You may have heard of small groups before. At True Life, where I serve, we call them Life Groups. It’s not a new concept; Jesus himself had a small group (aka. The 12 Disciples). But in a world where authentic relationships and in-person conversations are becoming scarce, the need to embrace small groups continues to rise. Committing to small group may not seem that important, but I argue that it’s probably one of the most important decisions a Christian could make.
Christianity started and grew as small groups. In many areas, early believers were forced into small groups due to persecution, but it didn’t stunt growth. In fact, the Church grew rapidly!
While it may have grown numerically in the 4thcentury, the Church actually hurt missionally after Constantine connected the Church and State (aka. Christendom). While it was no doubt relief from persecution, once big buildings and large gatherings of believers become normal, it didn’t take long for believers to become political and selfishly comfortable with the gospel.
By the 1500s, a church theologian (Martin Luther) started to question what Christianity had become. Later, once this Reformation took root, the Moravian and Methodist Churches responded to a lack of passionate piety.
John Wesley, in particular, noticed a ‘sleepy’ Church that needed to re-engage in the power of the gospel. This awakening was grounded in the concept of small groups of believers meeting together on purpose. A place where real growth and connections could begin.
The resulting increase in spiritual growth through both personal and relational study, prayer, and community, led to one of the greatest revivals in Christian history (aka. The Great Awakening). Small groups woke up the sleeping Church of yesterday, and this ministry can do a similar thing today.
Let me give you 5 reasons why participating in a small group is vital for us today!
1) Small groups create FRIENDSHIP within the body of believers.
Believers are brother and sisters in Christ. When Jesus was asked about his family, he said, “Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister” (Matthew 12:46-50).
We are adopted, through Jesus, as children of God (John 1:12; Galatians 4:5-7). Therefore, fellow believers are like siblings in Christ. If we’re that close, shouldn’t we find ways to become better friends? After all, we’re going to inherent eternal life together.
Small groups have the ability to create friendships that last. And help us connect with people who we wouldn’t normally connect with. It doesn’t matter our age, gender, or life circumstances, we all hold one thing in common – we are one with Christ.
2) Small groups allow us to have FELLOWSHIP within the body of believers.
I grew up hearing the word ‘fellowship,’ but I don’t think I really understood what fellowship was all about. We had ‘times of fellowship,’ which meant food and joking around in the basement of the church building. Essentially, it was everything you couldn’t do in the sanctuary. Maybe you can relate.
The fellowshipwe see in Scripture, however, is fairly different. It includes fun, but that’s not the end. Fellowship meant something closer and sincerer.
The early church devoted themselves to fellowship with one another (Acts 2:42). They used the Greek word koinonia, which means ‘association, communion, or close relationship.’ It wasn’t just for an hour – it was authentic and present during their whole gathering experience.
Small groups offer the ability to harness that authentic fellowship – where you can actually commune with other believers.
3) Small groups provide an opportunity for DISCIPLESHIP.
Jesus’ main goal for us is to become disciples. He was pretty clear:
Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”Matthew 28:19-20
The main command isn’t ‘go,’ but rather, ‘make disciples.’ Yes, we need to ‘go’ in order to do that, but the focus is on multiplying ourselves so others can experience grace.
A small group has the ability to provide that disciple-building environment. We can’t simply go to a church service once a week, and become a disciple. We need to strategically use the other 167 hours we have each week as well. We sleep for 56 hours, we work for another 56, and have another 56 to use wisely.
If we only engage in a one-hour service each week, we only use 1.8% of our time. If, however, we also engage in daily devotional time, and in a small group, we move closer to 11%.
I’m not saying discipleship has to be a certain amount of time each week, but most of the time we don’t even think about our schedules. Our lives are often lopsided; trying to convince ourselves that our busyness is worth it.
But if commit ourselves to a small group, we will actually become better equipped to multiply ourselves in whatever context we find ourselves in.
4) Small groups provide a COMMUNITY of growth.
“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17). We need each other in order to learn and grow, and community actually has the ability to make us stronger.
The Hebrews writer penned it this way:
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.Hebrews 10:24-25
We are often quick to conclude that we can engage in discipleship and spiritual growth on our own. While personal devotions and prayer are important, we also must engage in spiritual community, if we want to spiritually mature.
Small groups provide that healthy community.
5) Small groups create a healthy atmosphere of ACCOUNTABILTIY.
I know, accountability isn’t exactly everyone’s favourite thing, but it’s vital if we want to grow.
Scripture teaches us we need accountability in two ways:
- We need to be accountable to God; and,
- We need to be respectfully accountable to each other.
While Scripture teaches us not to judge one another, because that’s ultimately God’s role (Romans 14:10-13), that doesn’t mean we avoid accountability.
To be clear, we mean ‘humble, grace-filled, and respectful’ accountability. It means that we have to follow Scripture’s lead, and identify and deal with our own sin before thinking about helping someone else with theirs (Matthew 7:1-5). In fact, if we can’t identify our own brokenness and realize we’re no better than others, we probably don’t understand God’s grace. And we certainly can’t pass on God’s grace to others.
When we experience healthy accountability, however, we grow together in love and respect. This beautiful atmosphere can be found in a small group.
So, small groups help us with friendships, fellowship, discipleship, community and accountably.
And through all of that, we become disciples who are ready to make an impact! Evangelism and missional growth actually result from committing ourselves to things like a small group. The ministry prepares us to become the people God has called us to be.
A spiritually growing Church, is an impactful Church.
Are you a part of a small group?
If yes, share, in the comments below, why you love to be a part of one!
If no, find one near you! (If you need help, I’d love to help you!)
Share with me in the comment section below (or on social media). You never know how you may encourage someone else!