Friday, April 4, 2014

Small Groups Are Not Good Things

Let me explain what I mean. I am afraid the term “small group” has become a trendy church term that has lost meaning to some degree. We hear terms like these used so much that they lose their significance, and begin to fade into the background noise of our modern church culture. 

If I asked you to define the term “small group” what would you say? Most of us would say, “They are small groups of Christians that meet to study the Bible.” Most of us would also agree that a church small group is a good thing. A lot of us would even go as far as to say that it’s something we should do if we are serious about growing in our walk with Christ.  We know we should spend time with other Christ followers by studying, praying, and having fellowship with one another. This just makes sense to us. The problem is, we know it is a good thing, but it is so hard to fit another good thing into our already busy schedules.

So, is it enough to simply see small groups as just another good thing we should do? Or, should we view being a member of a small group as a vital part of what it means to be the church? Here are three simple reasons that I believe being a part of a small group is not a good thing we should do, but a vital thing we need to do. 

When we were saved, we were born into a Gospel-centered community. We are the children of God; therefore, we are all brothers and sisters in Christ. Being born into His family means we do life together as family. Imagine if your family members thought of their relationship with you as just another good thing. They would feel inclined to try and fit you into their busy schedule. If you’re a parent of a teenager, you might know what that feels like!  So, why do we take this view with our church family? Don’t we realize that our earthly relationships are temporary, but that we will be brothers and sisters in Christ for eternity? How much more should we pursue community with one another now, as the family of God? I believe small groups are a vital key to pursue community with one another as the family of God. 

Life change happens in the context of a Gospel-centered community. God called us into His family, and it is in the context of this family that He intends to grow us to maturity. It is pretty obvious a healthy family unit at home has advantages to raising kids into healthy mature adults. In fact, one of the primary functions of the family is to provide love, acceptance, security, instruction, and discipline that it takes to raise children. The same is true in the family of God. The best place to grow into a mature Christ follower is in a healthy church family. We need to belong to a body where members love one another, consistently encourage, and equip one another to truly live faithfully to Christ. Scripture describes it as “iron sharpens iron”. Or, in other words, as we do life together and obediently pursue love towards one another, no matter how difficult that may be at times, God uses that process to sharpen and shape us into the image of His Son. I believe small groups are vital to how He grows us up.

We can’t carry out our mission apart from community. Jesus did not commission a few individuals to go and make disciples.  He commissioned the whole church. It takes a community to effectively reach a culture. In John 13:35 and John 17:23, Jesus said “The world would know (the word know here is actually continually know) that He sent us when they see our love for one another and observe our unity.” The way we pursue community with one another is one of the greatest testimonies of the veracity of the Gospel to the watching world. It’s when they see us loving one another more deeply than natural, when they see us unified and growing together more and more into the image of Christ, that they will take note that something supernatural is going on. I believe small groups are vital to how we reach our culture with the Gospel. 

These are just a few reasons that barely scratch the surface of why doing life together in real, deep, genuine community with one another is so much more than just a good thing for us to try to squeeze into our busy day. I encourage you to stop and reconsider the vital part that small groups play in the life of the church, and how you can begin to pursue deeper community with a few brothers and sisters in Christ today.

One parting note, don’t be afraid to think out of the box when it comes to small groups. It doesn’t have to look like a circle of cookie cutter Christians sitting in someone’s living room with Bibles on their laps (although that is perfectly alright). The real point is, you and a handful of other Christ followers are intentionally going deeper into real relationships with one another, and pressing each other on towards faithfulness in Christ that can take many different forms, but the principle is the same. Go deeper with fewer to help each other faithfully follow Christ. 

Thankfully in Grace,

Shannon Compton
Life Group Pastor