“I grew up in the church, and I always kind of knew Bible stories and knew the Sunday school answers, but when I was a freshman in high school I joined youth group, and that’s when I started to see radical love; that’s when I started to see what Christian community is supposed to look like and what fellowship is supposed to look like.” – Jeremy Lin.
Small groups are integral parts of the church. Rick Warren said, “Small groups are not a ministry of the church, small groups are not a program of the church, small groups are not an outreach of the church, small groups are not an event of the church, small groups are the church.” Many Christians believe that while small groups are a good thing, they wonder in the grand scheme of things whether going to church on Sundays is enough: “Does it matter that I go to small groups as well?” We believe the answer is yes.
Small groups go by many different names, but they all function in the same way: they allow churchgoers and church members to have closer, more intimate relationships with others in the church. They are a place to build deep and valuable friendships with others; be a source of accountability and support on a personal level. God has designed all of us to be in relationship with one another. We will not be able to thrive and do His will without helping one another. It has become pretty common for people to move from church to church trying to find the ideal or right fit for them. They sit in service after service feeling empty on the inside, longing for something more than just a good sermon. When they don’t find the ideal they move to the next church. What they are missing is a way to get engaged with the church body. The solution for this struggle is small groups.
Taking the community group, or Bible study or discipleship, or small group out of the church and introducing it into the home brings an intimacy not found in the church. People are more likely to share what is going on in their lives such as troubles at work or struggles with the family. Sharing a meal leads to very natural conversation and reinforces the idea that this group is a family found in Christ. Gathering and studying God’s Word gives a purposeful reason to come together and a time of prayer gives a chance to have the group pray over needs, as well as an opportunity to rally around each other and help in whatever way possible.
Small groups have the power to radically change lives. Martha grew up in church, but circumstances led her to stray away from the faith. But then she felt something was missing so she was trying to decide whether to give church another try. But while she was making up her mind, a friend invited her to her small group. There she experienced true family rather than just a group of acquaintances, because they truly cared for her, took time to lift her needs up in prayer, and welcomed her into their family. After several weeks Martha attended church and inquired about serving.
This is the power of small groups. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “Christianity means community through Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ. No Christian community is more or less than this. Whether it is a brief, single encounter or the daily fellowship of years, Christian community is only this. We belong to one another only through and in Jesus Christ.”
- How can small groups help us love one another in transparency, accountability, and mutual edification? Why is it important for believers to strive for this kind of community with one another?
- Christian community is both a restorative work of God in the gospel and a response of believers to that work. What does that mean?