Friday, November 04, 2005

The Importance of Small Group Community

This week, I read an article entitled No More Mr. Nice Group : 5 practices that take small groups beyond polite "sharing" to the disciplines that change lives by John Ortberg.   It is an excellent article I recommend if you are a small group leader or even just a small group participant.  The whole article is great, but I wanted to share just a few thoughts about the beginning of the article.

God has entrusted us with his most precious treasure—people. He asks us to shepherd and mold them into strong disciples, with brave faith, and good character. I would not give my life to any church that was not serious about this calling—the transformation of human beings. God has decided, for his own good reasons, that people are not transformed outside of community.  

Years ago, while on vacation, I was going to fix something on the grill. I made a pile of charcoal, I poured a few gallons of lighter fluid over them, and I started the fire. My son was just fascinated by fire, as most young boys are. He asked what I was doing, and I told him.  

"There's something about the way these little briquettes are constructed that when you put them together, the fire glows and they get real hot. And if you isolate one it cools off quickly. It loses the fire. But when they stick together, there's fire, because they feed off each other. God designed them to work that way."  

This fits what Dallas Willard has said about the Christian life: "Personalities united can contain more of God and sustain the force of his greater presence better than scattered individuals." Think about that. Personalities united—people in community—contain more of God and his transforming power than isolated individuals. We should not be surprised that transformation requires community; it's how God designed us.  

When we are alone, it's easy to think, incorrectly, that we are spiritually advanced. I can watch a Hallmark commercial alone and find myself moved to tears. I tell myself that I am a very compassionate person. But when I spend time in community with a person who annoys me, it's amazing how quickly I experience "compassion fatigue."  

In community we discover who we really are and how much transformation we still require. This is why I am irrevocably committed to small groups. Through them we can accomplish our God-entrusted work to transform human beings.

It seems odd to me now, but I was never part of a small group experience prior to my overseeing small groups at our church.  I guess in the eyes of some that would make me "unqualified" for my job.  I certainly am no small group guru like John Ortberg, but I think God may have sped up my learning process a little, or at the very least, he gave me a HUGE heart for small groups when I took on this role at the church.  Having been youth pastor for the past 14 years, I had little interaction with adults...practically none in a small group setting.  (I had been a part of groups that were small in size, but nothing like the vision for Life Groups at our church).

As I began to study and pray about Life Groups in our church, God showed me how much I personally needed the community offered by a Life Group.  I became convinced that there are things God teaches us through small group relationships that He chooses to teach us no place else (like was pointed about in the above paragraph about the Hallmark commercial).  We either learn some things in a small group or we do not learn them at all.  If you have a broadband connection, I encourage you to check out this small video about the Life Groups at our does a good job of highlighting what is so special about the community provided by small groups. 

If you want to hear more of my musings in relation to small groups, you can listen to my teaching "Casting a Vision for Life Groups", but I just wanted to share a few gems from John Ortberg's article today and a few of my own thoughts about the importance of small group community.

- Rob

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