Friday, June 21, 2019

Small Groups on Mission

Over the years I have been a part of many small groups.  They are a great way to connect with other people.  By meeting frequently, you can keep up with what is going on in others lives and care for each other.  By discussing spiritual topics and sharing insight I have grown in my faith.  But the one area that we have failed to implement on a regular basis is to serve together.

Maybe this is why small group attendance starts out strong, and then slowly loses priority.  I was really struck by an excerpt from Jen Hatmaker's book Interrupted.   It's a bit long, but good food for thought...

"Obviously, geographic small groups are not new, but their purpose has often been limited by exclusivity: "This is our group for us to do life together." "Our six families have been together for four years." As small-group pastor for years, Brandon observed that community groups structured mainly for the benefit of their members have about a three-year shelf life.  At this point, the ties dissolve or the fellowship wanes, and they usually disband.

I believe more than simply losing interest, small groups like this evaporate because they aren't on mission, and frankly, that gets boring and unfulfilling.  How long can we sit in the same living room or Sunday school class with the same people talking about the same stuff?  How many discussions can we have about Sunday's sermon?  How long can we sacrifice a night a week for a basic repeat of the last gathering?  It runs out because we weren't created to serve ourselves; we're not wired to take the role of master, but slave.  Blessing blessed people eventually leaves us empty, and despite a church system designed to meet our needs, these words come out of our mouths: "I'm not being fed."

I believe the largest factor in feeling unfed is not feeding others.  It has less to do with your pastor's preaching style or the curriculum you're studying.  We have an innate craving to live on mission with God in the dangerous, exciting world.  Out there is where we come to life, get over ourselves, are fed.  Fulfillment exists in becoming a slave to everyone in order to win someone to Jesus.  Discipleship was never simply about learning; it was constructed on living...

If an endless array of Bible studies, programs, church events, and sermons have left you dry, please hear this: living on mission where you've been sent will transform your faith journey.  At the risks of oversimplifying it, I've seen missional living cure apathy better than any sermon, promote healing quicker than counseling, deepen discipleship more than Bible studies, and create converts more efficiently than events."

She goes on to explain how their small community groups function.  Two weeks a month they meet for traditional fellowship and discussion, one week for serving together in the community or with a nonprofit partner, and one week apart to intentionally live on mission (inviting neighbors over for dinner, hosting a game night, etc...).

There are obviously more opportunities to serve near a big city than a small town like I live in, but with some creativity I think this missional component could still be included.  It may just be the piece that's been missing.

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