"Life in Community", by Dustin Willis (book review)

I’m not exactly sure where I want to begin praising this book.  Do I begin by pointing out all the areas where I’m challenged to change my way of thinking about how we “do community” in the church today?  Or do I begin by saying, “Wow, I sure could have used this several years ago!”?

Dustin Willis, who serves with the North American Mission Board, challenges readers to put away the old notions that a “small group” or a “community group” is something we do, rather than becoming a way of life for its members.  While it may be “easy” to clock in once a week and say hello to the small group members, add a few tidbits of insight in that week’s Bible study, and return home, this is not what God intended for “community”. 

Instead, we are to be a group who serves each other, cares for each other, loves each other, forgives each other, confesses sin to each other, and laughs and cries with each other.  Every person alive wants desperately to belong to something. But Christians have the greatest gift that unites us into a bond stronger than any family tie: the gospel of Jesus Christ.  As sinners forgiven by God in Jesus Christ, we not only become God’s sons and daughters, but we become brothers and sisters with other redeemed sinners.

REFLECTIONS: And it is in that light that we ought to pursue helping others grow.  We do this by reaching beyond ourselves, and walking and fighting with others.  How can we do this?

One way is by committing to being community, rather than simply doing community.  Commitment is difficult; growth requires hard work; community life gets messy.  Instead, we would do well to resolve in our hearts and minds that we are committed to the difficult, messy work of carrying others’ burdens not only with them, but sometimes even for them.

A second way we can pursue helping others grow is by helping them discern where they’re gifted, and then encouraging them to put their gift(s) to use for the body of Christ.  Sometimes we like to fill out online surveys to determine where we are gifted, but why don’t we lean other the insights of others to help us pinpoint those gifts more accurately?

A third way is in hospitality.  (This one hurt me.)  Dustin briefly breaks down the differences between simply being a host/entertainer and being hospitable.  An entertainer wants to be the center of attention; one who is hospitable wants to offer others a place of comfort and peace.  Piggy-backing this idea is opening our homes and resources to others.  Our houses ought not simply be places of refuge for our families to “get away” from the world around us, but to draw people into an atmosphere where they can witness what a family changed by the gospel looks like.  As I said, this one touched me deeply because it’s often easy to clean the house, make a nice meal, and feel like we have to be “doing” something.  Rather than simply being together under the banner of the Cross.

CONTENTS: This book is a rather quick read, but it packs a big punch.  It’s 170 pages long, broken into 3 parts (12 chapters), contains a small group study guide, as well as practical helps for leading a group better.

RATING: I give Life in Community 4 out of 5 stars.  I truly enjoyed it, and was inspired by it to think and life differently.

DISCLAIMER: I received this book free of charge from Moody Press in exchange for my unbiased review of it.  All opinions are mine, and I was not required to provide a positive review of this title.

Dustin Willis

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