The Importance Of Meeting Together With Christians Outside of Church…
While different local churches call them different names–small group, community group, cell group, life group, etc.–it is important for Christians to meet together regularly with other Christians outside of Sunday morning. Here are some thoughts on this…
(please click on the Bible books/chapters/verses below to read the actual Scriptural text)
What is a small group?
It’s consistently getting together with 4, 6, 8 other Christians to dig through the Bible together, discussing how to apply it in our daily lives, praying together, doing life together, listening to each other, encouraging each other, sharing our fears, victories, defeats, etc.
Why Be In One?
- Poor Time Management: If we’re honest, we don’t invest much time in becoming who God made us to be and doing what He made us to do. 75 minutes per week at church is simply not enough. Can we be competent at ANYTHING in 75 minutes per week? Sports, hobbies, career, parenting? Could we do well at school investing 75 minutes per week? Would we allow our kids to invest that amount in their education? Why then are we satisfied in investing that little in our spiritual development? Sunday morning simply isn’t enough to be spiritually nourished, no more than we can be physically nourished on one meal per week. Many of us are spiritually emaciated–we don’t take in the spiritual calories Jesus provides us (He’s the Bread of Life–no spiritual Atkins diet ya’ll!) so it is no wonder that we don’t have the spiritual energy to do what He has made us to do.
- Most Of Us Do Better On A Team: People who exercise with a class or at least one other person tend to stay committed longer to working out as opposed to those who simply work out alone. This is spiritually true as well. Some of us read the Bible on our own, pray on our own, worship God on our own, journal on our own, but most of us do not–we need the encouragement and the accountability of others to do these important things. This is one of the reasons that Jesus sent out His 72 initial followers in groups of 2…
American Christians today are some of the loneliest people on the planet, and some of the loneliest people in the history of Christianity. This is heartbreaking to God, and it doesn’t have to be this way. But true Christian community will not happen on accident–like anything worth having, it takes work, sacrifice, focus, and perseverance.
I have found this to be true in the three main Small Groups that I have been in over the last 14 years of following Jesus. If I hadn’t been in each of them I might not literally be alive on earth, and I certainly would not be pastoring or as close to Jesus as I currently am (though of course I have a long long way to go!). I might not remember what I had for dinner 4 nights ago or what shirt I wore a week ago but I can remember specific lessons that God taught me in each of those three groups over the last 14 years which God has used to keep me afloat in the storms I have been in and am currently in. What amazing and lucrative dividends today from such a simple investment of time yesterday…
- Being A Christian Involves Training:It is absolutely true that becoming a Christian–and also STAYING a Christian!–is all because of the grace of Jesus Christ, it is a GIFT (not earned) so that no one can boast/brag/demand/deserve/demand before God. It is also true that we do NOT have to get cleaned up or get better in order to be adopted into Jesus’ family/forgiven by Him–HE LOVES US and will take us JUST AS WE CURRENTLY ARE! (“as is” condition). But it is also true that He loves us TOO MUCH for us to stay the way we currently are. We have an important role to play day in and day out as we become who God made us to be and do what God made us to do–maturity/growth doesn’t just happen over time. Thus the Bible talks about the Christian life in terms of “training” (please click HERE or below)–there is work and intentionality involved!
Many of us want to drive the car but we don’t want driver’s ed; we want to eat the meal but we don’t want to do the dishes; we want to enjoy the fun of marriage but don’t want to invest in the hardwork of marriage; we want the forgiveness of Jesus but not the responsibility that comes with being a Christian. If we truly want to DO what God wants us to do, we need to immerse ourselves in His Word so that we can BE who He made us to be (identity fuels activity).
Are Small Groups Biblical?
- Acts 2:42-47: Let’s look at the actions of the earliest followers of Jesus–newer is always better/more relevant…
- They were DEVOTED (think of the things you are devoted to, the activities that you work around to make sure you are there for; why wouldn’t we do this to grow closer to Jesus consistently with other people?)
- To the BIBLE (apostles’ teaching, not popular authors)
- And To FELLOWSHIP (growing closer to each other through eating meals and praying–knowing each other deeply as real friends and not just as casual acquaintances).
- They were TOGETHER DAILY (not every once in a while, not when they had time or when it was convenient).
- They met IN THEIR HOMES and PRAISED GOD TOGETHER.
- This caused them to have a great/respected reputation with Non-Christians.
- This caused God to turn more and more non-Christians into Christians. WOW!
- This is what Jesus did with the 12! He essentially led a Community Group for 3 years with them, taught them, served them, served others with them, prayed for them, sang worship songs with them, ate meals with them, got frustrated with them, delegated to them, gave them the Holy Spirit, sent them out with a dangerous but amazing mission, promised to be with them every step of the way, and 2k years later there are not 12 Christians but more than 1,200 MILLION Christians. WOW!
So What Needs To Be Done?
- Ask the Holy Spirit to help you prioritize your time each week. Do you have MORE time to be in a small group? No! But if we give God permission to cut out a few of the good (or bad!) ways we spend our limited time each week, it will help us have time for the best that God invites us to.
- Consider letting your local church leader(s) know if you are already in a Small Group–when it meets, what you are studying, and if you are willing to have more people added. This will help the leadership know where to plug in people who are looking for a group!
- Please let your local church leader(s) know if you want to be in a Small Group–it may help to ignite some prayer/time/energy from them if they know that their brothers and sisters in Christ are desiring them!
- Please let your local church leader(s) know if you are willing to host (not lead, host!) a Small Group (there will be training if you want it–don’t worry!!!). Scared by this? Don’t let that stop you! Peter only was able to walk on the water because he was willing to step out of the boat and because He was walking toward Jesus as Jesus Himself called Peter. Peter wasn’t born with the ability to walk on water, so don’t worry if you aren’t naturally gifted to host a Small Group. Jesus does the same to us everyday (calling us out of our boats to walk on the waves toward Him), but many of us simply stay where we are safe, comfortable, and familiar…
One of a pastor’s main jobs is to equip/support those who attend a local church to do the major work of the ministry–if no one steps up to host these groups, if no one wants to be in them, individual Christians and local churches as a whole simply will not be able to be who God made us to be, to do what God made us to do. It simply will not happen if we all do not participate. If we are all ok with being part of a church where we simply show up for 70-ish minutes on Sunday morning, then that is the kind of Church we will be. In life we vote with our wallets and with our time, regardless of what our words say. Simple as that. But if we want, and if we believe God wants, local churches around the world to be more than just a 70 minute a week club, then we will put that desire into practice and do what is necessary to get into a Small Group. Being part of a local church is a pot-luck: pastors can help to set the table, but all of us need to be willing to bring some food to share with others.
Kintsugi: the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with gold, silver or platinum, utilizing the brokenness of the something in its repair, to display breakage as part of history and not as something to be disguised and covered up.
THIS is what can happen with Jesus in a Small Group–as we dig into God’s Word together, as we pray, as we share openly and honestly and vulnerably, God can use our brokenness to display His wholeness, He can use our imperfections to display His perfection, He can heal us over time with the gold of His love, with the silver of His Word, and with the platinum of the friendship of other Christians. It’s safer for us to simply stay broken, for us to hide and cover up our cracks, but in the long-run it’s so much better for us to be repaired/transformed by God as we grow closer to each other.