Many people think the primary purpose of small groups is to help people get connected so they won't leave the church. After all, it's by being connected to the church that people become disciples, right? Wrong! I could not disagree with that philosophy more. Small groups are much more than just a tool to keep people from leaving church. Being connected to a church can provide strong Christian relationships (which are necessary), but that's not enough.
Still others think that small groups exist to be Bible Studies. Many denominations put a premium on Bible study and Bible teaching, and these have historically produced believers who are very biblically literate. After all, knowing the Bible transforms people. Right? Not necessarily. There are plenty of people who know the Bible well but still live and behave like pagans. In 1 Corinthians 8:1 Paul wrote, "While knowledge may make us feel important, it is love that really builds up the church" (NLT). Bible studies can provide strong Christian knowledge (which is necessary), but that's just not enough.
Remember, Jesus' parting words in Matthew 28:19 were to "go and make disciples of all nations." Discipleship is so much more than Christian relationships and Christian knowledge. Those are two ingredients, but without a third ingredient, true discipleship doesn't happen. So what's that third ingredient? Christian action. "Christian" means imitating Christ, and Jesus' method for making disciples looked a lot different than the methods we find in most of our churches. How did Jesus promote Christian relationships, knowledge, and action? By living on mission.
Mark and Amy's Group
Mark and Amy had a small group of six people and they decided to participate in a one-day mission event coordinated by their church. The mission was to take backpacks filled with school supplies to the poorest elementary school in the area and give them to every student on the role.
Something happened to Mark and Amy's group that day that they didn't expect. They saw more than just happy kids getting free stuff; they saw kids who needed role models, single moms who needed love and ongoing support, and one fourth grade teacher in particular who really grabbed their hearts. When the event was over they asked the teacher if she would let them adopt her class for the entire school year. She didn't really know what they meant, but she said yes.
Every time that class had a party, Mark and Amy's group was there with cupcakes. Every time there was a school play, the group was there to cheer on the kids. Every time there was a field trip, the group was there to chaperone. Every time there was a need in the class, the group was there to meet it.
Before long Mark and Amy's group started inviting the kids to church with them; sure enough, the kids came. Every weekend the group would walk into church with three or four extra kids. Soon one of the kid's mothers came to church, too. And one weekend that mom gave her life to Christ! Eternity was changed because a group handed out school supplies and then went all out in love.
Our small groups need to quit worrying about whether or not a lesson is prepared every week. We need to stop being so obsessed with how everyone feels about our groups. We certainly need to quit focusing so much attention on who is bringing enchiladas to group next week. Enchiladas! What we need to do is become more like Mark and Amy's group. We need to focus more of our attention on reaching a world that desperately needs Jesus.