Small groups: “You can run but you can’t hide!”

When my wife and I and our two sons attended an indy fundy church back in the 1980s, thesg worship service schedule, typical of many other evangelical/fundamentalist churches at the time, went like this:

Sunday School: 9-10 a.m.
Worship Service: 10-11 a.m.
Evening Service: 7-8 p.m.

Evening Service: 7-8 p.m. Many churches often referred to this mid-week service as a “Bible study” although at our church it was the exact same format as the Sunday morning and evening worship services.

It was somewhat expected that a committed church member would attend all four services.

Back then, I hadn’t heard of such a thing as a “small group.” Frankly, there was no time for a small group meeting during the week given the above church schedule. Just about everyone in that 150-member congregation was on a first-name basis anyway with all that contact. Well, we left that church and I subsequently walked away from the Lord for many years but when I returned to Him a couple of years ago I found the church landscape had changed quite a bit. For many churches, especially the increasingly popular mega-churches, the worship service schedule consists of a single Sunday morning service. Period. There’s no Sunday School or Sunday evening or Wednesday evening services. Large churches offset the impersonal environment of their single Sunday service with mid-week small group meetings where members can disciple and support each other in a much more personal setting.

About fifteen months ago, we began attending a non-denominational mega-church (with Baptist roots) and we initially appreciated the anonymity afforded by such a setting. We could nod hello, shake a few hands, worship the Lord in song, hear the sermon, and leave. No muss, no fuss. We didn’t “bother” anyone and no one “bothered” us. After a couple of “sour” experiences at our previous churches, my wife and I had pledged several times to each other that we would never again be in anyone’s back pocket when it came to church, even though we knew our preferred anonymous, arms-length relationship with others in the congregation wasn’t Biblical.

Our new church regularly encourages people to join a small group. The idea began to appeal to me but I wasn’t going to bring it up to my wife. If the Lord wanted us to join a small group, He would work it out. A couple of months ago, a person at church caught us before we could make our getaway and asked if we were members of a group. She turned out to be a group leader and invited us to join. My wife confessed she had been agreeable to joining a group but, like me, wasn’t going to be the one to bring it up. All I can say is the Lord MUST have a sense of humor

Since joining our 18-member group (quite a bit larger than the “optimum” 12) we’ve shared a meal at a restaurant, did some Christmas caroling at a nursing home, and attended the first meeting of the new semester last week. At the meeting, we discussed the previous Sunday’s sermon and what it meant in our lives followed by the men and women splitting up into separate groups for prayer. My wife and I are slowly getting to know everyone and we’re already receiving blessings. Christianity isn’t living life in an isolation booth, it’s reaching out to the lost with the Gospel and it’s also reaching out to brothers and sisters in Christ and allowing them to reach out to you.

“And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” – Mark 10:42-45.

The bottom line for groups and everything else in the life of a believer: The focus should be on Jesus Christ, Savior and Lord! He will never disappoint.

Postscript: I looked up the history of the concept of small groups at church and found smatterings of information here and there. Small church groups have been popular for decades so, once again, I’m late to the party. It would make sense that large churches would incorporate small groups to complement the large, impersonal Sunday service.

21 thoughts on “Small groups: “You can run but you can’t hide!”

  1. The true Christian life is tough to live once you’ve been burned. Maybe that’s why the enemy burns us. It took me years to integrate into the group I’ve found now because of my arms-length approach. I only wish it had happened sooner. Glad it happened for you!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I like the small group idea it creates community within the church body. But also it helps people to make friends especially if they are in a mega church. Ian’s also it helps you to apply Gods word to your life while you are helping others grow in their relationship with Christ. I joined a small group at my new church.

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      1. You are right, I think, Tom. Honestly, we really all like to hang out together anyway.

        Want to hear something funny..and really cool? You know, we have many more kids than ever before. Even on Sunday morning, we will have 25 kids. That’s out of 100 people. All the kids sit on the front two pews on the right side of the sanctuary. What is so cool, is that is also the side where the real old timers tend to sit. When I look over and see people from 6 to 96 all within arms length of each other…it warms my heart.

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      2. Your comment brought a smile to my face, Wally. That’s great that your church has so many kids attending. And I know in a church like yours everyone is watching out for those children. I pray they always follow the Lord and return to Him when they don’t.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. It’s an awesome thing, Tom. Yes, sometimes it’s like these kids have 75 parents. Which is good, because frankly some of the ones we bring to church don’t have much in the way of parenting. It’s so sad. Our little van picks up several from just down the road from us, but none of the adults come. There is one teenager from down there who loads up a car load sometimes…but still no adults. I cruise through their little settlement a couple of times a year talking, but nothing. Check this out, though, as proof we never know what our seeds do sometimes, but occasionally we get to see.

        That teenage kid I mentioned? About a month ago he knocked on my door asking if I went to the church up the road and asked what time we started and stuff. I told him, and that night I asked what made him come down. He had moved in with his sister, who me and a fellow had visited almost two years ago. When her brother asked about church all she could remember was “some guy down that way.”

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      4. That’s great about that teen and him bringing kids to church! Yes, the Lord takes a few of our little sardines and multiplies beyond measure. Great stuff!!!

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    1. Our old, old church – 1983-1991 – had no home Bible studies but had the full weekly service schedule. Our previous SBC church – 2014-2015 – had only a Sunday a.m. Sunday School and worship service but the young pastor was trying to get small groups off the ground.

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      1. Got it. I asked about the Bible study because I have seen some churches make a distinction between small group and Bible studies. Which was strange for me the first time I heard it…

        Liked by 1 person

      2. The pastor of our indy fundy church back in the 80s probably would have said they didn’t need small groups because of the intense Scripture study during the four church sessions each week. They did dig into the Word pretty deeply. But I think there’s more of a chance to connect with others in a small group setting as far as personal issues go. If a person is struggling with something and needs help there’s a better chance that will get communicated in an informal group setting rather than at church. What do you think about that? Does your church have small groups that meet outside of church?

        Liked by 1 person

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