Team D-- the NCC Discipleship Team-- is writing a series of blogs about things that no one ever told us about small group leadership. Today, I share one of my favorite lines from John Ortberg: Everyone is normal until you get to know them.
Everyone is normal until you get to know them. It's the title of a great book by John Ortberg (seriously- one of the best books on Christian community) and a line that makes me chuckle every time I hear it.
It reminds me of some small groups I used to lead. In the distant past, of course. Several years ago I led a small group that I was convinced was the most perfect group God ever put together. I couldn’t believe it—it was full of young, smart, likable, energetic, and attractive twenty-somethings who seemed eager and hungry to grow in their relationship with God. We had great discussions about the Bible and experienced great community life throughout the week. It seemed to be my year of Jubilee, granted to me by the pleasure of God in return for all the crazy groups I led in college. I was convinced that God could change the world through us.
Until I got a phone call from my co-leader. He prefaced the conversation with this: “Are you sitting down?” He proceeded to tell me that two single individuals in the group—one of whom we were raising up as a potential leader—were sleeping together. In fact, they had been living together without our knowing. That was just the beginning. As we began to walk through that, we discovered sin messes in the lives of other group members, as well. And I even had to come face to face with a few of my own.
Discipleship is hard. People are weird. Community is messy. It's not just sin messes. It's life messes and relationship messes and just day to day messes that happen when assume that people are normal. Most people seem normal...until you get to know them.
Community happens the moment everyone takes off their masks. Sometimes a mess needs to be cleaned up or a wound needs to be tended or a heart needs to be mended. But no matter which way you slice it, normality is really not normal. The sooner your group gets to the point of that realization and becomes comfortable with it, the sooner you will find real community.