Looking for the fabric-free, snarky truth about small group ministry and small group resources? Look no further.
Christian Swartz got it right
I re-discovered a really powerful quote on page 32 of Natural Church Development by Christian Swarz...
“Holistic small groups are the natural place for Christians to learn to serve others—both inside and outside the group—with their spiritual gifts. The planned multiplication of small groups is made possible through the continual development of leaders as a by-product of the normal group life. The meaning of the term ‘discipleship’ becomes practical in the context of holistic small groups: the transfer of life, not rote learning of abstract concepts.”
A number of things jumped out at me after I read it a couple of times:
HSG's are a natural place to learn to serve others with spiritual gifts. So often, church members take a class on spiritual gifts and it's based on personal observation and areas of interest or comfort. Practicing those gifts and refining their use to be powerful for God is not easily done after the class is concluded.
Multiplication is made possible through the continual development of leaders as a by-product of normal group life. Wow. Just read that a couple of times and let it seep into your heart, not just your mind! Normal HSG life should produce leaders, not followers. This undoubtedly requires that every member look in the mirror and see a minister, not a member of a group.
Discipleship is the transfer of life, not the rote learning of abstract concepts. Couldn't have stated it better myself! Life transfer requires one-on-one mentoring and members taking personal responsibility for other members. The leader of a group cannot disciple everyone, and it cannot be done just in the meetings.
Lifeway is sponsoring a free webinar Summit next month in Nashville and bringing me in as well as a number of other voices from the small group world. Please pray that I will be able to communicate the content of Swarz's paragraph above powerfully. There's so much consumer-based small group "ministry" in America going on that most can't even get their head around what the priesthood of all believers looks like any more, let alone lead a church into it through their small group ministry!
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Hey brother, I think his third point "Discipleship is the transfer of life, not the rote learning of abstract concepts" means just that. It really is something the organic stream of Christianity has made a point about - living by Jesus' life. When brothers and sisters get together in the name of the Lord Jesus then learning to live by the Spirit happens. Saying that "Life transfer requires one-on-one mentoring and members taking personal responsibility for other members" gives discipleship the same "rote learning" that Swartz I don't think intended. We make discipleship more of a duty instead of the transfer of life with such statements (e.g. the contrast between Romans 7 and 8 as described by Watchman Nee in The Normal Christian Life). Another misnomer is "it cannot be done just in the meetings," while the answer is absolutely, I think the issue is more of body life, versus having a "meeting," occurring more often than just one day a week. Actually, every time when the body gathers in the name of the Lord Jesus whether it be to sing praises to Him, or serving one another in some way, enjoying coffee at Starbucks, or enjoying a game together that is part of the process of making disciples, breaking the Word of Life together with one another! Just some thoughts.
Great post, Randall! This says it all clearly and succinctly. I think my favorite phrase is "as a by-product of the normal group life." The only thing I'd change is to change the word "normal" to "healthy." Numerical growth and multiplication happen in a healthy small group. I really believe that when we help groups be healthy, they will grow and naturally, organically multiply themselves.
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