When the Bible was being created, literacy was pretty low. Most people worked with their hands in the sun, not at desks with words on paper. So, for people to engage with God’s Word, it had to be read to them. The Bible was designed with that in mind. Paul even admonishes Timothy to commit to reading the Bible publicly as well as preaching and teaching.
Think about it, most of the Old Testament is written in story form, which is the best format for auditory learning. The New Testament is split between stories and letters to congregations (with a few exceptions). Again, public reading of Scripture in groups is clearly the original expectation of most of the biblical authors.
[bctt tweet=”The Bible is a community document more than an individual document”]
Small groups aren’t the only place that the Bible can be read publicly, but the fact that the Bible isn’t only a document meant for personal, private consumption leads us to conclude that we should be gathered around the Word more often than most Christians do today.
The “one anothers” in the Bible are impossible to fulfill when you’re alone
Small groups, whether their Bible studies, accountability groups, support groups, or life-on-life groups, are the perfect laboratory for Christians to act out their obedience to the various “one anothers” in the Bible.
Love one another, care for one another, support one another, build one another up, confess to one another, bear one another’s burdens, admonish one another; these are all activities that require Christians to be in close enough relationships with others to be able to perform them. These kinds of activities don’t happen at the congregational level; they happen in small groups. That means you need to be with other people, in trusting relationships, in order to be obedient to these commands.
The truth of the Bible is made richer in the context of relationships
Christians won’t see the breadth of God’s grace and direction if they’re not seeing Him move in the lives of others. What a limited perspective on God’s interaction with humanity to only see what He does in my own life!
Small groups allow each of us a closer glimpse into how God is moving in those around us. That means we see Him more clearly, see evidence of His faithfulness even when our faith is wavering, and we get to participate in glorifying God for His blessings in the lives of others.
Living life in relationships with people who aren’t like you will force you toward selflessness
It’s easy for us to get in the rut of self-thinking; you know, the kind of thinking that only cares about outcomes in our own lives. But living in the context of others, especially those you are accountable to and for, is God’s way of pushing us toward selflessness. It helps us exercise resistance toward the flesh and submission to the Spirit.
A healthy small group will cause the Christian to be confronted with the needs of others and the choice of stepping in to help or staying out of it and not helping. What’s more, a healthy small group will compel the Christian to not be a bystander, but get involved in the messy lives of others.
Discussing the Bible helps us understand it better
Not everyone learns the same. Most people are kinesthetic learners to some degree. That means they learn by doing. One of the most effective ways of learning new concepts is to discuss them which forces the learner to internalize new information in order to form a helpful or constructive response. This type of kin-esthetic learning can help the learner understand new truths from multiple perspectives as well as more deeply grapple with harder information.
While much discussion in small groups happens in circles, online study tools like Study Church can be an excellent way to enhance and extend the limited discussion that can be had in one room. Study Church specifically can enhance study discussion by giving participants the opportunity to do further study, time to think about responses, and a structured format for conversation.
For small group leaders, online discussion tools like StudyChurch can create a more open environment for transparency than meeting only a room together.
“When we’re looking at the screen we’re not face-to-face with someone who can immediately respond to us, so it’s easier to let it all out—it’s almost like we’re invisible,” said Belk, of the so-called “disinhibition effect” that online sharing helps create.” – The Real Reason Why So Many People Overshare on Facebook.
The “disinhibition effect” that leads people to overshare on social media can be a helpful tool in opening people to transparency and trust in private/closed online groups. Of course, care should be taken to guide online conversations toward healthy and constructive conclusions.
You can’t be truly evangelistic if you’re not talking to Christians about the gospel, too
All too often we think about evangelism and discipleship as separate tasks or activities of the local church and the individual believer. The Bible never makes such a distinction. In fact, time and again in the New Testament, the gospel is clearly meant for both the lost and the found, those far from God and those reborn in His image.
If your church’s evangelism stops at the small group door, it’s incomplete. Bring the gospel into the small group by reminding each person that the story of God throughout history has been moving all of us toward a relationship with Him. Christians and non-Christians alike need to constantly be reminded of the saving and sustaining grace of God.