The following is an excerpt of the little book I wrote with Chris Surratt called Gospel-Centered Small Groups:
Every environment you enter into has a culture. Your workplace, a restaurant, a church – even your own home has a culture all its own. The culture of an environment is like the set of unwritten rules that people abide by while in that particular environment. It’s not just about behavior – it’s about how you think. How you feel. And then, of course, how you behave. The culture of a given environment is what lays below the surface; it’s that which truly governs that environment.
The concept of culture is a little bit like rebar on a construction site. No one comes to a building in its early stages and marvels at the extensive nature of its rebar. Instead, we wait until the structure actually starts to go up; we don’t want to see what makes it stable—we want to see what makes it pretty.
Even though rebar isn’t pretty, it’s incredibly necessary. Rebar gives a building its stability and strength. It’s what holds everything together below the surface, making a structure resistant against the forces of time and nature.
Without rebar, a building crumbles, because rebar is what truly governs the shape of everything else that goes on top of it. The same thing is true of culture.
That brings us to an important question: What is the culture of the small groups in your ministry? What are the underlying beliefs, assumptions, and widely held suppositions that truly give shape to those groups? This is an important question to answer because unlike rebar, culture is going to be created with or without our help in forming it. Every one of the groups in your church is going to have a culture, and that culture will either be one of gospel-centered welcoming, hospitality, service, and mission, or it won’t. But if it’s not, it will inevitably be something else.
We would be wise, then, to recognize this fact and take an active role in culture formation in those environments in which we can. We should be concerned that the gospel is not merely a message we tout, but is actually providing the underlying framework for everything we do in our group life. That’s what this little book is about – it’s about understanding that the 4 gospel is not merely about the eternal destiny of those people we encounter, though it certainly is at least that.
But it’s more. The gospel is a message we believe. It infiltrates our lives, our thoughts, our beliefs, and consequently, our groups so deeply that even the most normal aspects of what we do together in these groups takes on a different kind of significance and meaning. All those things become outworkings of the gospel, for the gospel has been drilled down deeply into the very construction of who we are. It is our rebar, and now it gives everything else its shape.
This book will hopefully help you see how the characteristics we mention are not only essential to group life, but how they all actually spring from a deeply held belief and love for the gospel of Jesus Christ.