There is a new movement growing among churches in America. It is a revival of sorts. Churches are rediscovering Sunday School and Small Groups. But the underlying movement behind this growing value of Sunday School (or its functional equivalent) is the recognition that to be effective in making disciples, churches need to start new groups – and lots of them.
I recently completed a tour of 25 Baptist Associations in Oklahoma where we talked about Sunday School and especially new groups. During this ReConnect Sunday School Road Trip, I met with 943 church leaders (pastors & laity) and discussed how vital small groups are to their church’s mission. But we did not just have a nice discussion about them, I went one step farther and asked the pastors for a commitment to start new groups.
So far 397 churches in Oklahoma have committed to start 1,409 new groups (updated 9/29/2014).
Why are small groups in general, and new groups in particular, so vital to the local church? Let me share four reasons:
First, small groups are centered on community theologically. The original small group was not formed by Robert Raikes or Lyman Coleman. Arthur Flake did not create an original formula for community. It began with the Trinity before there was time. We need community because God exists in community and we are created in His image (Genesis 1:26). If communicating or teaching the Word was the sole purpose of the church, we could all gather for one big Bible study on Sunday led by the pastor. But we have a bigger need. We need community with God, and we need community with each other. That is why we have Sunday School or small groups.
Second, we need to start new groups because God is continually creating community and we want to join Him in what He is creating. In Genesis 12, God formed a new community that started with Abraham. With the incarnation of Christ, God formed another new community with the 12 disciples. Then He used the disciples to form yet another new community – the church! Originally starting in Jerusalem, God began forming even more new communities beginning in Antioch and then branching throughout the Roman Empire. When we get to Revelation, He is going to form yet another new community!
Third, groups in general and new groups specifically are a vital part of the church’s discipleship strategy. Discipleship is not a class on Wednesday nights. Discipleship is best built on relationships with other believers that are devoted to the application of Scripture. Discipleship occurs more favorably in small groups, not large assemblies. New groups provide more opportunities for more people to lead and grow, and more opportunities to engage more people in discipleship. New groups are critical in order to connect more people into community. Quite frankly, new groups are essential to the church’s mission because they help us deploy people into service and leadership in order to connect new people with the Gospel.
Finally, spiritual transformation has its best chance of succeeding within a small group community. The saying, “Spiritual transformation happens best in a small group” has been the mantra of the small groups movement for years. It’s true. We need accountability to help us change. Hebrews 3:13 “But encourage each other daily… so that you may not be hardened by sin’s deception.” What do we need? An encouraging community.
The Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma is passionate about connecting people into community. Our initiative, ReConnect Sunday School is driven to connect people to Jesus, His Truth, His community, and His mission through small group strategies. We are part of a new movement to create as many “new communities” as possible so that we can deploy as many members as possible in order to make as many disciples as possible.
Imagine the possibilities…
It is time to start new communities!
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more info or to join the cause…