Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Spineless Small-groups, Sycophants and Shallow Saved Sinners

     So, the other day, Twitter showed me this article written by Brian Jones over at the Christian Standard about Small groups and why they (essentially) don't work. The argument is that 90% of all church small groups only ever produce is self confident believers but not missional disciples. The artilce stresses the weakpoints of what I will call "Organized Community" that is, small groups that are organized and you sign up for. these have become pretty standard in evangelical churches. I have personally been a part of about four of these types of groups; two of those, I have led. The one thread that I have realised is that the article is right. Small groups, in an overwhelming majority of cases do nothing or next to nothing to make disciples. Which is a shame, because the heart of Christianity is community and loving others, but that can't be manufactured, it has to be real. The best growth I've seen in my own life has been accidental. 2am conversations in Bible College, impromptu prayer meetings, and the breakfast club that a few close friends and I started a few months ago. Those breakfast meetings are real, we share eachother's burdens, pray for each other, share our successes and failures and fears.

     I'd love to expand on this, but there's nothing I can add to what Jones says. He nailed it.



     I have been taught not to complain about something unless you have a solution to offer as well, so here is mine,  let's place less emphasis on small groups the way they are, namley a leader, in a chair, with a curriculum. let us instead preach and teach the value of intentional community and individual growth and discipleship. Followers of Christ need to take responsibility of their own part in the process of sanctification, not to minimize the work of the Spirit, but if we are not open to Him, His words will fall on deaf ears.

With love for Christ and His church


  1. Oh wow, I can't believe you agree with such a blustering, empty, negative tirade my friend.
    I hate to break it to you, but our breakfast group IS a small group. Someone suggested it, a few of us agreed on a day/time, and we meet together regularly to talk and pray. That's a small group just like any church small group.

    There's NOTHING wrong with small groups, it's only the details of what should be done with them. Yes, they should have wise, godly leaders. And yes, they should be more meaningful than simply reading from a book. But small groups are an effective way of helping believers to learn more about the Bible, and that's EXTREMELY important.

    I cannot, for the life of me, imagine how a group of believers asking to be taught about the Bible within a small group could be a bad thing, unless badly led. As someone who wants to teach the Bible, what could be better for us than have 5, 6, 7 people who are willing to regularly meet and discuss the Bible with us. And in such a small group setting discussions can be more intimate than in a larger scale.

    Not to mention, this spontaneous small group gatherings that he's talking about (which are no different than organized church ones other than superficially btw) may have happened nicely for him, but frankly it just doesn't happen with many MANY Christians, let alone with people who have studied enough to answer their questions. If spontaneous things happen, good, but that doesn't mean we bash/throw out organized things.

    Ugh, i could go on but I've got homework to do.

    Sorry if my comment sounds harsh, but I know we're good enough friends that it won't bother ya.

  2. Bill

    For a guy who holds context with such a high regard that you would just simply ignore what I| was saying in my own comments. Or maybe this is on me; I wasn't clear, perhaps.

    Yes, you are right, our group is a small group, in a sense, but who is the leader Bill? I don't think we have one. When I talk about breakfast with people, I frame it as a bunch of guys who get together to invest in each others lives, because that's what it is. I don't say "I'm going to small group." I say: "I'm going to breakfast with the guys."

    While you're right, the harshness of your comment doesn't bother me, I am surprised and a little dissapointed in it at the same time. I say this because I just finished reading your own post where you quote Drew Dyck and say:"they were regularly shut down when they expressed doubts. Some were ridiculed in front of peers" Now I have no illusions of grandeur, I get a bit of traffic on this blog from StumbleUpon, but most of it is from peers, like you. So to have you do, in the public of the Internet exactly what you just railed against yourself hurt a bit more than your actual words. I'm a big boy though, I'll get over that.

    On to your actual concerns though, Like I said, you're right, we are in the strict sense, a small group, but we're one of those accidental groups Jones mentions. No one stumbles into discipleship, it is an intentional thing, even the accidents are intentional. Tell me that you've seen great growth and discipling at all of the small groups you signed up for in church, I doubt it. Fact is, small groups, as they are in churches currently don't produce good fruit. I don't think you need little old me to remind you what our Lord says about trees that don't bear good fruit.

    You're right about one thing though, we shouldn't throw out organized small groups, but we also shouldn't leave them let them atrophy the way they have been.

    I've amended my main post, I added something that was left out and should have been originally included, I've done this because your post reminded me of something...

    See you Monday morning then?

  3. My apologies Kevin. I'd edit my comment if I could. Feel free to delete it.
    It was not at all a thoughtful response, but a kneejerk reaction written late at night.
    Sorry dude.

  4. No apologies required brother.

    I actually apreciate the back and forth on a pulblic forum like this. It lets the world know how two mature* believers handle conflict.


    *Not that I/we are finished maturing by any stretch, our wives can attest to that I'm sure.

  5. No, how about YOU handle conflict, NERD!

    ...wait, what were you saying about maturing?

    But seriously, and back to topic, I think you are overestimating the opportunities that people have to encounter such groups outside of ones that the church helps organize/facilitate.
    Heritage students are a particular kind of Christian, one clearly significantly dedicated (for the most part, or they'd have gone somewhere else).
    Also, I personally have experienced growth and discipleship within a church established group. It can be a great situation in which to learn about the Bible, which is always a worthwhile use of time and effort.

  6. I haven't read this article. But, I believe Brian Jones comments could be extended to the whole church and to mentoring relationships too that are not particularly effective as well.
    The issue with small groups is whether or not people are able to and are being genuine and true in the group setting. When they reflect are they are looking in the mirror and seeing the true reflection of themselves? And how possible is this at any given time? The Bible says that "now we see in part and then we will see in whole". We only see and change according to what we can accurately see by the grace of God in our lives and that depends on our world views which are being transformed by God etc. etc..
    There is simply some higher potential in a smaller group for true community to emerge and for key friendships to develop to be supportive.
    Really, it would be ridiculous to put all the stress of discipleship on small groups.
    Small groups are part of an overall strategy in the believers life - as are Sunday morning church, significant reciprocating relationships, stimulating books, plays which may work powerfully in our lives to change us for good.
    Discipleship is not in "one bag" - it is really God who works through whatever means - a friendship, a small group,big church service, a movie(which may not have been written to glorify God particularly) or beyond to cause us to will and to do for His glory and great pleasure.