Tuesday, May 17, 2011

When a Small Group isn't a Small Group

That seems like a crazy title. It doesn't sit well with my math-leaning mind. How can a small group not be a small group? Let's focus on purpose. Small groups are about sanctification (i.e., the process of Jesus' disciples being conformed into His image as Paul wrote about in Romans 8:29, the often left-off completion to the often quoted Romans 8:28). In the Harvest Bible Chapel (http://harvestbiblechapel.org/) paradigm, small groups are about walking in Christ in community.

With the purpose defined, I contend there are groups meeting in your church carrying the small group label that aren't really small groups. So when is a small group not a small group?

  • When it is a Bible study
    Wait a minute. I cannot possibly be dissing Bible studies, can I? Clearly Jesus' disciples should study His word. But small groups are to be more than a "What do you think?" discussion of our favorite book of the Bible. Small group has to be a vehicle to push to application of God's word. Application of the truth, application of knowledge is biblical wisdom. In a section on pressing to application in Why Small Groups chapter 4, "What Makes a Great Leader?" Mark Mullery writes, "The most challenging aspect of leading a discussion is trying to press the point home to application. The leader who fails to bring application leads his group down a merry path to deception!

  • When there is no transparency

    Without transparency and without confession of sin, there is no mercy. Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy. (Proverbs 28:13)
    There should be regular confession of sin one to another in small group. Therefore, confess your sins one to another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. (James 5:16)

  • When there is no real accountability
    As John the Baptist told the Pharisees, who were just watching baptisms from a safe distance and not the least bit interested in following Jesus, real followers of Christ are to "Bear fruit in keeping with repentance" (Matthew 3:8). Asking for and accepting genuine, in-your-face-when-it-needs-to-be accountability is a fruit of repentance. If there isn't real, uncomfortable accountability in your small group, you aren't helping each other toward repentance (i.e., a turning from our wicked ways and turning or returning to God).

I am sure you could add to this list. But the goal isn't to have an exhaustive list. Rather I want you to look at your current small group or other groups in your ministry area that carry the "small group" label. Is the group focused on sanctification? Is the group focused on walking with Christ? Is the "small group" really a small group?