Small group ministry is catching on all across the country. It seems that this is a new thing but it has been around for a while. I remember taking a class in Group Dynamics, which was designed for implementing small groups. This was back in the mid 1980’s when I was at York College.
However, small groups go back even further than this. The early church was full of small groups that met in homes. There are several references in scripture to house churches (Romans 16:3-5; 1 Corinthians 16:3-5; Philemon 1:2). But the snap shot I would like to focus on for a moment is this one:
“And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved (Acts 2:43-47).”
Notice that they were meeting house to house and sharing with each other. Don’t misunderstand. This is not a warrant to do away with larger congregations. It is not an either or choice. Notice that they met also in the “temple.” They met in a large group as well as in smaller groups. There are some things you do better in a large group, and some better in a small group. For instance, in a larger congregation, singing is fantastic. You have more resources, a greater range of talents pooled together, and a larger peer group for teens and kids. But there are some things you cannot do well in a large meeting. It is difficult if not impossible for everyone to share their burdens and joys mutually in a large meeting. Large meetings are just not conducive to sharing, support and accountability.
That is where small groups come in! The large worship service is focused on worship and teaching. The small group is focused on building relationships and applying God’s word in a personal way. They are a tremendous opportunity for spiritual growth and mutual support of one another. They are also a tremendous opportunity for evangelism. Jesus said,
"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:34-35)."
By inviting friends to a small group, they will not only have the chance to get acquainted with Christians, but they will also have the opportunity to actually witness Christian love in action which can lead to an opportunity to share the Gospel of Christ with them.
So, small groups are a tremendous opportunity for deeper fellowship and evangelism. They were indispensible to the early church. I have a feeling that they have always been indispensable to the church through the ages whether we have been aware of them or not. Meeting from house to house has always been a part of Christian fellowship. Today in all our busy-ness, it takes more effort to meet from house to house, but the rewards are well worth it.