Have you ever wondered why we spend so much time emphasizing the importance of small groups at Epikos? Our schedules are already full of obligations, why add more? Our mission at Epikos is to make more and better disciples. As the Small Groups Pastor, it’s my honor to spend my time thinking, praying about, and implementing new ways to accomplish the better component of our mission. In short, the goal of small groups is our sanctification both individually and collectively.
1) What is sanctification?
In 1 Thessalonians 4:3 Paul states, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification…” While it’s true that God cares about our lives, his primary concern in each of us is our sanctification (our personal growth and change to become more like Jesus). I’ve often heard this described as “progressive nearness.” Meaning, if we continue to draw close to Him, we will become more like Him. How do small groups fit into this? Paul speaks to this as well,
“until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ…” Ephesians 4:13
This verse about us being made mature into the fullness of Christ is sandwiched right in between a discussion about the importance of unity in the body of Christ. Real, biblical, community strives to move us toward sanctification. That’s our vision for small groups. God wants us to grow together.
2) How do we do this?
Over the last 10 years, I’ve been a part of a variety of small groups, some great and some, if I’m honest, not so great. So what makes a great small group? In order for small groups to be effective toward the sanctification, both leaders and members have to speak from the heart. One writer puts it this way, “when it comes to the business of change, we have to start with ourselves.” Show your group your vulnerable side and they will follow.
3) How do we know we’re on track?
Just “getting on board” with this vision for small groups won’t accomplish our goal of sanctification. We need to make sure we’re on track. We should be asking questions like:
How blurred are our boundaries between group time and social time?
Theologian Abraham Kuyper wrote,
“There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!”
We don’t have a “spiritual” and a separate “social” part to small groups. Our time building community, studying the Bible, and praying should begin to blur together.
How authentic are our prayer requests?
Our prayer should be less about change in our circumstances and more about change in ourselves. Praying for a coworker to stop getting on your nerves is much different from praying for patience and peace in our hearts to treat our coworkers well. In a word, prayer for our continued sanctification.
How much listening is there in our Bible studies?
One author asked the question, “Do we carefully dissect the truth yet never arrive at the point of actually applying it to our lives?” While it’s essential to understand the inner workings of the passage we’re studying (the historical context, the grammar, etc.), we don’t study the Bible to just gather more information. Our study should drive us to believe, feel, love, and do differently, as Jesus would.
As we move into the fall small group season, my prayer is that each of us would grow just a little bit more into the maturity of Christ. Would you commit with me to make sanctification in our lives a personal and community goal of small groups this fall?
*Adapted from Something Worth Meeting For - A Biblical Vision for Small Groups by Steve Midgley (Journal of Biblical Counseling 28:3.