I often get asked, “Why should I join a small group?” It is a fair question and, as a groups pastor, I am not surprised to be asked. However, the heart behind that question is rarely just curious. The real question they are trying to get to is: “What will I get out of this?”
Too often groups are seen as another program or a place where MY needs are met. Now, everyone who has participated in a genuine small group knows that many of your needs will be met, but when we step into group life thinking that specific group exists for me and my needs first and foremost, you will find yourself disappointed and alienating the others in the group. Small groups do not exist for any one individual, nor are they a program to pad the church website. Small groups exist for a much deeper purpose and are rooted in a rich history within the Church, beginning within Scripture itself. Small groups are communities. Communities of people pointing one another toward Jesus and finding joy as they share life together.
In Acts 2:42-49, we find a description of what the earliest church community looked like in Jerusalem and how it functioned. This passage is immediately after the ascension of Jesus, the events at Pentecost, and Peter’s mighty sermon which added around three thousand believers in one day. In this passage we see that the Church devoted themselves to:
- learning about Jesus,
- spending time together in homes and places of worship,
- meeting one another’s needs,
- sharing meals,
- and praying for each other.
There is no way that three thousand people, the absolute minimum at this time, could all do this within one home, so we know from the beginning of the Church, small group meetings were the norm. The Church was composed of genuine communities of people loving God and each other. They were sharing their lives to the point where many were selling their possessions just to provide for others in need. These communities were eating together, learning together, and struggling through life together. They were not communities that only saw each other once a week at Temple, but communities who shared daily rhythms. Somehow, that depth of shared life was lost in many churches as Christianity grew and we entered modernity. Many churches now enjoy large congregations, grand buildings, and flashy programs. These things are great and a blessing in many ways, but they are no substitute for the depth found in a small group sharing all of life together.
Community is how Christianity is supposed to be lived out. We are not meant to walk through life or our faith alone. It is in community we find support, comfort, encouragement, guidance, correction, transformation, and companionship. They are the friends and confidants you celebrate and mourn with. A small group committed to Jesus is something special that can change your life forever, as it did for John. (Name changed for confidentiality.)
John is a young man who grew up in Texas within the church, attending with his parents. After college, he continued to attend his parent’s church, but began to feel disconnected. He had always been his parent’s son, never his own person. He knew people, but did not really feel like he had close friends at the church, and consequently never felt like he had many conversations about his faith. John was always gifted in technology and went to college for it, so he started serving in Production on Sundays. This was an area he could serve and hopefully connect with people. It went well too. He quickly became a reliable member of the team and served faithfully for a long time. However, only serving on a Sunday team was not enough for deeper community and discipleship. The team became friends, but there was not the intentional dive into his spiritual life, something that he knew he needed.
While thinking through all this, he heard a sermon that mentioned the small groups at the church and decided to join one. He joined a group that had mostly younger people like himself, hoping to form some friendships. He began attending and soon formed connections with people he would never have met otherwise. The group would study the sermon’s primary Biblical text and then split in half; women staying inside around the kitchen table and the men went outside around a fire. John quickly began to explore Scripture more than ever before, because he wanted to contribute to the conversations that were taking place with the group. He would read the passage before coming and, slowly, began to speak more. When the men went outside, he was amazed that some of the guys would share some of the darkest parts of their lives with everyone, even though they did not know him well. The atmosphere was friendly and there was the expectation that truth is welcome, even hard ones. It was new to John and he began to share more of his own life and struggles with the group.
Over time, John matured in his faith and life through the relationships in his small group. He was asked to be the leader of the Production team. He began making the graphics and online tools used by the church. He became an important part of the church and contributed every Sunday in some way. John never would have guessed he would be so involved in the church, and he was grateful.
After several years, John began to meet with two other men in the small group during another morning of the week in a Discipleship Group. They wanted to go deeper, and John specifically knew he needed a higher level of accountability. For years, John had struggled and succumbed to pornography. He wanted to stop and never had success on his own. He stepped into this extension of their small group, hoping that something could be done. After only six months of continuing at small group and also meeting for Discipleship Group, John found himself changed. He had been clean from pornography for three months, the longest ever since high school. He was growing in his faith more rapidly than ever and had deep, meaningful friendships. For the first time as an adult, John felt like his faith was not overshadowed by a sin that made him feel powerless. He is still free from pornography today and serving in the church in mighty ways, while working full-time in technology.
True community does this for us. It changes our hearts and takes us deeper, closer to the heart of Jesus. Small groups at Grace Fishers Church are an avenue toward Biblical, healthy community. I encourage you to give it a shot and take a step into sharing life with others. If you are interested in joining a small group, Grace Fishers Church has many opportunities. We have Men’s Groups, Women’s Groups, and Life Groups for anyone and everyone.
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About the Author
Nathanael Sommers is the Associate Pastor of Groups and Teaching at Grace Fishers.