When it comes to small groups, what you put into it and how you do that matter significantly and affects the quality of what comes out an how that impacts the world.
When it comes to cake making, what you eat and enjoy is largely dependent on what went into it and how it was put together. I didn’t just revolutionize the annals of culinary excellence with that esoteric revelation because the principle behind that statement may be considered a basic fact of life applicable to so many other facets of life. I don’t believe that simply what you put in is what you get out but more, “what you put in and how you put it in determines the quality of what comes out.” We now understand that ‘practice doesn’t necessarily make perfect’, but ‘perfect practice’ or high quality practice results in better results. This is true in business, sports, family, the arts, and…no surprise here…the church, more specifically, the small group community. To be clear, by small group, I am referring to a group of like-minded followers of Christ, at varying stages of spiritual pilgrimage, who commit to doing life together: they embrace His life individually, they share His life corporately, and give away that life to the world sacrificially, with the shared priority of becoming more like Christ.
At my current church, Forest Hill, the basic DNA of community is the holistic integration of 3 main components that facilitate personal and group transformation: CARE-the way we connect to, celebrate and care for one another; GROWTH-our learning and applying biblical truth to our lives; IMPACT-sharing the love of Christ in our community through compassionate service. Quite frankly with the books I’ve read and churches I have visited (clearly not exhaustive) I have yet to see the blend of these three components interwoven into the fabric of biblical community. Clearly, we are not a church who is doing it perfectly, and there are places we need to improve upon and strive to do so, but I do believe we (like many churches) are moving closer to being the kind of 21st Century New Testament church that will honor Christ.
Personally, the bulk of my church experience is more traditional in form: where the church building was the facility center of church life and community impact. Though the Great Commission bids us “Go into all the world and make disciples…” the traditional church, sometimes referred to as the “institutional church”, bids disciples to go into all the world and bring their friends back to the building! That’s a far cry from what I believe Jesus intended for His Church BC (before campuses)….but that’s a whole different topic!
In the more traditional church, transformational community is unfortunately an assumed achievement simply through the ministry of charismatic communicators, successful capital campaigns, impressive campus expansions, and creative, abundant, niche-marketed programming. Simply put: “we built it…they came…and they became.” But even churches, like the mega-church Willow Creek Community, in Illinois, have discovered that simply because ‘we built it and they came’ didn’t mean that they were transformed. Transformation within a church cannot be legitimate at the macro level if it is not being lived out at the micro level — within individuals and the intentional communities they belong to, the small groups.
Being in a church with a somewhat different paradigm, though many similar aspects, I have been able to identify essential ingredients I believe that when added in proportionate amounts, blended and mixed in with spiritual care and intentionality, that they can be catalytic and contributive to a transformational community where Christ is truly honored as Lord and Life. I will share that in a subsequent post, but let me close this one highlighting again that when it comes to small groups, what you put into it and how you do that matter significantly and affects the quality of what comes out an how that impacts the world.