Continuing from the last issue with the topic of small groups, I would like to review Lyman Coleman’s three-legged stool approach. A Christian group needs to involve:
1. Bible study, or more broadly worship. Some groups sing. Each group I work with allots a significant time for prayer. And the Bible should always be our reference point. 2. An opportunity to tell our stories. Everybody has a story to tell and almost everybody wants somebody to hear it. These stories are seen against the backdrop of Scripture, which gives us ongoing instruction for living and encouragement in our various relationships. 3. A task. We need to look beyond ourselves. That might involve inviting others to the group and/or taking on some sort of service project. Much of the mercy ministry effort in the church I work with flows from the small groups. It could also be that the task would be primary with time allotted for the other elements such as a choir, Session or Board of Deacons.
Small group suggests a level of understanding that grows as people come to know each other better. And that is a significant inhibitor. Many of us don’t want to be known. This makes us vulnerable. If they really know me will they still accept me? I ask myself that question. Whether you ask it or not, there’s a real possibility that it makes you cautious in relationships.
Yet we long for meaningful relationships. Many of us are lonely and feel somewhat isolated. But we fear what might be entailed in attempting to really connect with others. So we choose to remove ourselves, limiting relationships to those that are casual and consequently non-threatening.
To get close to someone suggests caring for that person. And caring can be both costly and scary. Often when there is a death we don’t know what to say to the one grieving so we avoid the issue by avoiding the person. When there is a serious illness the tendency is to refrain from any mention of it. We don’t want to say the wrong thing so we say nothing. When there is public sin there is a tendency to talk about the sinner but not to the sinner. Yet if it’s a friend isn’t there an obligation?
It might surprise you to know that many who practice such avoidance are the clergy – people we tend to think of as professionals in relationships and the practice of caring.
Friendships carry obligations. To avoid those obligations, we must avoid friendships.
Christians have experienced the love of God in Christ. That love should cause us to love others the way we have been loved. One forum for that is a group where people learn to look out for each other, challenge one another and pray with and for each other all the while reflecting on the message from the God who has brought us together.
Are you involved with a group of Christians who are stimulating your growth in grace? If not, why not?