Yesterday, I preached on the importance of gathering with other believers. God uses the gathering of His people to grow His people. But gathering doesn't just mean being in the same room, but in relationships. In the sermon, I spoke on why I believe small groups are an essential part of our gathering as believers. Signups for WBC Small Groups started yesterday and I hope that all of our church will take the opportunity to sign up for a group. With these signups kicking off, I wanted to share a list of Seven Reasons We Need Small Groups. This list is from John Piper, who included this list in a 2009 sermon you can find here: https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/the-love-of-human-praise-as-the-root-of-unbelief
I've included some of my own thoughts below each point. I believe these reasons are universally true for church members, regardless of your church context. If you're already in a group, which of these reasons have you found to be most helpful? If you're not in a group, which of these reasons would be helpful for you in your life?
Seven Reasons We Need Small Groups
- The impulse to avoid painful growth by disappearing safely into the crowd in corporate worship is very strong.
It’s easy and comfortable to slide in and slide out. Maybe you even say hi to some folks on the way in. It’s less comfortable, but so much more fulfilling, to invest yourself into the life of the church and develop relationships. Small groups are a natural, easy way to get integrated into the body.
- The tendency toward passivity in listening to a sermon is part of our human weakness.
Our natural inclination is often to say “I don’t need to apply this sermon, but I know that person does.” But the reality is that we all need to apply God’s Word in some way to our lives. Our small groups center around talking through the sermon together, where we get to consider “how can I apply this teaching to my life and walk with God today?”
- 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.
If the Spirit convicts you as you listen to a sermon and you feel the need to respond in some way, you can more easily walk away from it on a Sunday morning and forget it happened. But in a small group, you have people who care about your well-being, who can sensitively walk with you through it. It is good for us
- 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.
The prick of conviction from the Holy Spirit during a sermon should not swept aside. But when we walk out the doors of the church, our lives are busy and we have other things to focus on. In a small group, you have people to talk it through with you. A loving friend and small group member will help walk with you through what to do with that prick of conviction.
- 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.
Chances are, if you’re listening actively, you have some questions by the time the sermon is finished. Where do you go with those questions? Your small group is a great place to ask a question. You may find other people had the same question. The group can talk it through and help you answer that lingering question. All of this is a part of our spiritual growth and making us more like Jesus.
- Accountability for follow-through on good resolves is missing. But if someone knows what you intended to do, the resolve is stronger.
Have you ever left the church building on a Sunday morning and thought something like “In light of that passage, I really want to _______________” this week.” Again, life gets filled with other cares and before you know it, the week has passed and you totally forgot to do what you resolved to do! But if you communicate that resolve to your small group, they can keep you accountable. They can follow up with you the next time to see how that is going. Knowing you have people who will check in helps motivate.
- Prayer support for a specific need or conviction or resolve goes wanting. Oh, how many blessings we do not have because we are not surrounded by a band of friends who pray for us.
In the midst of pain, hurt, or stress, it can be tempting to withdraw and go insular like a turtle in its shell. But the best thing we can do in the midst of difficulty is to reach out. We are not meant to bear these burdens by ourselves. The church has a part to play in caring for one another: whether in prayer, meeting physical needs, or both. Having a small group that knows specifically how to pray for you is such a blessing. Fight the urge to keep quiet and let people in, that they bring your burdens before God in prayer.