And entrust what you heard me say in the presence of many others as witnesses to faithful people who will be competent to teach others as well. (2 Timothy 2:2 NET)
Why Small Groups?
Tom recently shared with me the story of Bill, an old friend of his whom he reconnected with about a year ago. Bill was at a turning point in his life and expressed a desire to get together. Since then, Tom has been meeting with Bill every week. During that time, Bill has consistently taken two steps forward and three steps back in his spiritual life. Tom has felt frustrated, taken for granted, angry, and ambivalent – and sometimes all at the same time. The other day Bill and Tom were at lunch and Tom shared again with Bill the joy of complete surrender to Jesus Christ.
Bill was at the breaking point. At 57 years old, he finally shared how sexual addiction was ruling and ruining his life. In a spirit of brokenness, he is now ready to move forward. Tom and he are going to attend a group meeting together for Bill to begin the process of healing.
What did God use to break through strongholds that had been present for thirty years in Bill’s life? Was it some brilliant theological insight? Or perhaps a new counseling technique honed from years of research studies? Was it the perfect book that opened Bill’s eyes? It was none of these things. God used a friendship.
People and Friends
People today battle insidious loneliness. The world tells them to fill this void with success, power, activity, sex, money, building the perfect family, living through their kids, technology, toys, and on and on. Every time a man realizes one substitute is empty, the world puts another one forward as the answer to his longing. Most people are surrounded by people. They work with people. They have neighbors on both sides. They may attend a church on Sunday mornings and sit in the crowd. They may even call some of these people friends. But in most cases, they are not friends in the Biblical sense. Most people have many acquaintances but lots of people have no real friends. And the truth is that it is impossible for a man to stay on track without friends. It’s not that he will probably get off track. It’s absolutely certain that a man who does not bind himself to other people will lose his way.
Made for Relationships
Why do we have such a deep-seated need for friendships? Consider Genesis 1. In that chapter five times – at the end of each day – God says the things he made were “good.” And at the end of the sixth day, after he had made man, he said it was “Very Good.” So if you were listening to this account, you would hear the repetition – “it was good…it was good…it was good…it was good…it was good…it was very good.”
So imagine your surprise when you got to Genesis 2:18 and heard “…it was not good.” What was not good? “It was not good for man to be alone.” God is three persons in one being. He has existed as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit from eternity. They are an eternal band of brothers in the trinity. Adam as a single person could not fully live out the image of God without being in a relationship with another person. Marriage is the most intimate of these relationships, but the Scriptures teach the power and necessity of other types of relationships as well.
So, if you are not living in authentic relationships, it is impossible for you to do what you were made to do – to reflect the image of God through your life. And in a world of temptation and struggle, it will be impossible for you to stay on track.
What God Does Through Relationships
God uses relationships to encourage us to keep the faith and walk with Christ. You need friends who can “stimulate you to love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24). You need people in your life with whom you can “bear one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2). The great commandment of Christ is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27).
Having casual acquaintances isn’t good enough – we need to bind ourselves to a few other people who can help us become all God intends for us to be. This can be difficult. It’s often easier to just do our own thing without taking the time and energy to let another man get close. But like many things that are convenient, it is also counterfeit. God uses real friendships to shape and mold us for His glory.
Why Leaders Need a Band of Brothers More Than Anyone Else -Leaders Need Authentic Friendships
Not only are leaders in special need of accountability because of their position (James 3:1), but leaders need even more encouragement and support because of the difficulty of their work. Leaders also need to be part of a shared mission. Your effectiveness as a leader will always be limited if you strike out on your own to do things by yourself. You need to learn to compromise, submit, and ally yourself with the mission of others. This is what it means to be the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12).
Biblically, God’s calling on you to be part of the Body is equal to His calling on your life in your area of passion. There are things we learn by being in a team that we cannot learn any other way. And there are things that God does through us in a team that He will not do any other way. It may be that God’s first call on your life as a leader is to bind yourself with other people, and then to pursue the passion He has given you.
Most leaders do it the other way around. They have a dream from God and they pursue it above all else. If other people want to join them, fine. But if those people don’t agree or aren’t headed in the same direction in the same time frame, then these leaders leave them behind without a thought. The Scriptures teach something else. The Scriptures teach that we should work together as a body to help every Christian become mature in Christ. It is almost certain that God will not give you a dream without providing the context of relationships for it to be lived out.
Don’t abandon relationships quickly or easily. Perhaps God has things for you there that you won’t get anywhere else. Perhaps your ideas aren’t as good as you think. Perhaps you need to be on a different timetable. Whatever the case, submit yourself to a band of brothers for the glory of God. No matter the models of our culture, don’t go it alone as a leader. Allow God to place you in a band of brothers. Serve them, love them, fight for them, and allow them to do the same for you.
Small Groups are the Foundation of Ministry to People
The primary goal of the Ministry to People in the local church is to help people develop a deep, intimate relationship with Christ and each other. As people grow deeper in their relationships they will learn to accept one another as acquaintances, encourage one another as friends and exhort one another as brothers. Service to the church and the community will be a natural byproduct of their spiritual growth.
The “backbone” of Ministry to People should be small groups. All the life-changing activities of the Ministry to People will flow out of small groups. Chuck Swindoll has said, “A man without an accountability group is an accident waiting to happen.” Our primary tool to move people toward spiritual maturity will be small groups.
It is in the context of relationships that people grow spiritually. In small groups: people learn to apply God’s Word to their daily lives, leaders are developed, intimate friendships are established, trust and accountability are built, all resulting in the church growing spiritually and numerically.
Through small groups, people will have an opportunity to open up and share their joys and successes, as well as their struggles and pain. People need close friendships where they can process their thoughts, doubts, dreams, and frustrations. For many people, the bonds of friendship established in a small group will last a lifetime.
Benefits of Leading and Being Part of a Small Group
- Small groups provide an excellent environment for you to build deep, intimate friendships, which are often lacking in our society.
- Small groups build trust and accountability between people.
- Small groups are not centered on one person (a teacher). Within a group, people can encourage one another and share leadership. Not Bill’s or Tom’s, but our group.
- Small groups provide a great environment to develop leaders. This results in the multiplication of new groups (2 Timothy 2:2). Thus, you will see your church reach those outside the church and grow numerically and spiritually.
- The early church used small groups and grew rapidly (Matthew 28:18-20. Luke 6:12-16:1. Acts 2:42,46,47. Ephesians 4:14-16).
- Small groups provide a great opportunity for the individual to learn more about the Christian life and to grow spiritually.
- Small groups do not require an “expert” Bible teacher. Instead, a facilitator (leader) guides the group through a study.
- Small groups emphasize practical application (i.e., living out your faith in the workplace).
- Scripture tells us to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15. 1 Corinthians 12:26). In the church and outside the church there are too many people who have no one with which to do either. In a small group, people are no longer faced with this dilemma as deep friendships are established for a lifetime.
Small Groups Series:
- Leading Men’s Small Groups – Introduction
- Leading Men’s Small Groups – Success Keys 1-3
- Leading Men’s Small Groups – Success Keys 4-6
- Leading Men’s Small Groups – Success Keys 7-9
- Leading Men’s Small Groups – How To Support Men Going Through Difficult Times
(1) Left-click on the underlined phrase to open another article in a different tab with more explanation.
(2) This article adapted from the works of Nine Keys to Effective Small Group Leadership by Carl George, Man in the Mirror Ministry – Patrick Morley, Good Questions by Josh Hunt.