In the previous post, we learn about what a small group is all about. Many churches encourage their members to belong to a small group obviously for a good reason. Whether you are a Christian or not, you are more than encouraged to join a small group. As a Christian, you get to share life, study the Bible, and encourage each other to grow mature in Christ. As a non Christian, you get to learn about God and you get to see how Christians live out their faith.
However, as a pastor, I have observed and known many Christians (or those who claim to be one) who do not join a small group because they believe they are already doing well spiritually without joining a small group.
“I am already doing ok. I don’t need to join a small group anymore.”
“I am doing my quiet time regularly, so I think I am ok without small group.”
“I am currently doing fine with my life. When I think I need to, then I will consider joining a small group.”
“I already meet up with Christians from time to time. So, I don’t think I need more interactions with Christians.”
“I already have a group of people I meet up regularly. I don’t see how being around a group of church people will help me in any way in my life.”
“Small group is only for those who need support. I think I am doing ok. God is helping me with my everyday life.”
And something along those lines.
I do hope to convince you that regardless of how you are doing spiritually, you still need to join a small group. I will give you some reasons here, not comprehensive, but at least some for a start.
The first thing we need to know is this: When God saves individuals, He puts us into fellowship with God in Jesus as well as fellowship with one another (1 John 1:3). The gospel of Jesus Christ has broken the spiritual barriers between us and God. The gospel has also broken all cultural and demographical barriers between human beings. Jesus Christ reconciled us to God and to one another (Eph 2:13-16). He enables us to live with one another and to love one another because He has first loved us. Despite our differences, in Christ Jesus, we have received adoption into God’s family (John 1:12-13), which means that we have spiritual unity and that we can love one another deeply. Regardless of our background and experience, as God’s children living in this world, we now have a shared experience that strongly unifies us. So, fellowshipping in a community like a small group should not be an obligation. Rather, it is our privilege. It is God’s gift to us. We don’t have to. Rather, we get to.
Secondly, not only is it a gift and privilege to be able to live with one another, God has decided to use our Christian community to grow each Christian (1 Peter 4:8-11; Eph 2:18-22). God wants us to be involved deeply in the messiness of each other’s lives. When we become a Christian, we become part of the body of Christ, and we can only function well when we are in a community of believers (1 Cor. 12:12-31; Romans 12:3-8).
At most churches, a small group is a key way for Christians to be in real community. As small group members share life together, they encourage and stir one another up toward love and good works (Heb 10:23-25). A small group is an environment where small group members build up each other up in love (Eph 4:16) and have loving liberty to speak the truth in love towards one another (Eph 4:15). Small group members confess sins to God (1 John 1:9) and to/with one another (James 5:16), receive instructions to live out their faith (2 Tim 3:16-17), and receive encouragement from one another to persevere to live a God-honouring life (Heb 10:23-25).
Thirdly, many Christians think they are doing ok in terms of their personal godliness until they rub shoulders with a group of people. We don’t know how ungodly and selfish we are until we share lives with people regularly. Left alone to yourself, you are perhaps a very nice, polite, and patient person. However, once you are involved in the lives of other people, in the messiness of relationships, and in people real needs, you might find that you are not that patient, you lost your cool more often than not, and you realise that you are actually quite selfish. You are a patient person until someone keeps bugging you with what they need from you. You are a polite person until you think you have been treated unfairly. We think we are doing ok spiritually until we face discomfort and inconvenience.
Now, God does not put us into a community of believers so that we get to annoy and tear each other down with our ungodliness. Not at all. God puts us into a community of believers so that we get to know each others’ weaknesses and we get to help each other grow in godliness. This is the power of community, or rather, this is the power of God working is us through community of believers.
Fourthly, if you think you are doing ok without other people, could it be because you think you are more godly than others? Could it be because you think other people have nothing to offer you in terms of your spiritual growth? Friends, I do sincerely hope you don’t have this thought in your mind. If you do, I urge you to repent from this arrogance. God can use the weak to shame the strong. At the very least, if you sincerely think you are stronger, perhaps you then should help the weaker ones by getting involved in their lives.
Finally, Jesus clearly said that the world will know that we are indeed His disciples when we love one another (John 13:34-35). How can we love one another if we don’t even make effort to be with one another? How can we claim to have love for our brothers and sisters in Christ if we don’t even know what they are going through? If you are a Christian, how can you live as God’s children without interacting deeply with His other children? Our love shown to each other in small group context before this watching world is what can be the most convincing proof that we are Jesus’ disciples, and the most attractive aspect of being God’s people to the non-Christians. If you can share life together with other sinners, and still love one another the way Jesus wants us to, the unbelievers will be attracted to know more about our God.
Now, some of you might say, “But Sandy, obviously, not every Christian in the history of Christianity has belonged to a small group. There might not be this thing called ‘Small Group’ back in the first or second century. Right?”
In a sense, you are right and wrong at the same time.
You are right in saying that the term ‘Small Group’ might have only been invented recently. So, if you time-travelled and asked the first century Jewish Christians, “Do you belong to a small group?”, they might reply, “What is that?” They might not know what ‘Small Group’ is.
However, just because they don’t join a small group, it does not mean they are not doing it. In fact, if you read Acts 2, one clear thing that they did right after they became Christians is that they meet up with one another continually, both corporately in the temple court, and group-wise in homes. They are living in community quite tightly that you don’t even have to introduce the concept of Small Group to them. They are already doing it. On the other hand, we, who live in 21st century, are so accustomed to living privately. We like our privacy, and we have a way of keeping a distance from people. That’s why churches have to construct this environment for people to live in a community with other believers with hope that this will become a second nature (or perhaps first) to us as Christians. Small Group is not supposed to be an end in itself. It is a means to an end. The end is that every Christian is so comfortable with each other that they are involved in one another’s lives constantly. And Small Group is the best avenue to instil this habit in Christians.
So, by way a summary, as a Christian, you need to belong to a small group because it is a privilege to do so, it is the key way to be in a community with believers, it is one of the best place to grow as a Christian, and it is also one of the best way to be a witness for God in this world. So, if you ever think that you are ok as a Christian without joining a small group, I hope you change your mind and start belonging to one.
“Sandy, I know I need to. I would like to. But, I am so shy. I am not an open kind of guy.”
I hear you. Let me address this at the next post.
In the mean time, have you encountered this in your ministry or church? How do you respond?
- I am busy … getting noticed
- Cultivating Deep Relationships in Cell Groups (Small Groups)
- Is joining a small group a waste of time?