A couple of nights ago, our small group gathered together as is our weekly custom, to study God’s Word and share our spiritual journeys over the past week. There was a certain element of anticipation as we anticipated that most everyone in the group would be in attendance.
Over the past 35 years, I have grown in my conviction that a balanced spiritual walk requires both a large corporate experience and a more intimate small group experience on a regular , ideally weekly, basis. (This pattern was set forth clearly in the early church in Acts 2:44-48)
And though this group is much like a number of the others that we have shared over the years, one of the unique characteristics of the 12 or so members is that everyone seems to have a real passion to go on in a more intimate walk with Christ. That is to say, we’re not gathering to share knowledge and/or prayer requests, we’re coming to know Jesus more deeply and everything else seems to grow out of that conviction.
There’s also a wonderful balance in this group of theological perspectives and experiences so that we’re not all the same, nor do we all covet or desire the exact same experiences of God’s presence. We respect one another and actually seek to learn from one another in those matters, but it’s never a requirement for us to go on together. A little dynamic tension is good for strengthening the body.
One other element of our weekly gatherings is a time of worship. Even though most of the current small group resources do not encourage corporate singing and worship, that’s just not been the case with us. One of our members faithfully prays about and comes to the meeting with a couple of choruses and the digital recordings of those songs and we just sing along. However, we don’t just sing… we often will pause and pray, speak our praise and worship, and whenever possible, wait on the Lord and the awareness of His presence in our little group. When we do that with sensitivity and openness, He never fails to meet us.
We read through a very challenging passage in Ephesians 2:10-19 and talked for a while about the essence of the Apostle Paul’s themes in those verses. However, what seemed to grab our attention was a bit of a carry over from the previous week from verse 10 – that “we are God’s workmanship, created for the good works that He has already prepared for us.” Eph. 2:10
The world takes little notice of Christians who live a “private faith” or fail to give expression to their love for God. We know that we have a limited time to make an eternal difference and as a group, we want to help one another to do that.
We determined that the best way forward was to continue on the path of studying God’s Word, but to invest more of our time in praying for God to show us how to give expression to those “good works that He’s prepared for us” as mentioned in Eph 2:10. Please understand, every small group meeting begins and ends with prayer, but we’re talking about spending some substantial quality time in prayer together, where we don’t come with a list of requests and/or needs, but we come to wait on Him and to openly express our hunger for Him with a willingness to listen to one another’s prayers and to discern what God might be saying to us.
By the end of our evening meeting there was a clear concensus that we had landed on the right direction for the next gathering. It’s pretty awesome when a group comes together with expectation and leaves that same meeting with an even greater expectation for the next week!
I’ve come to the conclusion (or perhaps revelation) that healthy small group life is like the “spiritual bloodstream” for the life of the Holy Spirit to be transmitted throughout the Body of Christ. If you think about it, using the biblical analogy of the Body of Christ as Paul referred to us in 1 Corinthians 12, small group allows us to carry the nutrients, insights, gifts and blessings throughout our body to one another.
Small Groups can never replace a personal time of devotion with the Lord. Neither will they have the same dynamic of a corporate time of extended worship and strong biblical teaching. However, they provide a context in which the life that the Lord is shaping in us can be shared in the most intimate of ways with other people that can grow in their love and intimacy with our Savior.
I feel extraordinarily blessed to have discovered this so many years ago and even more, to know that nearly 4 decades later these gatherings are no less attractive and essential as they were in the founding days of North Way Christian Community.