August 15, 2011

Inward To Outward

This is Part 3 in the series The Day the Small Group Died.

There is a trend - a movement - right now by many pastors and churches, striving to lead their people in true and authentic biblical ways. This trend is doing away with some of our church language from the last 10-20 years. In fact, it actually somewhat kills the title from this series. (Bummer.) Many churches are doing away with small groups. Yes, you heard it right! No more small groups, life groups, cell groups (never understood that one anyways) and birthing missional communities. This is not to say that they don't HAVE or DO small groups, but that they are no longer calling them by that name. The movement of missional community and one of the core purposes and visions behind it exposes another one of the deadly "small group killers". If you want to ensure that a group will at some point dissipate, implode, or ultimately DIE, here's another way to make sure it happens: Never move the focus of the group from INWARD to OUTWARD. Let me explain.

When you examine the first "small groups" - or being more simplistic, when you look at the first church in the New Testament - there was no segmentation of worshiping, growing, or serving. In other words, you didn't have one group of people you dug into the scriptures with, another that you went out and served the community or did service projects with, and a whole separate group of people you hung out with at the temple. You did LIFE together! You LIVED ON MISSION! And the reason why many groups cease to exist today is that while they got really good at gathering collective knowledge of the scriptures, they never experienced the life-changing transformation that comes with serving each other and serving together. There is a bond created when we serve for the sake of the Kingdom that cannot be forged down any other path. I think Jesus made it clear in John 13 and Mark 10 that not even He "came to be served but to serve, and to give up His life as a ransom for many." The pathway to greatness is through serving. And the road that bonds us together like no other in Christ is that of serving others for His Name sake.

And to take OUTWARD in a bit of another direction, groups have also always got to be purposefully and intentionally taking steps to grow - to reach more people, and to send people out. Groups are called to grow groups! And this doesn't have to mean the stereotypical group "split" that horrifies so many (for just reasons!). But if our groups aren't reaching people, is this not exposing that maybe what we're considering "growth" in our life is actually something counterfeit? The deeper the Gospel is rooted IN us, the more it spreads out FROM us! This is not to say that biblical, missional, small groups will cease to grow inward - that they will stop growing personally or individually. But it does mean that if the focus never moves to being equally OUTWARD, the group is being driven by something other than the Gospel and the Great Commission. 

Is your small group moving toward missional community?
If so, would love to hear the intentional steps you're taking in that direction.
If not, what's holding you back?

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