I think the reason small groups are important is although corporate is terribly important, it doesn’t provide for me everything I need as a child of God on my pilgrimage. That journey between the “already” of my conversion and the “not yet” of my home-going, that journey is through a deeply fallen world that does not operate the way God intended. And that journey is me still struggling with the remaining presence of sin.
Here’s the function of the small group. I have come to understand and I believe that scripture clearly teaches that my walk with God is a community project. I need hands on me and one of the clear reasons I need that is the dynamic of spiritual blindness. Sin blinds and guess who it blinds first? I have no trouble seeing the sin of my wife, my kids and my children, but I can be surprised when mine is pointed out.
And so, as long as sin lives inside of me, there will be pockets of spiritual blindness. I would like to think that no one knows me better than I know myself, but that’s a delusion because there are inaccuracies in the way I view myself, so I need a company of people that I hang with regularly that get to know me. They get to know my strengths and weaknesses and who know the themes of my struggle, that hear things about my marriage and my parenting or whatever, where the application of the word of God, the ministry of the word of God becomes even more personal, more intimate.
I love Colossians 3:12-17. It talks about the body of Christ and it says, “15 Let the peace of Christ rule your hearts.” That’s people who are getting their identity vertically and not horizontally. “16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.” That means you’re a student of the word of God. Now, listen to this. “So that you can teach and admonish one another.”
This is not written to pastors. This is written to the whole body of Christ. Teaching means, “I need people who will help me think about life biblically in places where I’m not.” Admonishment means, “I need people to help me to see myself with biblical accuracy, so change would take place.” And so, the purpose of the small group is that that more personal teaching and admonishing that is meant to be the function of the body of Christ would take place.
I have those people in my life that have been near me and have heard me and seen me operate, who can now speak with greater wisdom into me. That’s a gift. That’s a blessing. That deeper intimacy, you will not find in the larger gathering of the church. I think that gathering is terribly important and I’ve said that already, but I think you could go there and be virtually unknown. The small group is where the church is shrunk and continues to do in a more personal, intimate way the things that the church is meant to do because every one of us, for all of us, our walk with God is a community project.