Monday, September 28, 2009

Purpose and Power in Small Groups

For many years I have facilitated women’s Bible studies and have found they are an excellent way to disciple women of all ages and stages of life. Most women seem to fare better when they are in a guided study and are being held accountable by meeting together weekly in a small group setting.

I have also been in a small group of men and women from our church who meet together every Tuesday night. My husband and I enjoy it so much and have grown from the experience. We know and fellowship with people who would otherwise be familiar strangers. Now we know each other’s challenges and pray for one another on a regular basis. John Piper preached a wonderful sermon that can be read in its entirety here Within his sermon he gave 7 reasons for small group ministry which I have listed below.

“He has given pastors to the church “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-12). I believe in what I do. And I believe that it is not enough. Here are the seven reasons I gave the small group leaders."
1. The impulse to avoid painful growth by disappearing safely into the crowd in corporate worship is very strong.
2. The tendency toward passivity in listening to a sermon is part of our human weakness.
3. Listeners in a big group can more easily evade redemptive crises. If tears well up in your eyes in a small group, wise friends will gently find out why. But in a large gathering, you can just walk away from it.
4. Listeners in a large group tend to neglect efforts of personal application. The sermon may touch a nerve of conviction, but without someone to press in, it can easily be avoided.
5. Opportunity for questions leading to growth is missing. Sermons are not dialogue. Nor should they be. But asking questions is a key to understanding and growth. Small groups are great occasions for this.
6. Accountability for follow-through on good resolves is missing. But if someone knows what you intended to do, the resolve is stronger.
7. Prayer support for a specific need or conviction or resolve goes wanting. O how many blessings we do not have because we are not surrounded by a band of friends who pray for us
John Piper has laid it out beautifully with great insight and honesty. If you are not connected to a small group I really hope that you will earnestly pray and seek to be.

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