As a teenager, I attended a small church in my neighborhood. I had a few friends who were part of big youth ministries and they did some really big things. They rented a charter bus to go to Disney World, had youth rallies that brought in hundreds of youth from the community, and went on international mission trips involving scores of students and adults. Our youth group comprised no more than my very part-time youth pastor, my best friend, and an annoying elementary schooler whom we allowed in, so we had enough for fair teams. Our “events” were nothing more than the four of us (and maybe another kid we bribed to come with the promise of snacks) throwing around the football outside the parsonage. It was as my kids used to say “basic.” But even though we were the few (and generally not so proud), it was here that I first learned about Jesus. In those small group gatherings I heard the gospel. It was among these few young people I committed to Christ as a senior in high school. These small groups changed the trajectory of my life.
As we look at the four gospels, it is clear that some of God’s best work happened in small groups, too. Jesus began his ministry in and with a small group (Luke 6:12-16). It was in a small group that Peter proclaimed Jesus the Christ, the one the Jews had been waiting for (Matthew 16:16). It was in a small group that the resurrected Jesus appeared to the disciples (John 20:19-20). And undoubtedly, the disciples experienced their greatest discipleship (teaching/maturing in faith) in small groups—while sitting around the campfire with Jesus at night, while walking with Jesus to their next stop in His preaching tour, while breaking bread in the evening after a long day on the road. In short, the disciples became more like Jesus not only by being with Jesus, but also by being with other disciples who wanted to be like Jesus.
This all leads up to me making an invitation. If you are either a Christian or someone open to Christianity, I invite you to join a small group. Sure, I would love for you to join one of our small groups at my church. But in all honesty, I would be just as happy (okay, almost as happy) if you joined any small group at any Christian church. Here is an insider secret, we are all on the same team, despite what us pastors might say at times. If you are already connected to a church, please by all means go to the website, call the church administrator, text your pastor, or whoever and see what small groups they’ve got going and give it a try. Many churches, like my own, have taken a break due to COVID, Christmas, etc., and are now offering small groups both in person and/or on zoom.
There is nothing wrong with big groups, big events, and so on. But God often does his best work when we gather with only a few other people to study Scripture, pray, and learn from each other how to follow Jesus in an un-Jesus-like world. I invite you to grow in your discipleship as we enter spring by not “going big,” but to grow by going small.