how it might take my own ideas to a deeper level.
How does the nature of a group teach you more about the members than your time with the individuals one-on-one can tell?
Does this cause your heart celebration or fear?
We don’t just need each other to get along, to be diverse for diversity’s sake. We need what each person knows, sees, and feels to discover and then celebrate the otherwise hidden elements of the people around us and the God who made us.
Although I’m a bit wonderstruck by this discovery, it flows from who God is in scripture and in our lives:
God is Triune by nature; He has fellowship in himself and with us (Luke 9:35). He is a community God, pleased to dwell with us (Ez. 37:27). And we are made in his image (Gen. 1:27). We are community beings (Gen. 2:18). We cannot really know him as fully as we were made to without the insights of others.
Our collective discovery of God and his plans for us reminds me of the Indian story of several blind men who describe various parts of an elephant. As each man holds only the trunk, tail, or ear, he describes the animal in drastically different terms.
None is wrong, but each is incomplete.
Maybe the person we feel must be wrong is interacting with a different side of God, a distinct element of His vision for change, or another angle of a spiritual lesson.
Maybe God has intentionally placed a piece of his revealed mystery in another’s hand to challenge, enlighten, or beckon us into deeper relationships.
As we assume a teachable posture, perhaps we can open our hearts a little wider and say, “I never saw it that way before. Can you tell me more?”
Maybe God has sovereignly placed a key to his kingdom in the palm of each person. We can’t unlock God’s plans by only seeking out the keys of those most like us. We need the keys we gain from a variety of people who have seen sides of life we can’t even imagine.
I think this truth might be vital for healing in our world today.
This can start with you and me, wherever we are today, with whatever voice and reach, approaching the world with a learner’s spirit. I’ve come to hear, we say. I want to learn from you. I want to reach across in a spirit of humility, recognizing that I have areas of brokenness that need healing. I have blind spots that need illumination.
These admissions do not disqualify us. They are our invitation to take another step towards being made whole and inviting his wholeness in our world.
Who is God bringing before your heart today?
How can you reengage that relationship with the intention to learn something new about Jesus or his plan to redeem the world?