Imagine you have a large bowl of clear water in front of you. Next to the bowl are four different colors of food coloring; each color represents a different facet of a person’s spiritual growth. The first is red, which represents our time studying the word of God. As we read the word daily, it penetrates our lives and helps us to know God more intimately. The second color is blue and that represents our prayer time. As we present our requests to Go and we listen to him and get to know his voice, we are able to discern God’s will for our lives, The third color is yellow and it represents our church attendance. As we regularly attend a local church, we get to know people and people get to know us. We are identified as a fellow believer and we enjoy the gift of fellowship and sharing a meal together. The fourth color is green and it represents anything else we do (listen to Christian music, read Christian books, watch church on tv, anything we believe fills our souls. As a couple of drops of food coloring is added to the bowl, couple of interesting things happen:
1) Each color colors the water part way, but no color permeates the water completely to completely saturate the water. No one color is living up to its full potential.
2) Another thing to note is that each color is just passively sitting at the bottom, but none is actually transforming the water to something different.
3) If all the colors worked together, all of them together could use their properties to change the water.
4) All the colors are lacking the ability to individually transform the water.
What it is missing is something to stir it up. Small groups are the things in our lives that, if we let it, allow us to stir within us the gifts God has given us to transform not only our lives, but also the lives of others.
Even Jesus chose to spend his ministry time in a small group with his disciples. Mark 3:13-15 says, “Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons.” The two purposes of small groups, according to this passage, is for community (to be with him) and to reproduce them into leaders so that they may use the gifts they have been given and carry on the Gospel message to others. Similarly, the disciples understood the need for community. Acts 2:42-47 says, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.” The word devoted used here is defined as “completely loyal, to give all or a large part of one's time or resources to (a person, activity, or cause).” To achieve the deep intimacy and connection we all crave, we have to give our time and resources to invest in others. This may mean giving our time, energy and resources to achieve this. Small groups are a place where you can invest your time and resources.
But small groups are not a passive event. Small groups come with the expectation that each person will participate and be used. 1 Corinthians 14: 26 says, “What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.” While all the other activities we do individually during our week contribute to our spiritual growth, small groups help meet our needs for connection and community while allowing us to use the gifts we have been given to edify the church. But the key to intimacy and connection is this:
Information does not lead to transformation, but the application of that information does.
Small groups are the place where we can lay aside our burdens and allow others to carry our burdens with us. It’s the place where we can safely express our doubts and concerns about faith, and most importantly about God. Small groups create an environment where all members are sharpened so they may go deeper in their walk with God.
Here are three keys to achieving that success:
Vulnerability- be willing to share your story with others. You must model vulnerability by being vulnerable. Going beyond the surface and sharing your feelings with others establishes trust, and trust opens the gates to intimacy.
Authenticity- too often, we hide our feelings behind a mask. We say “fine,” when someone asks how we are, instead of telling them how we are really doing. The small group atmosphere is the place where we can share our true feelings and gives women license to spill their secrets.
Reliability- my father used to tell me “Half of life is showing up.” This is true, especially when it comes to small groups. Make small group a priority. Clear your calendar. The more consistently you attend, the other members will follow suit and trust is most quickly gained.
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