(SERMON GIVEN BY GRANT VISSERS)
Small groups matter deeply to the mission of our church.
Small groups look more like the early church than most nowadays churches look like the early church.
So, let’s look at the early church.
The Apostle Paul travelled into small communities, stayed for a while, raised up leaders and left. After some time went by, he would eventually hear “stuff” about what was going on and would write a letter to encourage these networks of churches.
This is how the early church began – groups of people gathered around the mission of Jesus. What was the mission? “Go and make disciples of all nations.” (Matthew 28.19,20) The early church was inviting people into relationship with Jesus.
Two kinds of group formations:
- Bounded set – you are either in or out. You don’t move easily. These days, many people outside the church see the church as a bounded set.
- Centered set – people are gathered around a centered focus and people are either moving toward or away from the centre.
That’s why Paul is so upset in Galatians 1. 6 – “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – which is really no gospel at all”. Paul understood the church as a centered set movement – people moving toward the centre (Jesus) but this “different gospel” was moving people farther from Jesus and closer to a different message, “which is really no gospel at all.” Paul knew this movement away from the centre would change the mission of the church. The mission of the church had been compromised, hence Paul’s astonishment.
In his earlier years, Paul had “intensely persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it” (vs.13) but he had been since transformed by the grace and love of Jesus (vs.15) and was now using all his energy to build up the church. Paul knew how radically a life could change when a person meets Jesus. This is why it was important that the church remained rooted in Christ.
What’s this got to do with small groups?
- The church’s mission today has not changed – we are to introduce people to Jesus and we think the best way to do this is in small groups. Inviting people into a small community is often easier for them then coming into a big church and within the small group, they are able to move towards Jesus.
- Small groups keep us personally aligned and entered with Jesus. If we are left in isolation, we will move farther away from Jesus. In small groups, we live life together.
Challenge: Who will you choose to put at the centre of your home and life?