Our culture thrives on independence. People continually seek to prove they have what it takes to make it on their own. We each dream of living our own personal self-made success story. We say we value community, but our actions often reflect otherwise. In this blog I share three benefits of small groups.
The COVID-19 pandemic studies have revealed that being isolated has devastating effects on our minds, emotions, and spiritual
Virtual community, though somewhat beneficial, is not the answer for long-term emotional, physical, and spiritual health.
health. No matter how much the media pushes the “you are not alone” mantra, the fact is, without community—interaction on a physical level (not just a virtual one)—we feel alone. Virtual community, though somewhat beneficial, is not the answer for long-term emotional, physical, and spiritual health. Jeremy Painter recently observed that “our virtual worlds are only virtual investments.” We want to remember the words of Matthew and “lay up for [ourselves] treasures in heaven” (6:19–21).
God observed in the Garden of Eden that it was “not good that man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18, NKJV). This was not just a statement about the need for marital connection but a profound truth that revealed the nature with which we were created—we were made to be in community with others.
True Community Leads to Personal Growth and Spiritual Transformation
True community leads to personal growth and spiritual transformation. As the church, we are most interested in loving God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and loving our neighbors as ourselves. This is done best in community.
For true transformational discipleship to take place, believers must be connected to a community. A large community is important—gatherings at church, for example, but a small community offers encouragement on different levels.
It is easy to hide in a large group. And when we aren’t involved, we don’t grow. As uncomfortable as it may be, we need others to help pull us out of the shadows of isolation and into the light of community. The small-group community is poised to do just that. In their book Transformational Groups, Ed Stetzer and Eric Greiger point out that “[t]ransformation is a communal experience, not an individual exercise.”
With transformation in mind, let’s look at three benefits of a small-group community.
We Learn Best in Community
Personal study is a dead end. In fact, no one can study “on their own.” Even with personal study, we rely on others—their writings, their observations, their opinions, and their knowledge. These resources challenge us to think differently. However, this type of learning lacks the robust nature and synergy that can come from a physical community.
When we are exposed to the ideas, thoughts, and observations of people in close proximity, like a small group, the opportunity to learn and grow is exponentially greater. We are not only challenged to a greater degree by others with similar spiritual aspirations, but a small group community provides the opportunity to express our own ideas, thoughts, and observations to others. As we share, these beliefs solidify and become a more permanent part of our being.
We Are Happiest in Community
Even the introvert, if honest, will admit that having friends, family, or a few close confidants makes life much more enjoyable.
It was just Jesus and twelve others.
No one likes living alone—it doesn’t matter what anyone says. Sure, they may prefer a solitary life because their personality cries out for quiet and stillness. But no one likes to be completely disconnected from every single person in the world. We all crave connection, no matter how severe the introversion. As an introvert myself, I find joy in community. When I make room for people, I find happiness and fulfillment.
We Find Truth in Community
No one hears the gospel in silence. The gospel is not something one can ascertain by climbing a mountain and meditating on the amazing view from the top. The gospel is not an intuitive piece of knowledge that suddenly comes to those who are looking for answers to life’s questions. The gospel is rooted in history and a community of believers. The message of the gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ—a message that must be shared for someone to receive and obey it. People hear the gospel in community. Thus we find salvation by coming in contact with the body of Christ—a community of believers.The gospel is rooted in history and a community of believers. Click To Tweet
Finally, if we are to become true disciples of Jesus Christ, let us consider what discipleship looked like in the New Testament. Yes, developing into a mature disciple of Jesus Christ will require much of the individual disciple. It will take time, patience, and ultimately the transforming power of the Spirit to bring about the finished work. However, if we are to take our cue from the greatest disciple-maker of all, we can clearly see the environment He felt was most conducive to disciple-making: It was just Jesus and twelve others. Nothing big. Nothing grand. Just a small group—a life-changing community.
Bio: Jonathan is the adult editor for Word Aflame Curriculum and The Discipleship Project. He also serves as campus pastor at Urshan College and Urshan Graduate School of Theology. Jonathan and his family live in St. Charles, Missouri.
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