Purpose of the Local Church:
God is a relational God. He wants to have a relationship with us. He wants us to have relationships with one another. When we are planted in a local church, we are able to build relationships and live out the commands addressed to Christians in the New Testament. We can love one another and meet one another's needs proving to the world that we really are His disciples. There is the protection of accountability. There are stronger Christians who we can model our lives after and weaker Christians we can help grow to maturity. Small groups foster relationship building.
While the is a common purpose and goal shared by all local churches (making disciples, worshipping God, reaching the lost), each local church has an unique calling and purpose. One local church might be very strong in teaching the Word of God and strong doctrine. One local church might be actively reaching a poor neighborhood meeting practical needs and sharing the love of Jesus. One church may be filled with gifted artists, actors, and musicians who are winning the lost to Christ through the arts: drama, music, paintings, and sculpture. Most local churches attempt to be balanced, but truthfully, one church cannot do all there is to do.
Experiencing the Call on your Local Church
The local pastors, elders and others leaders attempt to hear from God and determine His vision for the church. Then they motivate and equip the rest of the congregation to fulfill that vision.
There will be a desire to care for the flock, reach the unsaved and love the Lord through worship, but these things may have an unique flair or style that is different from other churches. One local church's worship may be especially enthusiastic and demonstrative. Another church's worship may be more formal and dignified. One church may feel called to make disciples of the nations by reaching out to international students, taking lots of short-term mission trips and spending lots of their revenue on foreign missions. Another church may just support one missionary but be very active in training their congregation to share the Gospel and do lots of contact evangelism.
Small groups are a place to learn what beats in the heart of the church.
Living out our Family Responsibilities:
Bearing One Another's Burdens.
Restoring One Another.
Praying for One Another.
Teaching & Admonishing One Another.
Refreshing One Another.
Encouraging One Another.
Forgiving One Another.
Confessing Sin to One Another.
Being Truthful with One Another.
Stimulating One Another to Love & Good Deeds.
Giving to One Another.
Every responsibility above can be practiced easily and naturally in a small group setting. We can obey God and fulfill our duties to our fellow believers.
Reaching the Lost:
Small groups have an advantage over church-wide and individual attempts to reach the lost. Small groups give one another prayer and emotional support as they reach out together rather than alone. They are also small enough that unbelievers can be comfortable in the small group. There are enough people to meet someone they have a common interest in but not the overwhelming feeling of a large group.
Small groups can reach out to people through casual BBQs, video or game nights, and relaxed socials. Or the entire small group can lend practical help to a group member's unsaved friend, neighbor or family member. One of our small group member's neighbor commented that he always saw the church people around helping or having fun together. That impressed him. "You guys are like a big family," he said, "That's cool!" That is a step toward softening his heart for the Gospel.
New Christians can be mentored effectively and lovingly by a small group. They pick up godly habits such as daily devotions, godly childrearing techniques, and kind behavior directed toward one's spouse. They learn to pray by hearing others pray in a small group and eventually have the courage to pray aloud on their own.
Fellowship tends toward intimacy in a small group and several people can "care" for the new believers. There is opportunity to hear the Bible taught, Biblical principles applied to life, and hear examples of how others are applying Scripture to their lives. Much is "caught" in a small group by the new convert as he watches and imitates others serving Christ.
Older believers can disciple one another by instructing one another in the word, praying with and for one another, encouraging one another and imitating one another's godly example.
Using Your Spiritual Gifts to Build up the Church:
A small group is the perfect place to begin to operate in your spiritual gifting. It is much easier for most people to share a word of encouragement, a hymn, or pray for healing in the small group rather than the large meeting.
There is less intimidation due to fewer people being present. There is also an opportunity to encourage and affirm people as they step out. And if the person needs to grow in hearing from the Lord accurately, then small groups are ideal for receiving correction and emerging in wisdom.
In a relaxed setting, there is freedom, time and opportunity to step out and use your gifts to build up the body.
Receiving Pastoral Care:
Once a church reaches a certain size, it is hard to receive personal pastoral care.
Often pastors are busy with people struggling through difficult situations and training their leaders. In a small group setting, the leader can provide pastoral care by knowing how all of his group members are doing spiritually, physically, economically and emotionally. He can help each member grow in the Lord with teaching, encouragement, challenging and accountability. He can train group members to witness, minister and use their spiritual gifts.
If the group is small enough, he can know each member personally and they can know him and his family. As the pastor cares for the small group leaders, the pastor can keep up with each member's life and needs. As needed, the pastor can intervene to give counsel and care. People in small groups often feel a strong sense of personal care and desire to grow in the Lord and give that kind of care to others.
I urge you to jump into a small group at your local church and experience the joy of church family in a deeper way.
For His Glory,