Summary: The importance of being in a Small Group for perseverance
Small Groups at RBC September 19, 2004
De-evangelizing the neighbourhood
I was at a conference a few years ago where they told the story of a church thayt looked as though they were really thriving: they had about 500 people attending, and had many outreach ministries reaching their community, and many people were coming to Christ and to church through their ministry.
The problem was that the church was not growing in numbers – people were leaving as quickly as they were coming in. They began to do some research on the people who were leaving and they found that the majority who left were not attending another church, they just stopped going to church all together. They realized that although the church was great at evangelism, because of their inability to hold people, they were actually de-evangelizing their neighbourhood. Those who were leaving were almost impossible to bring back into any community of faith.
The senior pastor realized that something had to be done, so he called up that last 12 people to be baptized and invited them to supper at his house. These were all new Christians and very excited to be invited to the Pastor’s house. After supper he sat them down and asked if they wanted to know the future. They all said “yes!” So he said, statistically speaking in the next 2-3 years… two of your marriages will have broken up and the shame will cause you to leave the church, three of you will have a conflict with someone in the church and you will leave the church, one will have a tragedy and lose faith and leave, two will have a moral failing and leave, and two will lose interest and drift away. In two to three years, out of this group only two of you will be attending church, and only one of you at this church. There was dead silence in the room. All these wide eyed Christians were about to say “surely not I, Lord.” When one of them spoke up and said What can we do to change the statistics. The pastor said, you can get together and as a group decide that you are not going to let anyone go.
That is exactly what they did – these strangers formed a small group and supported each other through the tragedies, divorces, conflicts and failings and in four years, only one had left the church never to come back. The church went from losing 10 out of every 12 converts to losing only one.
That church that was so great at evangelism learned the hard way that Small groups are essential for the growth, encouragement and perseverance of any Christian.
Small Groups Modeled in New Testament
Do you remember the day of Pentecost? In Acts 2 when the disciples were in the upper room praying and the Spirit came upon them like a mighty rushing wind, giving each one a tongue of fire on their head and driving them out on to the street where they worshiped and praised God and spoke in languages that they never knew before? Peter had to explain what was going on, and then he called people to believe and serve Jesus.
On the day of Pentecost, the church went through exponential growth. They grew from possibly 125 people to 3,125 in one day, and then it says that they continued to add more people daily
This is how Luke describes this brand new and ever growing Church
42They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 46Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
When it says that they met in homes, we really need to know that their homes were not as big as ours – most of the people would have been working class or poor, so their homes would not have been much bigger than my office! The most you could fit in the home was 8-12 people – the same number that we say is ideal for a small group!
They would have gathered on mass at the temple, had congregation sized meetings in larger houses and some synagogues, and gathered in small groups in their own homes. It was in these small groups that they could have deep fellowship, intimate worship, and work out the teachings of the apostles together.