The Importance of Small Groups
I took these notes from a sermon by Rick Warren, Pastor of Saddleback Church in California and author of the book, The Purpose Driven Life. The subject is the importance of small group bible studies in the lives of healthy believers in Jesus Christ. We are trying to incorporate these principles in our English-speaking New Home Church in Medellin. We call it Grace Church Medellin.
For the first 300 years after Jesus died, there were no church buildings anywhere. Acts 1:15 says the original group of disciples totaled 120 persons. Acts 2:41 says on the Day of Pentecost, about 3,000 people became believers and were added to the group! IN ONE DAY! Acts 4:4 says later that the total number of men in the new church had reached 5,000. If there were 5,000 men, there could have been another 10,000+ women and children. The Jerusalem church eventually grew to as many as 120,000 in 25 years, which was about half the total population. Acts 21:20 says “tens of thousands”. Almost 300 years later, there were 3 million Christians, and one of those was Caesar, the leader of Rome! All without a church building.
Where did they put all these people? They were a “Mega Church” on the Day of Pentecost without a “pie-shaped auditorium”. If they had built a huge building, they would have outgrown it in a matter of weeks or months. In Jerusalem, Acts 2:42 says “day by day” they were meeting in the Temple courtyards (large group worship) and from house to house (small groups).
So small groups were extremely important to the growth of the early church. And therefore, we have designed our new home church around these small group principles and methods.
Why are small groups important?
- The Bible says they are important. Moses created leaders of groups of thousands, of hundreds, of fifty, and of tens (small group leaders). Jesus selected 12 to be His group for 3 years. And the early church had no other way to grow.
- They are personal. Everyone in the group knows each other. We fellowship together.
- They are flexible. If Tuesday doesn’t work this week, we can reschedule to another time or day with a WhatsApp group message.
- They are expandable. To a limit. From 4 persons up to about 10, then in most cases, a new group should spin off. In many cases, this is a matter of necessity because our apartment living rooms won’t hold more than that.
- They are economical. Small groups don’t require space so we don’t incur a rental expense. We don’t require a room in a church (which might be empty the rest of the week).
What does a small group do?
1. Study the Bible. And generally, it is best if the group selects the topic or book. [Both of our groups started with the Gospel of John. We are only about halfway through, so we have many weeks before we have to decide on our next book.]
2. Fellowship with other group members. (Per the speaker, this is the most important purpose.)
3. Pray for each other. Pray for specific needs and then watch God answer those prayers.
4. Help each other in practical ways – (meal, groceries, trips to the doctor, etc).
5. Sing together. Most people like that. And we are going to start singing at our next meeting.
6. Eat together. Everyone likes that!
7. Bring unbelievers to Jesus. A small group is a great place to introduce others to our wonderful Savior Jesus Christ. And we are believing God to bring souls for His Kingdom.
8. Communion – “Do this in remembrance of Me”. Luke 22:19-20. Communion is so much more personal in a small group instead of a large auditorium.
What are the Benefits of a Small Group?
1. It connects me to the Body of Christ. Physically. “Together you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of that body”. 1 Cor 12:27
2. I understand the Bible better because I can ask questions and we can discuss points. You can’t raise your hand for clarification in the middle of a Sunday morning sermon.
3. Prayer becomes more meaningful and powerful. See above. As we pray specifically for each others’ needs and see answers, we are encouraged to pray more and see more answers.
4. I am able to handle stress better. Gal 6:2 says “Bear one another’s burdens and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.”
5. It is a place to practice unselfishness. Being in a small group encourages me to put my problems on the back-burner and focus on how I can help others in the group.
How small is a small group?
According to the speaker, “4 is better than 6, 6 is better than 8, and 8 is better than 10.” He also says when you get more than 10 in a group, someone will stop talking and become a wallflower. So as the group starts approaching 10, the group/host needs to start planning for a new group.
In Grace Church Medellin, we are committed to building our Church family through small groups. For us, there really is no alternative. That is why we call Grace Church Medellin our new home church.
Right now we are small and are not even thinking about a building. And when we run out of chairs, we will form another group at another apartment or home. Here in Medellin where English-speakers are so spread out, it makes much more sense to minimize travel time and maximize the time people spend with each other.
We are convinced that God has big plans for Medellin, including the growing population of US and Canadian citizens living here. And every week, God tells someone else about the English-speaking Home Church in Medellin. We are looking forward to what God has planned for His church in Medellin, Colombia.
God bless you all.