The gospel never stops with individual conversions – it starts there, of course, but when God calls people to Himself, he always draws them into a Kingdom-building community. At Fulkerson Park, our Kingdom-building community is really a cluster of smaller, Kingdom-building communities. We’ve found that the best way for us as a church family to foster Christian discipleship and gospel-driven pastoral care is through a growing number of close-knit small groups of Christians. Fulkerson Park is not just a church with small groups, but a church of small groups.
These small groups try to strike a balance that’s unmatched anywhere in our culture. The gospel drives us to be accepting, but holy; encouraging, but truth telling; joyfully worshiping, yet sacrificially living.
Accepting, but holy
In the gospel, Jesus accepts us while we are still sinners. So we build communities that aren’t insular or that only cater to the ‘super-spiritual’ (whatever that means). Although the gospel is exclusive in its content (Jesus is the only way to God), it’s inclusive in that it’s good news for everyone. So we foster community that is gentle towards people who have doubts about Christianity or that simply don’t believe or live it.
Yet, at the same time, in the gospel we’re called to live radically distinct lives. We’re not content to live with our sin or our character flaws. The gospel is a power for salvation and transformation – individually and for the world at large – as the Spirit reveals the glory of Jesus to us (John 16:14; 2 Cor. 3:18). And that means that we strive to be holy.
Encouraging, but truth-telling
The gospel is good news. It builds us up – it encourages us. We’re loved by the Triune, Creator, God-of-the-Universe Himself. How loved? God loves us enough that His Son died for us. Jesus loved us so much that He experienced the darkness of death so that we could enter into the fullness of the life and joy of God. On the Cross, when Jesus died, God told us what He was willing to pay in order to love and transform us and the world we live in. So we bring that same encouraging, up-building message into our small groups to empower and transform us.
The gospel, though, has hard edges. It tells us that we’re sinful. It points out that we don’t want God in our lives. We don’t want God in our lives at all. We want stuff from God – we want safety and security, meaning and significance. In fact, we think God owes us those things. The gospel tells us that we’ve got it backwards: God doesn’t owe us anything, but we owe him everything. But when we look to Jesus in faith, we get all the safety, security, meaning, and significance that we need – but we get it by sheer, radical grace.
Reading this on paper (or the web) is one thing. But facing the hard reality that we love stuff more than God is painful. How can we face the truth? We need to hear the truth while we’re surrounded by a group of people who love us deeply. We need to hear the truth from people who care too much for us to drowsily wish our own happiness. We need people who love us enough to tell us the truth because they want us to flourish – even when it hurts.
Joyfully worshiping, yet sacrificially living
God started to set the world right when he raised Jesus from the dead by the power of his Spirit. In the resurrection of Jesus, God has beaten sin and death itself. And in the gospel, God fills us with the same sin-conquering, death-defeating power – the power of his own Spirit. How can we not rejoice? How can we not celebrate? Small groups celebrate the gospel – through prayer, Bible study, song, fellowship, meals together…the celebration takes place in a thousand different ways. The gospel gives us new hearts that make us sensitive to the joy of anticipating living in a new heaven and new earth.
But the gospel makes us incredibly sensitive to the suffering of the world. We suffer with those who suffer; we weep with those who weep. Jesus was a man of sorrows, bearing the griefs and pains of the world. And the gospel enables us to do the same. We’re not coolly indifferent to suffering. It hurts us and makes us long all the more for a place where pain and suffering and tears and sickness are things of the past. But we’re not just emotionally sensitive, we’re active. And so we turn outward to bring the hope of the gospel to the world through words of truth; and to bring the renewal of the gospel through deeds of justice and mercy.
If you would like more information about joining a small group please contact us for more information by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.