by Robert Noland
As you read the gospels’ accounts of Jesus calling His disciples at the beginning of His ministry, have you ever thought about His recruitment process? What was He looking for? What was His end goal?
Since He was, and is, God, He could easily have walked down the beach and assembled an army of 12,000 to overthrow the government. He could have called together 1,200 and given them amazing powers. But he did nothing of the sort.
In fact, he didn’t even call 120 people. Jesus intentionally formed the very first “small group,” as we call them today in the church.
Jesus launched his ministry with just a dozen. He put together a tiny band of very diverse and, frankly, unimpressive followers. Why? Because He wasn’t staging a coup or forming a cult. He was building a community. That was God’s plan.
Christ didn’t call those He chose based on resume, I.Q., skills, or physique—the four areas from which we tend to choose. But considering that His original small group formed the church which revolutionized the world forever and still exists today, it is safe to say He chose wisely.
When the church forms small groups today, we are following the pattern given to us by Jesus for building community. His community. This is a vitally important principle to start and maintain groups.
The uniqueness of the Christian small group is found when we gather in Jesus’ name. We must not gather for the sake of the church’s programming success or our own reputations. We don’t meet solely for social interaction or intellectual stimulation.
We gather for spiritual growth—vertical in our relationship with God and horizontal in our friendships with brothers and sisters in Christ. Small group success will be attained when this simple goal is met.
Here are three points to help set and maintain a group being rooted in Christ.
In today’s viral, yet segregated, cultural landscape, we must gently move people toward engagement of relationships with a purpose.
Members must become convinced to trade isolation for interaction; to leave seclusion and embrace serving one another; to see the benefits of life with their own “12,” so to speak, as Jesus taught us.
Once members engage and begin to meet, the exchange of life among them is crucial to success. In decades past, the church was the one place you should not—and could not—express any spiritual doubt.
Today, small groups inside the church must be a safe place to voice and process doubt and fear. We all have them; we must face them to settle our hearts; so we should walk through the struggles together in reverence for God and respect for one another.
If a group can be honest about spiritual doubt and fears regarding faith, the members are on their way to a great destination—depth. The shallowness of our society can be fought against by going deep, thereby sharing the ups and downs, the mountains and valleys of life together. Exchanging our lives in Christ’s love.
Paul told us in no uncertain terms that faith without works is dead. What good is meeting regularly with a small group in Jesus’ name if the world never sees the results of the members’ growth?
Nothing will inspire and encourage us to execute God’s will in our lives, as well as His plan for a lost world, more than the accountability and synergy created in the caring and sharing of life among brothers and sisters in Christ.
The true end goal—and spiritual fruit—of a small group will ultimately be the changed lives of the members impacting the world, as they go out alone day-to-day and as they come together to serve shoulder to shoulder.
If then there is any encouragement in Christ, if any consolation of love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by thinking the same way, having the same love, sharing the same feelings, focusing on one goal. — Philippians 2:1-2 HCSB
Robert Noland has been in ministry for more than 30 years. He’s a writer living in Franklin, Tennessee.