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Why we do C3, our small groups

By Gerry Straker, 18 Sep 2020

Why we do C3, our small groups

At Church by the Bay, like many churches, we have small groups: our C3 teams. We call them C3 teams so that we have to explain our Church vision!

  • Cherish Christ by hearing the gospel
  • Love Christ’s Church by living the gospel
  • Change Christ’s world by preaching the gospel

Why do we have C3 teams? What’s their purpose? Our God is a God who makes plans (Isaiah 46:10-11), he is purposeful and deliberate. And when we make our plans - sitting lightly to them - we want to be purposeful and deliberate too. 

We don’t just want to do small groups because every other church does it, or because it feels right. We want to be intentional and thoughtful about what we do as Church. Knowing why will help us commit, commit joyfully and support this work.

So that: 

  • If we’re fed up with being on a screen, or fed up with technology.
  • If we’re really busy at work, or feeling under pressure from a painful life situation.
  • If we’re really tired or having a bad day.
  • If we’ve got something else good on.
  • Or, when we can meet physically again, if it’s cold and wet outside.

We’ll still come, come joyfully and come to serve. After all, we’ll only commit to things when they are hard, if we know why we’re doing it, and if we’re convinced they are worth it!

So here is our goal for our C3 teams, and, surprising as it sounds, it is the same as God’s goal in creation, in salvation, for our Church and for our lives! Our goal is to know God! 

  1. KNOW GOD

 Jesus the Son of God prays this on the night before he dies: “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.  O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them."  (John 17:24-26 ESV).

As a boy my favourite footballer was Kerry Dixon - I knew the blurb on the back of his sticker in Panini’s Football 87: ‘Forward. Born Luton…he joined Chelsea from Reading in the summer of 1983 after being rejected by Spurs and drifting into non-League soccer with Dunstable…’ My dad’s work colleague would bring Chelsea programmes back from matches and pass them to me, and I used to cut them up and make my own project about Chelsea – and Kerry Dixon was a big feature. So I knew a bit about Kerry Dixon, but I didn’t know him personally in any way.

But when Jesus the Son says ‘I know you’ to His Father, it is completely different, he knows his Father very personally indeed. The Son enjoys the Father in eternity.[1] In fact, God is first and foremost Father. God isn’t some distant God who sets off a chain of events. He isn’t even first Creator!  He is first and foremost Father,  the Father to the Son. This means God is fundamentally an outgoing, life-giving God:  he is Love.

So when Jesus says he knows his Father, this means the Son enjoys the Father’s love in eternity - and that is what Jesus offers to share with us!

On the TV programme Who do you think you are? famous people get to find out about their family history. They do often feel some connection, but they are finding facts not relationships. But on the TV programme Long Lost Family, living families who were separated in the past are brought back together physically for relationship. They want to make up for lost time.

Jesus isn’t bringing us facts or teachings about God, but bringing us to know, experience, and enjoy his love in relationship: ‘I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.’ (John 17:26 ESV).  

Jesus here is praying that we would share what he has! Not a little bit of love, not what’s left over. The extraordinary truth is we get to share in the love the Father has for the Son. 

The next day, Jesus died on the cross, is to bring us back to our Father and to enjoy all the love that the Son enjoys! ‘And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.’ (John 17:3 ESV. ) It’s not that we get saved from our sins on the one hand and then the bonus is we get to know God too. No, salvation is knowing God, Our Father. Sin tears us away from God and brings death. But, salvation from our sins brings us life and knowing God! 

That's why we were made and saved: to delight in God:

  • You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:11 ESV).
  • Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4 ESV).
  • O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. (Psalm 63:1 ESV).
  • And check out: Psalm 34:8; Psalm 43:4; Psalm 36:8; 63:3; and Job 22:25.

Jonathan Edwards wrote this: ‘The enjoyment of God is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied. To go to heaven, fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here. Fathers and mothers, husbands, wives or children, or the company of earthly friends, are but shadows, but God is the substance. These are but scattered beams, but God is the sun. These are but streams. But God is the ocean.’

While John Piper wrote in his famous book Desiring God:  ‘I find in the Bible a divine command to be a pleasure seeker – that is, to forsake the two-bit, low-yield, short-term, never-satisfying person-destroying, God-belittling pleasures of the world,  [and] to sell everything ‘with joy’ (Matthew 13:44) in order to have the kingdom of heaven and thus ‘enter the joy of your master’ (Matthew 25:21, 23).’[2]

It is only in God that we find satisfaction and happiness. And that’s our goal for C3. How can we know God in this way? We know God through His Word… 

  1. KNOW GOD THROUGH HIS WORD

God speaks to us through the Scriptures, and the preaching and teaching of the Word. That’s when we hear God’s voice.

The Holy Spirit wrote the Word of God (2 Peter 1:21). The writer of Hebrews quoting Psalm 95 written by David[3], writes: ‘Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, "Today, if you hear his voice…”’ (Hebrews 3:7 ESV). The quote from Psalm 95 from 1000 years before, is the Holy Spirit speaking - present tense.

As Tim Chester puts it: ‘The Spirit that worked in the hearts of the writers of the Bible to ensure what they wrote was God’s word is the same Spirit that works in the hearts of readers of the Bible to ensure what we hear is God’s word. [4]

This is the true, [5] perfect,[6] flawless,[7] trustworthy, [8] praiseworthy[9] living Word of God! And it is hearing the Word which means: 

  • Life (John 6:63; Psalm 107:20);
  • Faith (Romans 10:17);
  • Rest, wisdom, joy, light, riches, delight, warning, and protection (Psalm 19:7-13);
  • Change. It’s...
    • A light (Psalm 119:105)
    • A hammer (Jeremiah 23:29)
    • A fire (Jeremiah 23:29)
    • And a sword (Ephesians 6:17; Hebrews 4:12).

 It’s where we meet Christ and are changed by Him.

John Calvin wrote: ‘If our Lord is so good to us as to have his doctrine still preached to us, we have by that a sure and infallible sign that he is near at hand to us, that he seeks our salvation, that he calls us to himself as though he spoke with open mouth, and that we see him personally before us…Jesus Christ…hold out his arms to receive us, as often as the gospel is preached to us.’[10]

As we hear the Word, so we have fellowship with the apostles, the Church and with Jesus (1 John 1:3-4). When we come to his word, we come to Jesus (Mathew 11:28) to have life (John 5:39-40).

And so at C3, we’re not doing Bible study so we can learn information about God; we’re doing Bible study so we know God and enjoy him. So we can ‘glorify God and enjoy him forever’. And, we do this together… 

  1. KNOW GOD THROUGH HIS WORD TOGETHER

 Knowing God means delighting in God’s people! David writes: ‘I say to the LORD, "You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you." As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight.’ (Psalm 16:2-3).

As loved by God, so we love His people (1 John 4:11). As soon as we talk about loving each other we instantly think about praying for and caring for one another – and that’s right. But actually loving one another will mean: teaching one another. Loving Jesus means teaching too - Jesus says to Simon Peter at that resurrection breakfast: ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?…Feed my sheep.’ (John 21:17 ESV).

Feeding means teaching. As we delight in God, we want others to delight in God! God gives us each other to help us do that; ‘Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom… (Colossians 3:16 ESV).   

Christian, you have a teaching role in your Church.

  1. KNOW GOD THROUGH HIS WORD TOGETHER TO GROW HIS CHURCH

And this is how we grow! ‘Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.’ (Ephesians 4:15-16 ESV)

At C3 we can all speak the truth in love – so that we grow into unity and maturity. We need each other, to teach each other! To help each other know God. That’s the most loving thing you can do for one another is to help fellow believers know God by teaching and praying for one another. C3 teams are a brilliant – though not the only – way to do this.

There are, I think, fifty one ‘one another’ commands in the New Testament. To obey those commands we need to commit to our local Church, and Sundays isn’t enough. Our C3 teams are a great way to serve one another (Galatians 5:13); bear with one another in love (Ephesians 5:2), encourage one another (1 Thessalonians 4:18) as well as teach one another, so we might know God and delight in him more and more. 

And this is how we will grow in obedience. Delighting in God, means delighting in obeying him, because relationship and obedience go hand in hand. ‘With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments!’  (Psalm 119:10 see also Psalm 119:131 and 1 John 5:3).  

You are to teach and be taught by your brothers and sisters in church. To help each other delight in God and obey him. And C3 is an ideal place for that! This will grow our Church!

As we delight in God and obey him together, we will also find that we love what God loves and grow closer to his heart for the lost. Lost sheep, coins and sons being found are a cause of great rejoicing (Luke 15:6-7; 9-10; 22-24) and there is rejoicing in heaven when one sinner repents! God loves sinners (Romans 5:8, 10).

Delighting in God means wanting His honour and glory.  For God’s sake we will want people to come to Christ. and delighting in God means loving what He loves, and He loves the lost. For people’s sake we will want people to come to Christ.  

As we come to know God through His Word together, we will want to be part of growing the Church!  It’s really important that we don’t become inward looking self-focused groups - instead we want to be gospel teams.  

  • supporting one another in gospelling our town;
  • praying for each other at work, on our streets, in the hobbies we have.  We will want to keep evangelism, mission, telling others about Jesus as one of our top priorities for prayer.
  • thinking about ‘tag-team evangelism’: how can we meet each other’s friends?
  • Thinking about how can we meet some new unbelivers together?
  • Asking what we could do together:
    • running a stall at a Festival?
    • helping at a community project?

 Meeting round God’s Word will, we pray, grow the Church.

Conclusion

We’ve seen that the goal of our C3 teams (also the goal of creation, salvation and life!)  is to:

  • Know God
  • through His Word
  • together
  • to grow His Church.

This means we want everyone to be on a team. You might not know that excitingly, this year, for the first time, we have six C3 teams!

We’ve made the groups a little smaller, so we can:

  • commit to one another;
  • get to know one another;
  • and have space to grow.

We’ll only commit to do things when they are hard, if we know why we’re doing it. If we’re convinced they are worth it! So that when we’re under pressure or not in the mood, we’ll still come, come joyfully, and come to serve.

Prayer

Why not enjoy this prayer  from the Valley of Vision? Or pray this with Richard Baxter:

‘May the living God, who is the portion and rest of the saints make these our carnal minds so spiritual and our earthly hearts so heavenly, that loving him, and delighting in him, may be the work of our lives.’

[1] Notice in verse 24 the Father loved the Son before the creation of the world. God has always been Father, Son and Spirit. It’s not that God became a Father. No. The Son, remember is fully God. That means he is eternal. It means that God the Father is the source for God the Son. To use the technical language, the Father begets the Son. The Father and the Son beget the Holy Spirit. But each member is eternal. There wasn’t a time he didn’t have a Son! The Father-Son relationship is not a relationship of time, but of order in the Trinity.
[2] John Piper, Desiring God, 25.
[3] See Hebrews 4:7
[4] Tim Chester, Enjoying God, 135.
[5] Psalm 105:19; 33:4.
[6] Psalm 19:7
[7] Psalm 12:6; 18:30.
[8] Psalm 130:5.
[9] Psalm 138:2.
[10] Quoted by Tim Chester in Enjoying God, 137.