I will never forget something Lymen Coleman said at my first Serendipity Small Group conference. You can only lead a group as far as you've gone yourself. How true that is. Anytime I've struggled as a leader, I've come to realize...
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"People resist mission because they are under-discipled, but they are also under-discipled because of the absence of any missional challenge. " The problem is, we’ve become used to seeing discipleship as a passive thing as we sit and enjoy one another as we “huddle and cuddle” together.
I understand their fear. We haven’t had enough time together to know one another all that well. Most are new to this whole small group thing and relatively new in faith. Today I’m asking myself how I can gently lead them to feel comfortable praying out loud as a group. Here’s what I’ve thought of so far:
What did I learn on vacation? If I had quit climbing that mountain, I would have missed an awe-inspiring view of God’s wonderful creation. I don’t want to quit on my spiritual formation, either. There are times when it seems really tough and too difficult to keep-on-keeping-on
As I observe community life around me, I see that over time groups can tend to be more “exclusive” rather than “inclusive.” There seems to be a tendency to gradually build up walls around our group when deciding who fits and who doesn’t. Rather than reflecting Jesus’ inclusive love toward those around us, we find reasons to be exclusive.
... today my small group world and work-out world collided when I saw a sign advertising “Small Group Personal Training.” For a very reasonable price we are offered the opportunity to get the benefits of a personal trainer in a small group setting. The sign promoted other benefits of these small groups:
Imagine this. You’ve been in an ongoing spiritual discussion with someone and are asked, “So what is the Gospel?” How would you answer? I had a pretty pat answer in mind until I spent time reflecting on the first four verses of Isaiah 61. This passage points out a bigger understanding of the Gospel than I’m used to thinking
Rather than evaluate the success of a small group by the percentage of a church’s people involved, I’m much more likely to ask questions about how people are demonstrating discipleship and mission in their lives. How are people growing in spiritual disciplines? How many are inviting friends to try out the group? How deep are the relationships within the group? How does the group care for one another and their neighbors?
The call of community isn’t about finding people just like us, at the exclusion of others. Community, in the biblical sense, is clearly about unlike people finding Christ at the center of their inclusive life together. Thus, issues of community reflect powerful dynamics of how God brings very diverse people together for his glory and his witness in the world.