In Christian circles, when one mentions a “small group,” we immediately know what he/she is talking about. It’s a group of 4-12 people who meet together to share life and study the Bible.
As the popularity of these groups has risen and as they have become an elemental part of church life, I continue to think through how Jesus’ led his small group of disciples. (I think small groups have always played a significant role in churches though we may not have officially organized them or labeled them “small groups”).
There has been no greater resource in helping me reflect upon how Jesus’ led his disciples than The Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert Coleman. The value in this book is not just “how” Jesus’ led his disciples, but “why?”
Jesus’ led his group based upon what God was doing in the world. For Jesus’, this group was bigger than just meeting for personal piety. Jesus called these guys together to change the world. They had purpose. He was leading them to become “fishers of men.”
Coleman points out 8 characteristics of Jesus’ leadership over his disciples. I find them helpful in thinking through leading a small group with the purpose of engaging in the mission of God.
- Men were his method.
- Concentrated upon a few.
- “Everything that is done with the few is for the salvation of the multitudes.”
- Jesus stayed with them and was the model for them.
- It takes time.
- “When will the church learn the lesson? Building and growing people is not that easy.”
- Jesus required obedience.
- Count the cost.
- Where is the obedience of the cross?
- The giving of the Spirit.
- “We must have Christ’s life in us by the Spirit if we are to do His work and practice His teaching. Any evangelistic work without this is as lifeless as it is meaningless. Only as they Spirit of Christ in us exalts the Son are men drawn unto the Father.”
- Jesus showed them how to live.
- Jesus showed them how to pray.
- Class was always in session.
- Jesus assigned them work to do.
- He gave them practical assignments.
- Jesus kept check on them.
- Patience was required.
- “The criteria upon which a church should measure its success is not how many new names are added to the roll nor how much the budget is increased, but rather how many Christians are actively winning souls and training them to win the multitudes.”
So, if you are a small group leader, or are in a small group, should your group not have the same focus of Jesus’ group? Shouldn’t the group’s focus be upon becoming involved in the mission of God? Shouldn’t your group be developing disciples who make disciples who make disciples and so on and so on?
I realize these are some tough questions, but they are ones I continue to ask myself in relation to why I do small groups.