The Model for Small Groups
Small Groups and the Mustard Seed
If we can take a good look at our church and see that perhaps, our systems may be more like the mustard tree, we need to apply guardrails to make sure that we only do things the way God would have wanted for us to do.
On the other hand, our numbers may have ballooned to the point that church leaders can no longer serve them. This growth did not necessarily come from unnatural methods. This means that we need to look at how the early church did it.
How did they grow in number? We need to learn from how they did things.
Certainly, these churches did not grow because of their big establishments or impressive surround sound systems. They grew because the fire of the Holy Spirit was upon them, and fellowship drew people into the relationships they shared within the community.
They opted to establish house churches. Early churches did not really have domes or halls to hold public gatherings for believers of Christ. Through these house churches, the Gospel became widespread. The believers challenged the established social order in their time and culture.
How did home churches spread Christianity?
Ultimately, it was this movement and church setup that sustained the first three centuries of church ministry. We don’t necessarily have these setups anymore due to the wide acceptance of megachurches. Nevertheless, studies show the average number of members of house churches ranges from 15-20 people. This number was due to the size of houses during that time. So we can then liken it to our small groups today.
The thought of managing small groups does not appeal to some. If the sense of largeness drew people to the megachurch, they probably enjoy being in a big community of believers. In contrast, a small group narrows down the community and focuses on fewer relationships. However, it is here that we can apply the principle of the mustard seed: we do not despise the small beginnings, and we ensure that the seed being planted in the lives of other people is grown the way it needs to.
Talking to people over small groups allows us to establish and share accurate theology. It is these personal settings that allow us to rebuke wrong doctrines with honesty and love. Moreover, small group settings build deeper relationships with them that may allow accountability. In the same vein, the intimacy of the model allows space to encourage one another and spur each other on towards Christ.
Resistance for Small Groups
Some leaders find it frustrating to lead small groups because the growth in their members’ lives seems slow, but we must not force them to grow just for the sake of it because if we do, we might end up making them into mustard trees. We ourselves should not step out of the boundaries God placed over our lives, and we must only exercise as much authority as He would allow us. A good passage of Scripture to remember when we find ourselves struggling with this is found in Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church:
6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. (1 Corinthians 3:6-9).
We are tasked to stay faithful to the mustard seed, and eventually, we will see how the Lord will be the One to take the faithfulness we offer Him in the seemingly small things and make them into something big.
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