Everyday Church – Riverside 24/7

What role can small groups constitute at Riverside?  Let us first remind ourselves of our own identity, before delving into ways in which we can disciple and encourage one another in the context of small group communities.

The core community of each believer is their restored fellowship with The Creator God.  We, who were once enemies of God, have been reconciled into community with Him – through the death of His Son (Romans 5:10).  This is the source of great rejoicing (vs. 11), in our identity as His adopted ones (Ephesians 1:5) – to the praise of the glory of His grace (vs. 6).  It is this identity, in Christ, which compels a life lived out in praise and thanksgiving; a response which will deeply mark all other relationships and interactions, including our small groups.

Riverside is a brotherhood of believers who can readily identify the many blessings lavished upon it by a loving, and merciful Heavenly Father. - We can find much joy and thanksgiving in the loving unity which marks our interactions.  - A steady diet of solid biblical teaching has brought us far in our walk of faith. - Pastoral and Diaconal care have faithfully ministered to diverse needs. - Joy filled brotherly love flows generously across genders and generations.

Let us always rejoice together in these, and many other blessings.  They are given, not for any merit of ours, but as an outpouring of mercy and love from the hand of our faithful God – to the glory of His name and the honor of His Son.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 14:34-35

There is nothing new about the commandment of our Lord to love, since Lev. 19:18 teaches to “love your neighbor as yourself.”  The new element is the change from “neighbor” to “one another” and from “as yourself” to “as I have loved you.”  Christian love has Christ's sacrificial love as its model, and the community of believers as the primary (though not exclusive) place in which it is expressed (Matthew 25:40; Galatians 6:10).

As wonderful as our experience has been with the corporate and individual blessings received in this local edition of Christ's Church, that experience is not without limitation. Unlike the early New Testament church, and the parish churches of many following centuries, we do not typically interact with one another on a daily basis.  If you draw a circle on a map encircling all Riverside members, you will find that the diameter is greater than 100 km. This certainly creates added difficulty when seeking to love one another in real, practical ways outside of our Sabbath gatherings.

In 'Everyday Church' the authors remind us of our status as strangers and exiles.  While we are not suffering the persecutions of the original readers of Peter's first letter, we surely find ourselves in a place that is strange to our faith when we leave our gathering.  The scriptures speak often of our need for fellowship, and it is a blessing from the same God who promises to meet our needs.  He has instructed us to care for one another in a depth of ways that we can't accomplish on one day out of each week.

As the authors of 'Everyday Church' take us through 1 Peter, they highlight many of the areas where we can love and serve one another.  How does Peter tell us that we are to love? “Earnestly from a pure heart” 1 Peter 1:22. This 'earnest' love requires earnest commitment and genuine intimacy.  How do we get there?
•    Study God's Word together – building each other up in Truth
•    Pray for each other – separately and together
•    Sharing meals – enjoying one another
•    Pastoral Care – minister the Gospel to one another
•    Diaconal Care – lifting burdens and sharing loads
•    Have Fun – share enjoyable activities
As we consider sharing our lives together in deeper intimacy, let us consider these words of Paul to the Thessalonians: “So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God, but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.” 1 Thessalonians 2:8.

May we share our lives together in Gospel Love, giving of ourselves as Christ gave for us.