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*This post is the third part of “Is joining a small group a waste of time?” series, aiming to help answers questions and concerns regarding joining a small group.

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In the first post, we looked at what small group is (or supposed to be). If you have a church that you attend regularly, whether you are a Christian or not, chances are that church is encouraging you to join a small group of some kind. They may call it small groups, cell groups, fellowship groups, community groups, home groups, etc. For the purpose of this post, I will use a generic term: small group.

In the second post, we looked at the question of whether one should still join a small group when one thinks that he/she is doing ok spiritually. We learned that sharing life closely with a group of people will help us to be aware of the growing-up that we need to do as Christians. Until you rub shoulders with other sinners (you are one of them, mind you), you will never know how selfish, impatient, unkind, greedy, and unhelpful you are. If you say that you will never want to mingle with people who are immature, then look who’s talking. Interestingly, and somehow God designs this to be, the same group of people that irritate you will end up to be the people who encourage you to keep growing in God. In the process, you grow to trust God more, love Him more, and consequently, love others more.

However, there is one fear that people have with regards to joining a small group. In fact, just last Sunday, a friend of mine mentioned to me that he was considering joining a small group but he said that he is not an open kind of guy. He is reserved. Another friend, on a separate occasion, also told me that he does not like the idea of opening up himself to a group of people.

Being in a small group means that one must be in the midst of a group of people regularly. Unless you are in a meditation class, you will be expected to say something (Even in a meditation class, you are expected to at least hum a few times). You also know that we are not talking about a bunch of cute cats. We are talking about a group of people. So, it is very very highly likely that when you meet, people will greet you, they will ask you how you are going, they will ask you about your family, your work, your week, your life, and yes, they might even comment about your dress, your new hair-cut, your kids, and sometimes, your weight (usually when you have lost some). To some of you who are sanguine or extrovert or simply super confident, this sounds like you are given the permission to shine. You love it. You cannot get enough of it. On the other hand, to some of you who are introvert or more reserved, this feels like someone is putting you in a locked cage and handing you a live hand grenade. Uncomfortable does not even capture what you feel inside. How do I know? Because I myself am an introvert. I know. Surprise.. surprise.. There are times that I feel that those who are sanguine should just be quiet and begin to listen to what introverts are trying to say (or trying to hint). However, it is only fair for us, introverts, to also stop being quiet and begin to open up to people a little bit.

We are social beings. God created us that way because our Triune God (God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit) exists eternally in relationships with one another. Furthermore, God is a communicating God. He speaks. We know God because He has revealed Himself to us, and He does so by speaking. Yes, we can know some attributes of God, namely His eternal power and His divine nature, from His creation, without Him opening His mouth to us (Romans 1:20). However, we can only know many of His other characters by listening to His Words. God speaks because He wants us to know Him. You can only know a person so much by looking at his car, his house, or his appearance. However, a person is known deeper only by listening to him as he pours his heart out. So are you. Knowing and being known, and consequently loving and being loved, are what makes you truly human, and you need to communicate to reveal what’s in your heart.

Furthermore, God knew that in order for Him to be known perfectly, His Word, which sufficiently reveals who He is, decided to put on flesh, became a human being, and dwelled among us (John 1). Jesus, the perfect image of the invisible God, has made invisible God visible. If God speaks and dwells among us in bodily flesh so that he can be known by us, all the more we need to speak and be among people in body so that we can be known by others.

There are of course many other reasons why you’d rather be alone. In particular, someone might have betrayed you last time. Someone might have breached confidentiality on you the last time you were in a small group. Or perhaps you were misunderstood by others. If that’s you, then friends, you need to know that when God came down to earth as a human being, He knew the risks involved. He knew that He risked being misunderstood and being betrayed. Can you imagine the God that created the heavens and the earth, the almighty God who created everything out of nothing with His powerful Word, came down to earth even though He knew that He would be rejected, misunderstood, and betrayed? Why did He do that? Because He loves us. He wants us to love others, and in order to do that, we will risk being misunderstood by others. However, Jesus knew the reward of His obedience, therefore He did it anyway. We also know the reward of joining a small group, therefore, I do hope that you give it a go anyway.

There are more reasons of course, and I don’t think I can cover a whole lot of them here. However, I think I need to say one more thing. Some of you, me included, prefer to be alone really because we are selfish or lazy. We prefer to be comfortable, we don’t want to be inconvenienced by others, and we don’t want to do the hard work of knowing and being known by others. I said some of you… not all of you… so don’t get worked up too soon (although if you got worked up, it could be that I have offended your idols … just saying). I said that because in reality at times I can get really selfish and don’t want to take time and effort to know others. By the way, if you are sanguine or extrovert, and you don’t take time and effort to pause and to really listen to others, it might be because of the same reason. So, I am not picking on introverts only. Everyone has their own idols and these idols can prevent us from obeying God’s command to know, love, and be present with others. If that’s you, then it’s time to trust God, to ground your identity in Jesus, and to throw yourselves out there in the small group knowing that God will reward you with spiritual growth, increasing love for others, and increasing love from others.

So, please, don’t shy away from doing life together with a group of people. Do yourself a favour. Join a small group, and you will slowly see that you begin to enjoy being around people who know you, who appreciate you, and who love you for who you are.

“Sandy, I know I need to. I would like to. But, I am so busy. I cannot afford the time.”
I hear you. Let me address this at the next post.

Meanwhile, if you are an introvert and belong to a small group, would you care to share your experience?

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