"Joel, you're placing too much emphasis on small groups," the board member insisted. "I believe we should focus on developing more ministries in our church—like a social action program—so that people can truly exercise their spiritual gifts."
"But in the small groups they'll have a chance to exercise their gifts," I countered. "Those with the gift of mercy will have the opportunity to reach the poor and needy, and even know personally the people they're trying to reach."
Our conversation that night ended in a stalemate. We both had strong opinions. But the conversation was a blessing in disguise because it forced me to revisit the issue of spiritual gifts and small groups. The conversation stirred me to clarify why I believe small groups are the best place to exercise spiritual gifts.
New Testament Context
I reread the passages of Scripture that talk about the gift of the Spirits: 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12, and Ephesians 4. I was reminded that when Paul was writing those epistles, he was writing to house churchesnot congregations meeting in a church building. In fact, all of the New Testament books were completed by the year 90 AD, but the first time the early church had a building of their own was in 150 AD. The New Testament was written to house churches in which the exercise of individual gifts was possible.
Freedom to Discover
In the intimacy of a small, closely knit group, a believer feels the freedom to experiment with different gifts. It's an intimacy issue. It's the best atmosphere to discover, test, and receive approval for spiritual gifts. Carl George writes, "Because of the intimate, accountability-inviting context of an affinity-based group, participants will readily accept the call of God that accompanies ...