I was inspired to write this post as I left the most recent meeting of the small group bible study that I’m part of. I get together with a home bible study group every two weeks and as I laid in bed after our last meeting I got to thinking about how immensely valuable small groups can be: for emotional support, spiritual support, prayer, and even the growth and strengthening of the Church!
Before I go too much further, you’ll notice that my title is “why Satan hates your small group“… now while I believe there are SO many benefits to small groups (that the Enemy hates!) I also want to acknowledge that there are definitely situations in which Satan actually loves small groups because of the footholds he can get within them- I’m talking about things like jealousy, heads butting over differences, disunity, lack of vision, gossip and complaining, or non-constructive vulnerability that leads to everyone settling for a lower standard rather than encouraging one another towards higher standards.
I’m no stranger to some of these scenarios because I’ve definitely experienced or heard of a number of these issues arising within small groups! But while I add this disclaimer, my main point of this post is to actually talk about the great value in being a part of this type of community- because that’s what a small group is: A community.
I don’t want anyone to read into this the wrong way, but when I started thinking and researching into it more I realized that the Bible actually doesn’t talk a whole lot about large group corporate style Church. Once Jesus resurrected and the new covenant began, the Church actually looked a lot different…most of the believers who were part of the body of Christ met together in homes in smaller groups, and as a larger group of believers they were very active in their communities and cities, seeking justice and spreading the gospel and helping and supporting those in need. They were like one giant family. There are even passages that talk about how the various individuals and families would share all of their possessions and almost pool them together in such a way where each person would have access to everything that they needed. Doesn’t that sound like a bit of a different picture from what the Church has become today??
Now I know there are various factors that play into the differences of what Church looked like back then compared to what it looks like now (and I’m pretty interested in doing a whole separate blog post on that eventually!), but sometimes I wonder if we’ve strayed too far from what the community of believers should look like…?
It’s wonderful to be able to hear the Word and worship together with a large body of believers, but when small group discussion, serving in the community together, and more intimate opportunity for personal prayer requests and prayer are neglected it can have detrimental effects on the growth of the Church and the individuals who make up that Church. After all…the health of a Church is the product of the health of the individuals within the Church, isn’t it?
So it might be good to briefly discuss the differences between fellowship and community. What are the differences, or, are they even different?
Fellowship= to have friendly companionship, socialize with, spend time together.
Community= Fellowship as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, goals and vision.
I suppose it’s important for us to then personally reflect on the question: Am I staying at the “fellowship level” with people, or am I becoming a part of an intimate community?
I really don’t believe that anyone can thrive, especially spiritually, without a community of people surrounding them.
When I first gave my life to Christ, it felt like a very difficult uphill battle. I didn’t have anyone mentoring or encouraging me and didn’t really have anyone I felt comfortable turning to or leaning on when I needed some wisdom or insight- or even just a supportive hug. I often wrestled with thoughts of not being good enough. I would compare myself with other Christians or feel that others were comparing me and I was always coming up short. I felt like I had to try really hard to prove myself and got pretty good at answering with the classic “good” when asked how I was doing. In reality, I was often feeling far from “good”. I could have benefitted greatly from a community of support at that time.
As I shared in the Mission section of my blog, I very passionately believe that each one of us needs spiritual “training partners” in order to run the race victoriously! And that’s exactly what my small group has become for me: training partners as we all support one another in running the race victoriously.
I’d love to share a few ways that I’ve been super blessed by my small group, and simultaneously encourage you to consider the benefits of becoming part of this type of a community.
Why bother with a Small Group?
1. Transparency and Vulnerability. In a large group setting it’s pretttyyyy difficult to feel comfortable being vulnerable about struggles or deep valleys you’re going through. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t share things with everyone- there’s a time and place for that so the Church can be praying for and encouraging you- but there are honestly some things that are just really tough or not safe to share with the world. In those moments where do you turn? Do you have a solid group of people that you can be real with? People that you can cry with, laugh with, celebrate with and share your pain with?
I find that our small group has become a very healthy, constructive outlet for letting your guard down and being real. After all, if the body of Christ can’t be real with each other then how can we be authentic with the world around us? Will they just see us wearing masks?
“Carry one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” Galatians 6:2
2. Peer Mentoring. I recently read a book by Stanley & Clinton that had a graphic in it called “The Mentoring Constellation”. It outlined the importance of having both Vertical and Horizontal Mentorship. Vertical Mentorship would include Upward (receiving from mature mentors) and Downward (Mentoring those who are less mature). The Horizontal Mentorship is peer mentorship. Here is a quote I pulled out of the book to help elaborate on this type of mentorship:
“Our peers are our friends, those with whom we naturally relate because we have so many things in common: age, families, circumstances, experiences, etc. Peers are the vital lateral dimension of the constellation model of mentorship. A great sources of mutual encouragement and protection lies within them. Unlike the vertical dimension mentors, peers are the same age and share more common experiences. This allows them to be more relaxed, relevant and open with one another. It’s precisely these qualities in the relationship that enable peers to stimulate, interact, and hold one another accountable at a more personal level. They can and will shoot straight with us as well as empathize with our concerns and challenges, as they undoubtedly face many of the same ones. We can expect understanding, confidentiality, and support.”
Each of us has our own experiences which are valuable to bring to the table when it comes to teaching and encouraging each other. It’s important to not minimize that which God has brought you through in order to teach others! We each come with our own unique stories, experiences and ways of learning that can be so beneficial when coming alongside others. That’s a lot of what mentoring is all about.
“I myself am convinced, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with knowledge and competent to instruct one another.” Romans 15:14
3. Encouragement and Edification. This doesn’t need a whole lot of elaborating, and yet I can’t stress enough the value of this point. There’s a difference between hearing an edifying sermon and being edified by a time of fellowship with people who love and care about you like a family. There’s a difference between being encouraged by a nice time of worship at Church and being encouraged by time of intimate worship together with a small group. I can’t fully explain it….but there’s just a difference. Neither is right or wrong, but there sure is something about studying God’s word and praying together with a small group that leaves you feeling empowered, refreshed, and strengthened for the week ahead.
“Therefore encourage and comfort one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11
“The Word of God is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17
4. Prayer. Last time our group met we had every intention of continuing to study through Titus together and yet instead we got SO caught up in the time of sharing prayer requests that we spent the entirety of two hours sharing what’s all been going on in our lives! There were testimonies of God’s goodness and provision, times of raw honesty and tears, and opportunities to bring burdens of friends and loved ones to the table as well. This type of prayer request sharing I have only ever experienced in a small group setting.
“Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or more gather in my name, I will certainly be there with them.” Matthew 18:19-20
There’s also something very incredible and special about knowing that each week there is a list of prayer requests that each member of the group is praying over, even when we’re not together. I am being covered in prayer. And at any given moment I can freely throw another prayer request into our group chat and know that it will be prayed for.
5. Worship in a more intimate setting. There’s also something very beautiful and simple about worshipping God together in a small group, informal and unrehearsed setting. On a few occasions we’ve had only a guitar or no instruments at all, and regardless of how what our singing voices sound like we’re raising our hearts up to God together as a group.
This type of soul-engaging worship opens your heart up even more: to learn, to grow, to have confidence to speak and share, and to testify of God’s faithfulness in your life.
“Let the word of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms and hymns and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” Colossians 3:16
6. Accountability. Whether someone is struggling with making time with God a priority, struggling with a specific area of sin or promising to start implementing a new discipline or act of obedience, it’s awesome to have accountability partners! This doesn’t always even need to be a group, but can be a couple people that you trust and need prompting and encouragement from. Daily texts, weekly check-in’s….whatever that might look like.
“Now encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “today”, so that none of you are hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” Hebrews 3:13
Now let’s not forget about the seemingly endless list of things that go along with being a believer of Christ! There are so many commissions that we’re supposed to live out as Christians: making disciples, sharing our faith, fruit of the Spirit and knowing the Word of God are just a few to mention…. I think small groups hold a unique opportunity to be able to mutually encourage living out the Word of God! It’s a way of all growing as disciples together.
7. Awareness of gifts and growing in the ability to lead. This one is also SO valuable in the bigger picture of the Church as a whole!! It’s so awesome to see individuals becoming aware of and empowered to use their different gifts. Whether that’s leading, encouraging, organizing, music, service projects, finding resources, teaching or anything else…can you imagine how much stronger The Church as a whole would be if its individual members were enabled in this way?
It doesn’t always start big- in fact, it often starts small. Small groups allow for that discovery and growth in an environment that’s safe, comfortable, supportive, and will provide constructive feedback.
“For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We each have different gifts, according to the grace given us….” Romans 12:4-10
8. Serving together. Doing service and outreach alone can be really challenging for a variety of reasons. Some people lack the motivation or drive to plan something, others struggle with thinking of where or how to serve, and there are many individuals who don’t have courage or boldness to get out of their comfort zone on their own. These obstacles to serving are much more common than you’d think! So…how do we overcome some of those obstacles?
You’ll notice that even in the Bible God rarely sent someone alone. People were always sent together to serve or fulfill His commission:
- The disciples were sent in pairs
- Moses and Aaron
- The “seventy” were sent out two by two (Luke 10:1)
- Paul and Barnabas (Acts 9:27)
- Paul and Silas (Acts 15:40)
- Timothy and Erastus (Acts 19:22)
I could share more examples, but my point with this is that the New Testament shows us a new pattern for sharing the gospel: Two or more disciples are sent together. Many of the reasons for this were already outlined above! Accountability, mutual encouragement, maximizing the use of people’s spiritual gifts and learning from one another are a few of the valuable reasons that we’re not meant to do this alone.
Teamwork in this way is also pleasing to God as individuals set aside differences of opinion or desires to become united with a common goal or purpose. In this case, serving others. Whether that’s a group of lonely seniors, a struggling family, some homeless individuals, community members or other forms of service, it’s beautiful to get to do God’s work together with others.
I am fully and passionately convinced that Small Group Communities within the Church are invaluable. If the list I shared hasn’t already convinced you, I’d encourage you to pray over it some more. I’ve personally experienced the benefits of doing life and running the spiritual race together with a group of believers who will challenge, encourage, motivate and empower me. The time sacrificed to invest into that type of community is irreplaceable.
If you don’t already have yourself surrounded by this type of community, I’ll be praying for you as you find the right people to walk alongside!
Let’s become God-centred communities that serve to grow spiritually, become equipped, and be mobilized as God’s Church in the world around us. Let’s become a force to be reckoned with- one that Satan hates because of our positive impact in the Church and for all eternity!