1 - The Biblical Case for Community

Community is not a fad, but rooted in a biblical foundation.


Bill Donahue co-wrote Building a Life-Changing Small Group Ministry in order to provide guidance to pastors and church leaders for crucial strategic decisions regarding small groups. In this course, he shares five foundational principles from that work. Bill begins by making a thoroughly biblical case for community. He touches many aspects of planning and leadership, encouraging church leaders to communicate the importance of group life to their congregations.



Leaders in the church have a responsibility to teach the importance of community to the congregation. Bill suggested that we promote community based on these three areas:
  1. Theological — We live in community because God exists in community.
  2. Sociological — We live in community because we were created for togetherness.
  3. Organizational — We live in community because God led the church to structure from the very beginning.

Have you considered these three areas? Why might your congregation need to be taught these three reasons for essential community? How do you communicate the importance to your church body?
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John 17:20-23 (ESV)

20“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word,21that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.22The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one,23I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


What does this passage from John reveal to you about the theological basis for community? Why should we live in community, and what purpose should we accomplish with community?
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Genesis 2:18 (ESV)

18Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


Hebrews 10:23-25 (ESV)

23Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.24And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,25not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


How do these verses in Genesis and Hebrews explain the sociological reason for life in community? What does God expect that we, as a group, gain from life in community?
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Acts 6:1-7 (ESV)

Seven Chosen to Serve

1Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution.2And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables.3Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty.4But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”5And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch.6These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them.

7And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


1 Timothy 3:1-7 (ESV)

Qualifications for Overseers

1The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.2Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,3not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.4He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive,5for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?6He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil.7Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


Based on these two passages, why do you think God expects organization in His church and why are there such strict standards for those placed in positions of responsibility?
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Now that you have considered the theological, sociological and organizational reasons for small groups in church, practically apply these things to your own experience. What will you do in your own Sunday School classes? What changes are you now considering to make in your own small group or in your church?
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This course will be more meaningful and beneficial for you if you put it to real-world use. Print this form and use it for practical application as you go through each session. Follow the instructions in the final comment of each post. And by the end, you should have a thorough plan for improving one aspect of small-group life in your church.

My Life-Changing Small Group
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This session poses some heavy questions and concepts to consider. Once you have finished Part One, remember the changes that you have envisioned and begin your practical application printout, My Life-Changing Small Group, with the first set of instructions below.

My Life-Changing Small Group Exercise 1
Write down an Action Point. Look at the ideas you have already noted in your last response. Write the one thing that you think most needs to happen in your church concerning small groups. At this point, don't fill out the other boxes or start planning implementation, but focus on articulating the event or practice regarding small groups that you believe needs to be adopted by your church.