Journeyman Project Dispatches from the Life of Patrick Fowler: Christianity Explored

28Oct/080

Small Groups are not Biblical…

Small Groups are not Biblical!
Let's make one thing clear, for certain: Small groups and house churches are not "biblical". The church was started with meetings in homes, I gladly concede that point. But the church did not meet in homes for any command of scripture, or even any urging of the disciples. More likely, since the Jews and Romans began killing Christians for their beliefs, the church met privately to keep themselves out of the line of persecution, and because they did not have synagogues or other buildings they could use. More importantly, the size of their movement was not overwhelming, as it would later become when persecution was lifted.

My apologies, but I feel compelled to offer this argument due to the number of times I have heard speakers proclaim the "biblical basis" for small groups from the pulpit. I can't tell you how much I fear that my generation is going to consider small groups a non-negotiable issue when thinking of church. Make it clear church leaders…this is strategy, not Scripture!!! Don’t confuse people by not clearly specifying whether you are speaking from Scripture versus speaking from wisdom.

Let me make one more distinction: Secondary arguments I hear all to often include the fact that Jesus trained his disciples in a small group fashion. And this argument irks me again too. Consider fully Jesus ministry…how many times do we find Jesus speaking in a large crowd, versus to the disciples? He spoke to crowds of hundreds and thousands. His famous talks are from the Sermon on the Mount and the confrontations of the religious leaders, and the feeding of the 5,000. I could make a case for the mega-church model just as easily as someone could make a case for small groups/house churches from Jesus' example.

The better way to discuss the example of Jesus is simply this: if you want to train a group of leaders or highly committed individuals, limit their number and let them live with you. Have them around to talk when you are not ministering. Eat and pray and sing and celebrate with them…but don't consider it the perfect model for everyone. Everyone is not committed. Everyone is not a disciple. Everyone is not ready to be relationally engaged. A lot of people just want a taste. They want to hide in the periphery and observe. That's the dynamic of ministry. You need environments for exposure and environments for equipping. You need places for the uncommitted, and places for the deeply committed. Keep the two separate…Jesus did. He constantly dismissed members of the circle to focus on the most committed. Only some of the disciples saw Jesus raise a girl from the dead. Only three were on the mount of transfiguration. Only one was told to lead the others. Why are we trying to treat everyone as a disciple? Not everyone wants to be. Not everyone is called to be.

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