In John 17, Jesus prays to God the Father as he is facing crucifixion. And what is he thinking and praying about? His church. You and me, us. His prayer is that we would all be one in community—just as he is one with the Father.
It’s not just that we grow through relationships to God. But we grow in relationships with one another, and that’s part of God’s plan A, that we would become this body. Jesus wants that to happen for you. We want that to happen for you. We want you to become the kind of community that lives in the oneness, that experiences Jesus together as a community. And then, out of the overflow of that, you touch lives around you.
And if you could get a vision for your small group, not just being another add-on activity or something that churches do and you want to be in a small group, but that is actually a place where God’s plan for you to grow, for your relationships to be healed, for you to learn all about Him, for you to learn about each other, for you to develop your gifts and your talents– if you could see it the way the New Testament talks about it, you could get a whole new vision, and your small group could have something that you never would have imagined.
Because it’s really all about spiritual growth, whether it’s a Bible study, a parenting group, a men’s or women’s group, whatever. It’s really all about spiritual growth—the relationship both vertical and horizontal.
There are the three big elements, and you’re going to find them in your group. First off, it’s God’s grace, and it comes, through our own experience, through people. But grace is the fact that God is for you. He’s on your side, and it comes in so many different ways. And it’s unconditional.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people’s lives literally changed because their small group was the first place that they ever experienced anybody really being for them. You know, they come from backgrounds or families where everything was against them—abuse or criticism or whatever it was—and that small group was the place where they met God’s grace for the first time.
The second element is truth, and truth in all its various forms. Truth is reality. It’s what is, and it can come through whatever material you’re studying in your group and that sort of thing, but also, it comes from each other.
So, people pick up a Bible, and that’s important have Bible study as a group and to maybe engage with scriptures. It’s our ultimate source of truth, but people don’t often see that they can speak the truth to and about each other.
We’ve seen so many small groups happen where someone was able to say to somebody else, I see something in you—a strength or whatever. And people never even knew they had these things before they told the truth.
And another part of the truth is, when we come together a small group and we’re looking at the truth, as David refers to, as from the innermost being—when we’re opening up our hearts, our souls, and our lives, and we’re really allowing the truth of who we are to be out there, then God can begin to work in it, because what’s in the darkness is coming to the light.
The final element is time. This is going to take time. There is a process, and nobody grows spiritually like in a microwave. Because part of it is getting to know each other a little better and creating that environment where grace and truth can work.
Grace. Truth. Time. These are three elements for spiritual growth.
A great Bible study to consider for your group, whether it is a new group or a more established one, is 40 Days through the Book: John by the pastor of Southeast Christian Church, Kyle Idleman.
In this six-session video Bible study, Idleman reveals that John didn’t write his Gospel just to tell us about a profound teacher or a powerful miracle worker. Rather, his purpose was to tell us about the very Son of God who came to this earth so that we “may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). John challenges us to trust in Christ—and to demonstrate our faith in him through the way we live and love others.