Here is a vision I could get excited about:
a biblical small group within walking distance of every person on the planet making disciples that make disciples.
(Note: I didn’t come up with this, this comes from Rick Howerton.)
The church exists on three levels:
- The universal, invisible church
- The local church congregation
- The small group, or micro-church.
In the New Testament we read that the church met in congregational meetings in the temple courts. And, the church met in house to house, small group, micro-church meetings. The small groups were not a ministry of the church; they were they church.
Most of what it means to be the church happens at the small group, micro-church, house-to-house level.
“One another” is a repeated expression in the New Testament instructions to the church. Here is a sampling of some of these commandments:
• Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor (Rom. 12:10).
• Be of the same [lowly] mind toward one another (Rom. 12:16).
• Do not judge one another, but determine not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way (Rom. 14:13).
• Be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus (Rom. 15:5).
• Accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God (Rom. 15:7).
• Admonish one another (Rom. 15:14).
• Through love serve one another (Gal. 5:13).
• [Show] forbearance to one another in love (Eph. 4:2).
• Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you (Eph. 4:32).
• Be subject to one another in the fear of Christ (Eph. 5:21).
• Regard one another as more important than himself (Phil. 2:3).
• Do not lie to one another (Col. 3:9).
• Bear with one another and forgive each other (Col. 3:13).
• Encourage one another, and build up one another (1 Thess. 5:11).
• Confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another (James 5:16).
• Fervently love one another from the heart (1 Peter 1:22).
• Be hospitable to one another without complaint (1 Peter 4:9).
• Employ your spiritual gifts in serving one another (1 Peter 4:10).
• Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another (1 Peter 5:5).
The research is in on this. Attending a worship service, (Level #2 above) has only a slight correlation with life-change. Attending a small group has a huge correlation:
Again, the differences are striking. Our research confirms our belief that small groups are needed for greater effectiveness in discipleship.
Those respondents who attend groups are spending significantly more time reading and studying the Bible. This is not simply a reflection of reading and studying the Bible during a group meeting. Responses were at a higher frequency than the respondents’ weekly attendance. The results were for reading and studying at least a few times a week compared with attending a group about once a week.
Additionally, those individuals regularly attending groups are more actively praying. Whether it is for the church and its leaders, with other Christians, for fellow Christians, or for those who are not professing Christians, regular attendees are praying at least a few times a week at a much higher percentage than those who do not attend a group. — Ed Stetzer and Eric Geiger, Transformational Groups: Creating a New Scorecard for Groups (Nashville: B&H, 2014).
It occurs to me that many of you reading this a Sunday School teachers. The Sunday School is uniquely situated to start a movement of small groups so that we can put one within walking distance of every person on the planet. I have recently written a series of lesson that you could use to train people in your Sunday School class to lead a group. You can find these lessons on my website, here: http://www.joshhunt.com/bible-lessons-for-bible-teachers/
John F. MacArthur Jr., Ashamed of the Gospel: When the Church Becomes like the World (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1993), 185–186.