by Dave Hintz
Dating gurus will tell you that going to a movie is a poor choice for a first date activity. Think about it: you pick up your date, find a parking spot, buy a ticket, and then sit silently in a dark room while celluloid pictures are projected onto a large screen. Contrast this with dinner or coffee, where you casually chat, share stories, and really build a relationship.
Many people come to church longing to develop deep relationships, but they fail to do so because they go about it in the wrong way. As a general rule, Sunday morning is not the best time to cultivate biblical friendships. While a great place for learning, singing, giving, and serving, it’s not the place where you can really invest in the lives of others. Think about it: you come to church, find a parking spot, sit in a dark room alternately singing and listen to a sermon, and then you may go to Sunday School or herd three-year-olds in the children’s building. Don’t get me wrong, these activities are vital and necessary, but in order to build deep relationships with other believers you need something more. This is why we have small groups. Instead of sitting in the dark and listening to a sermon, a small group consists of four to five people sharing prayer requests, keeping each other accountable, studying the Bible, etc. This is a perfect venue where you can “stimulate one another to love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24).” Consider the following advantages:
1. Small Groups Provide a Place for Accountability: How often do you hear people say, “I am struggling with purity on the internet,” or “I have not had any quiet times this week,” or “my eating is out of control” during the meet-and-greet time on Sunday morning? People don’t unload their burdens during fifteen-second conversations. After church might be a better time to discuss these things, but it’s difficult to be vulnerable when you are surrounded by the masses. In contrast, a small group can be a sweet sanctuary where you can confess your sins to one another. The regularity of these groups also means that your friends will be able to lift you up in prayer and then follow up when you meet again. Such support and accountability will be tremendously beneficial as you strive against sin.
2. Small Groups Provide a Starting Point for Deep Friendships: In sharing your struggles, confessing your sins, and praying for each other you begin to develop a spiritual bond. Your small group will become a bastion for spiritual refreshment for both you and the other members. The camaraderie built by spurring each other on to deeper holiness will cultivate strong friendships with the other members of the group.
3. Small Groups give you an opportunity to obey the “one another” commands: Your faithful involvement in a small group will allow you to be devoted to (Rom. 12:10), give preference to (Rom. 12:10), admonish (Rom. 15:14), serve (Gal. 5:13), be kind to (Eph. 4:32), comfort (1 Thess. 4:18), encourage(1 Thess. 5:11), build up (1 Thess. 5:11), stimulate to love and good deeds (Heb. 10:24), confess your sins to (James 5:16), pray for (James 5:16), be hospitable to (1 Pet. 4:9), serve (1 Pet. 4:10), and love (1 John 3:11) one another. I am not saying that you must go to a small group in order to fulfill these commands; it’s just a little easier to admonish someone in a small group as opposed to the meet-and-greet time at church.
Much more can be said about the virtues of small groups. For those of you who still remain skeptical, let me encourage you to give it a try. Carving out the extra time to commit to it will be a sacrifice, but I trust that God will bless your faithfulness.
If you are interested in joining a small group I would encourage you to contact an elder or pastor.