The Effective Small Group Life in Church is an extremely essential structure needed for the Spiritual formation of people to become Christlike, and to live like Christ.
The following are five very realistic statements on Church Small Group Life by Pastor Rick Warren:
• When Jesus started His ministry, the first thing He did was to form a Small Group of 12 Disciples.
• You cannot fellowship in a crowd.
• The 58 "one another" directives in the Bible can only be done in a Small Group setting.
• You can’t have unity in your Church without relational community. You can’t have community without unity. In order to have unity in your Church, you have to create community. Community is best experienced in Small Group Life.
• You are only as healthy as the cells in your body. If your cells are sick, your body will be sick too. The same is true in Churches. Your Church will only be as healthy as the cells within it. And your Small Groups are those cells.
In the New Testament narratives, we find Biblical patterns for the practice of effective Small Group life in the Church. We find this pattern particularly, in the Small Group life of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Small Group Life of the Early Church: “And they continued steadfastly in the Apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.
Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common. So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:41- 47 NKJV).
When we read the Gospels, we find that Jesus was on a spiritual journey with a Small Group of people, 12 Disciples, to transform and equip them for God’s Kingdom lifestyle and God’s Kingdom Service. "Jesus invited" his Small Group members, the disciples, into every area of His life. Jesus is rarely found without his friends in the Gospels.
They accompany Him on ministry trips, and He brings them along to family gatherings, worship events, and holiday parties. He wasn’t always teaching, but He was always training. His whole life was a lesson in truth and grace.
Relational Small Group Life or living in a Small Group community is not optional in the work of disciple-making and discipleship.
Churches and ministries that prioritise disciple-making and discipleship through Small Group Life, following Jesus’s pattern of ministry, position themselves well to experience the life-giving and life-changing power of God. They see people grow in every way more and more like Christ. (See Eph. 4:15 NLT)
We see the next classic Biblical pattern of effective Small Group Life in the Early Church. (Acts 2: 42-47).
The following are the key content of Small Group Life in the Early Church:
1. The Foundation of their Christian Life: "And they continued steadfastly in the Apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers"
a. And They Continued Steadfastly
-The believers continued steadfastly….. spiritual formation is both divine work and human participation. (see Philippians 2:12- 13). They continually and consistently practised the spiritual disciplines. But they continued steadfastly in what?
b. They continued steadfastly in the Apostles’ doctrine. They steadfastly were abiding in God’s word (see John 8:31-32). They were committed to learning from the Apostle’s teaching of the Scriptures.
c. They continued steadfastly in fellowship. The Greek word koinonia (translated as fellowship) was the idea of association, communion, and participation. It means to share something. The Christian life is meant to be full of fellowship of sharing with one another (see Hebrew 10:24& 25).
i. We share the same Lord Jesus
ii. We share the same guide for life
iii. We share the same love for God
iv. We share the same desire to worship Him
v. We share the same struggles
vi. We share the same victories
vii. We share the same responsibilities of living for Him
viii. We share the same joy of communicating the Gospel, joining Christ in His mission.
ix. We share the same privilege of being heirs of the grace of life. (1 Peter 3:7)
d. They continued steadfastly… in the breaking of the bread. Even though living so close to the time when Jesus was crucified, they still never wanted to forget what He did on the cross. "My body is broken for you… do this in remembrance of me".
e. They continued steadfastly… in prayer. Whenever God’s work is done, God’s people gather for prayer and worship. In prayer, we experience the inward work of the Holy Spirit for us. We tap into the enabling power of the Holy Spirit. When we truly pray, prayer changes us.
Everything we read about the power and glory of the Early Church flows from this foundation of consistent devotion to: the word, fellowship, remembrance of Jesus’ work on the cross and prayer.
2. They experienced in the Small Group Life, the Power of God. (Acts 2:43)
3. Living together; sharing in common life in love and care. (Acts 2 44-45).
4"Praising God and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved. Oneness, love and care, and witnessing, were their effective outreach means of bringing in more converts. (Acts 2:47)
5. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved: (Acts 2:47b). The practice of this content of Church Small Group Life is God’s prescription for Church growth. If we take care to follow the examples of Acts 2:42-47a, God will take care of growing the Church Himself. After all, He said, "l will build my Church"
Indeed, the practice of effective Biblical Small Group life, in Church ministry, leads to the Church experiencing true renewal and real, and healthy church growth.
(The Author is a consultant in authentic Christian Spirituality and Discipleship and former CEO of Scripture Union)