“I don’t need a small group. I got my family and my Jesus.”
I’ve been in one of those conversations. I mean, I guess that makes sense? If we have Jesus, then why do we want to have another commitment and fill our schedule?
However, as we look at the life of Christ himself, he spends a majority of his life in a community. In fact, Eugene Peterson said in his book A Long Obedience in the Same Direction said,
“1/10th of Jesus’s time was spent with the countless crowd. Therefore, Jesus restricted 9/10th of His time to twelve Jews of community cell group.”
Therefore, small groups are extremely important to Christ for he himself modeled and lived before us. A strong community is a powerful tool for God’s transforming work in the believer’s life (Rom. 12:2).
Here are five reasons why a small group is essential for church health.
C.S. Lewis shares an experience that helps us to understand this beauty of the community.
Jack (C. S. Lewis), Ronald, and Charles were intimately acquainted and spend time in this group. Charles suddenly dies. Jack then realizes how to sadden by this truth, yet because of him not part of the group he will have more time with Charles.
However, when the time came, Lewis realized that because of the presence of Charles, there were certain parts that only brought out of who Ronald was and vice versa.
Ironically, paradoxically, and surprisingly the loss of Charles was a loss of Ronald. No individual can bring forth the person of one person.
This idea counters the idea of the modern western-individualistic consumer mentality. One-on-one with God doesn’t work unless you are worshiping corporately in a worshiping community in accountability.
We need to be honest with one another. That doesn’t happen just in the big crowd.
At the end of the day, it is a relationship building. This is not a battle of Sunday school vs. Small group program. The only encouragement I will bring is not to meet in rows, but rather meet in a circle.
As Andy Stanley said it once, “For your system is perfectly designed to get the results you’re getting.”
Whether you choose one or the other, people need to be authentic and know each other by spending time with each other.
Is your ministry more a “Simple Church”that makes it an easy reproducible process that helps people walk through?
If you are a church with many programs, the small group will often fall to the bottom of the chart as living together in a mutual commitment to one another is harder.
Just like we have a “home” bottom that makes it user-friendly on a smartphone, we must simply for a discipleship pathway for people in their assimilation process.
However, this doesn’t mean you blow up the entire structure and start bottom up. Meet with your team and find a clear pathway that will get the people to make disciple easily.
You need community more than perhaps you think you do. For in order to really abide in Jesus, we need one another as Christ is the Head and we are the body (Eph. 4:15).
“Let me church shop here and there, but in reality, I have my Jesus and I abide in him!” this idea of separating from Christ’ bride is a non-reality of abiding in Jesus (John 15:1-17).
This abiding often is done in a small group where they fellowship and are praying with one another that is part of the local body of Christ.
The overflow of grace in your life is the overflowing joy found in the body of believers.
This can be seen such as Paul’s encouragement to believers, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Eph. 4:29).
Many people in your group for whatever reason may not open up and share about their week. The mark of true conversion is that overflow of the abundance of love vertically and horizontally for one another (Matt. 22:37-40).
“And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone” (1 Thess. 5:14).
Here are interesting factors for the success of the small group.
|Factor||Percentage in Groups||Phrases|
|No Senior Pastor Support||30%||“I won’t talk from the stage and I won’t be in a group.”|
|Some Senior Pastor Support||40%||“I will support but someone else will support.”|
|Full Senior Pastor Support||70 – 80%||“I am all in!”|
|Senior Pastor Support with Campaign||90+%||“All the way from message upward to children’s ministry downward.”|
The success of missional living through small group life is often leveraged by the influence of your senior leader. Therefore, before you launch this idea on your own personal endeavor, speak to your senior leader and determine how much buy-in you have for your local church.
We know by now, Jesus lived in a small group context and this group was a dysfunctional messed up group. I hope that is encouraging because living in authentic community is not easy and messy. Jesus chose this as a vehicle to build leaders and impact the world.
In due time, the Lord will reap the harvest for those who have responded in obedience by sowing seeds diligently (Prov. 3:5-6).
Because we care about our neighbor, we live in transformational living in Christ.
Eugene H. Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society, 20th Anniversary ed. edition (Downers Grove, Ill: IVP Books, 2000).
C. S. Lewis,Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life, Reissue edition (San Francisco: HarperOne, 2017).
Thom S. Rainer and Eric Geiger, Simple Church: Returning to God’s Process for Making Disciples, Updated, Reprint edition (Nashville, Tenn.: B&H Books, 2011).
Eric Geiger, Michael Kelley, and Philip Nation, Transformational Discipleship: How People Really Grow(B&H Books, 2012).