Summary: Sermon 3 in 5 part series for start of 2008. A topical sermon on the importance of small group Bible studies.

Intro: Anyone know what this is? Show body ball.

Explain use of it, full body workout with attention on core.

Why is core so important?

• Strengthens your back

• Balance

• Posture

Basically, when your core grows smaller…you can grow stronger.

As a local church, a body of born again believers…if we are going to grow stronger, we too would benefit from growing smaller.

Transition: Benefits of small groups

God never intended Christianity to be a "Me, God, and my Bible" lifestyle.

The Bible teaches that we also need each other for many reasons.

Read 1 Cor. 12:12-17

This is where the small group Bible study ministry kicks in.

We need to experience life together…and like I said last week, that takes place when we come together for corporate worship.

When the disciples of Jesus met Him for the final time on that hillside prior to His ascension, the first thing they did was worship.

They were so in awe of the resurrected Christ…it just seemed natural for them to do that.

For us, it shouldn’t be any different.

When we gather together on this hill, we should be so in awe of Christ, who He is and what He has done for us…true worship should be 2nd nature.

That is level one growth, experiencing and celebrating the life we have in Christ.

Now we want to take it to the next level…and in taking to the next level we need to grow smaller.

We need to move out of the worship center and into smaller more intimate settings so that true growth and true discipleship can take place.

This can be done in the Sunday School hour, taking place on Sunday mornings at 9:30.

It can also take place in specialized Bible studies, such as First Place or specific group studies like for men or women.

Another form of small group Bible study is called Small groups, and they are growing in popularity in Christian churches and homes throughout the world as a way for us to make the connections we need with fellow believers.

These Small group fellowships—whether focused on Bible studies or on a wide variety of activities—have a tremendous impact on those who participate.

Whatever route you choose to take, or we offer…what is important is that you as a born again believer step up and step out so that you can take your life to the next level.

Listen to what the Scriptures says:

Read Prov. 27:17 and pray.

You take a bunch of knives put them into a box with a sharpener, close the lid and shake them up really hard…how sharp will they become?

Some might get a little sharper, but chances are most of them will simply remain the same.

But if you take that single knife and that sharpener and work with them, you will see significant improvement, a sharpening.

It takes that extra attention to details to make that improvement.

That is where a small group Bible study comes it, it gets us out of the big box and allows us to get the more detailed attention that sharpens us and prepares us for the work God has prepared for us…which we will look at next week.

This morning as we consider growing smaller, I want us to consider what factors make small group ministry so important in the life of the local church.

The first factor is this…

1. The Jesus Factor

Jesus used a small group ministry approach to discipleship.

Read Mark 3:14-ff.

Jesus did a lot of ministry to the masses:

• Sermon on the Mount (Teaching on Wednesday nights)

• Feeding of the 5000

• Teaching in the synagogues

Along with this though, He devoted extra time and effort to the 12.

He may have taught the parables to the masses, but He would take time to explain it to the 12.

Jesus believed in small group ministry.

While He did a lot of mass evangelism, the depth of His teachings took place with the 12.

As a pastor I have a lot to cover in a small amount of time…and as a result I can only skim on some areas and touch on others.

But when you get into a small group study, there you can truly get into the Word…digging in and letting it dig into you.

Disciples are made in small groups.

And we have Jesus as our example.

So, there is the Jesus factor, 2nd there is…

2. The Ministry Factor

God has called us as born again believers to use our gifts, skills, experiences and talents to minister to one another,

Part of the reason for that is that God doesn’t expect pastors and teachers to do all the ministering.

He has given each of us gifts and talents to encourage, teach and challenge one another.

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