My Not-So-Small Group

It’s 11:00 pm on Thursday night and I just left the house of one of the guys in my small group from church. Even though the tigers lost in the first round of the Big 12 tournament, we thought we would get together anyway and watch “The Hurt Locker” and play some ping pong. I would definitely say the Academy got it right. Avatar was good, but this movie was filled to the brim with the “human” element. Anyway, I got to thinking while I was driving home about what our small groups have meant to me and my family over the past eight years.

There are countless reasons to be involved in a small group and I am sure that you have heard most of them: A small group can make a big church small, a small group helps keep you accountable in your christian walk, a small group is a good place to study the bible in a less intimidating environment. I would like to add to the list a reason that you may not have considered. A good small group, one that works the way it is supposed to work, does not allow you to compartmentalize your life.

Let me explain. There are individuals in the small group my wife and I participate in, as well as another small group we lead, who hold a special place in my heart because they have held my spot at a table in a restaurant, held the flag for me as I attempted a putt off the green, held my son as I tied his shoes, held my hand as we prayed over each other, held me accountable for my temper and held me back from getting to the quarterback in touch football.

I am willing to bet that you may have friends or family who have participated in activities similar to those I listed. However, I would suggest it is extremely rare for those to be the same friends or family who engage in all of those activities. It is almost impossible in our society to experience true community because we are incessantly separating various components of our lives. Think about it. I am sure you have friends you feel comfortable praying around, but those are not necessarily the friends you would call to have over for a barbecue. You may have friends with whom you can talk about work, but those are not the same friends you would ask to a saturday morning round of golf.

Do not get me wrong, I am not saying that we should only interact with those who have access to all the areas of our lives. On the contrary, we should always be seeking those who are on the outside looking in. However, I think true community only occurs when individuals open up their hearts, minds and hands to one another.

The benefit of engaging in authentic relationships is both personal and universal. I can’t walk past a member of my small group at church and simply exchange pleasantries and go about my merry way. These people know the real me and they won’t accept the person I pretend to be. If I separate my church friends from work friends and the both of them from my saturday golf buddies, it will be hard for anyone to know the real me… and that includes me! Meanwhile, I am left without authentic relationships which require a commitment to accepting the whole person. And let’s face it, we all need friendships like that in our lives.

The universal benefit of authentic relationships is clearly defined in John 13:35; “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” It is the selfless love that John is talking about here. Loving those who are convenient for you really won’t show “all men” anything special, will it? Once again, God has a design for His creation in which His creation flourishes personally as it engages in bringing about His own purposes universally. My life’s greatest testimony of faith may not be in any one single act of kindness or some pivotal test of character. Instead, it will likely be centered on my willingness to “love one another”. That, my friends, is why my small group is not so small after all.

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