Living life together. This is how the early Christians lived while devoting their lives to Jesus Christ and this is how Integrity promotes community for their church body. Community was not something I was interested in before I became a believer. I am naturally an introvert and independent. I would rather curl up on the couch and read a good book, than go out and meet new people; and the thought of asking for help makes me uncomfortable. I had the introverted mindset when I was asked to accompany one of my friends to Small Group (now called Small Group). I immediately said no, especially since I had never been to Integrity and did not know a soul, other than my very enthusiastic friend. I was also skeptical because the Lord had not yet changed my heart and being in a room of believers scared me. I gave in to my friend’s pleads and, little did I know, God changed my life as soon as I walked into the Hammell’s home. The first thing I noticed was how warm and welcoming people were with someone they had never met before. I know it is a cliché, but coming from a true introvert, I felt like I had known these people my whole life. They sat with me and took an interest in my life by asking questions and genuinely listening to what I had to say. God opened my eyes and softened my heart during my first experience with Small Group, which led to God changing my heart and me surrendering myself to Christ.
When I devoted myself to Christ on a cool November evening, my Small Group members were the first people I wanted to tell. I had never felt this enthusiasm before and I realized that, in Christ, I found what community truly means and was experiencing the community in which God intended me to live. They have walked with me in my journey with Christ, from the first group gathering, to my baptism, to the current season God has provided me. The Book of Acts describes the early Church and how their community was centered around Christ and His teachings. Acts 2:42-47 and 4:32-37 discuss how Christ’s grace and love encouraged them to care for and act generously toward one another, without fear, worry, or resentment. This is how Small Groups are at Integrity. The people you meet live a Christ-centered life and they would lay their life down for you, the way Christ did. That is what makes a community of true believers. One of the wisest women in our group told me an analogy about Christ-centered relationships: “When Christ is at the center of your relationships, nothing can pull the relationship apart. It’s like when you link your fingers in prayer – you can pull as hard as you want, but nothing can break that bond.” The relationships made in Small Group are the most authentic and wholesome I will ever have.
Authentic is not a common word used to describe relationships in today’s society. Most people ask how you are and the typical reply is “fine” or “okay” and they move on. In Small Group, this is not the case. True relationships are formed. Love and compassion for each other is evident with each greeting and goodbye. Emotions and encouragement are revealed in raw form through accountability and prayer. Laughter, stories, and recipes are shared and swapped with delight, gratitude, and eagerness. Growth and heart changes unfold before us. God’s joy shines brightly in each conversation. Life is lived together.
Come and experience God’s gift. Come and live life with us.