January is the perfect time to add more small groups. Tell your members small groups are important because:
1. Small groups move us out of self-centered isolation. It's the classroom for learning how to get along in God's family. It's a lab for practicing unselfish, sympathetic love. You learn to care about others and share the experiences of others: "If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts rejoice with it" (1 Cor. 12:26). Only in regular contact with ordinary, imperfect believers can we learn real fellowship and experience the connection God intends for us to have (Eph. 4:16, Rom. 12:4–5, Col. 2:19, 1 Cor. 12:25).
REAL fellowship is being as committed to each other as we are to Jesus Christ: "By this we know the love of God: that He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers" (1 John 3:16). This is the kind of sacrificial love God expects you to show other believers—loving them in the same way Jesus loves you.
2. Small groups help us develop spiritual muscle. You'll never grow to maturity just by attending worship services and being a passive spectator. One of the main tools of spiritual growth is participation in a small group, where your spiritual muscles get a regular workout. "... from whom the whole body is joined together and connected by every joint and ligament, as every part effectively does its work and grows, building itself up in love" (Eph. 4:16.)
Isolation breeds self-deception. It's easy to fool ourselves into thinking we're mature if there is no one to challenge us. Real maturity shows up in relationships. We need more than the Bible in order to grow; we need other believers. When others share what God is teaching them, I learn and grow too!
3. Small groups confirm our identity as genuine believers. I can't claim to be following Christ if I'm not committed to any specific group of disciples. Jesus said, "By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:35). When we come together in love as a small group from different backgrounds, ethnicities and social status, it's a witness to the world (Gal. 3:28, John 17:21). You're not the body of Christ on your own. You need others to express that. Together, not separated, we are his body (1 Cor. 12:27).
4. Small groups are the best way to share our God-given mission in the world. When Jesus walked the earth, even he had a small group. Today the church is Christ's body on earth. We're not just to love each other; we're to take that love together to the rest of the world. We're his hands, his feet, his eyes, and his heart. He works through us in the world "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, so that we should walk in them" (Eph. 2:10).
5. Small groups help keep us from spiritually backsliding. None of us are immune to temptation. Given the right situation, you and I are capable of any sin. God knows this, so he has assigned us as individuals the responsibility of keeping each other on track. The Bible says, "Exhort one another daily ... lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin (Heb. 3:13).
"Mind your own business" is not a Christian idea when it comes to helping each other. We're commanded to be involved in each other's lives. If you know someone who is wavering spiritually right now, it's your responsibility to go after them and bring them back into the fellowship. "If you know people who have wandered off from God's truth, don't write them off. Go after them. Get them back" (James 5:19a MSG).
Related to this is the benefit that being connected to a small group provides the spiritual protection of godly leaders. God gives shepherd leaders such as me the responsibility to guard, protect, defend and care for the spiritual welfare of his flock (Acts 20:28–29; 1 Peter 5:1–4; Hebrews 13:7, 17.). "Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they watch over your souls as those who must give an account" (Heb. 13:17).
If you're detached from the body of believers, I'm not responsible for you. If you are unplugged from the life of the body and isolated from the fellowship of God's family, Satan knows you'll be defenseless and powerless against his tactics.
6. The body of Christ needs you. You have a background and experiences that other people can learn from and draw strength from. God has a unique role for you to play in his family. This is called your "ministry," and God has gifted you for this assignment. "But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to everyone for the common good" (1 Cor. 12:7). Your small group is the place God designed for you to discover, develop and use your spiritual gifts and talents.
Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church. His book, The Purpose Driven Church, was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. He is also founder of pastors.com, a global internet community for pastors.
For the original article, visit pastors.com.
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