The Gospel According to Bubba: Why I Used to Distrust Small Groups in Church but Don’t Anymore

Most Mondays at NGYN we recap Oasis Church’s sermon from the previous morning, but today’s a little different. Yesterday, Todd West’s message served as a kick-off for Oasis’s Spring Groups: a program of season-long, home-based bible-study-slash-fellowships that’ll be taking place all over Central Arkansas this Spring, led by members of the church. Rather than recap that message, though (since it directly applies only to the members of Oasis church), I’m going to mine Todd’s awesome message for some more generalizable lessons that I think can benefit everybody. Here goes…

Sunday school was my favorite part of church as a kid. While the grown-ups listened to boring sermons or studied genealogy and translated scripture to and from Greek, I got to play with glue sticks and Play-Doh.

Adults don’t get to go to Sunday school. Instead, they go to small groups (or community groups, family groups, prayer circles, or whatever they’re called where you’re from). It’s taken me awhile to warm to this format, but I finally have.

I distrusted the small group format for the same reason I distrusted a lot of institutions: the fallibility of those in charge. What authority does Group Leader Bubba J. Smith have to teach me about God’s holy word, etc? In many cases, such cynicism is probably justifiable. There are plenty of organizations and groups of people being led by individuals who are corrupt, inept, and ignorant. But my time Oasis Church has taught me to trust in the strategic, scripturally-sound, and effective principal of the small group.

If you’re going to “do church”, what better model of discipleship could you follow than Jesus Christ’s? He kind of invented the process, after all. When Christ set out to spread his father’s word, he didn’t build a temple and invite people to come listen to him teach once a week. And he didn’t go on a speaking tour. Not alone, at least, because he knew he could change the world alone. Instead, he found people with great potential and equipped  them to teach on his behalf. When Jesus Christ established the church, he formed a small group.

Among the countless things that Oasis Church does right is that it equips its members to go out and be the hands and feet of God in their communities. It does not tolerate entitlement, but it empowers people to do God’s work. Through this process of discipleship, its reach is increased greatly. On any given night of the week this Spring there will be people meeting in homes, restaurants, and elsewhere under the trustworthy guidance of people chosen by church staff to help others grow in Christ. Dozens, maybe hundreds of people will have the opportunity to develop friendships, draw closer to God, and maybe even find salvation, many of whom will have never even set foot inside the doors of the church proper.

I hope other churches learn from Christ’s model, and I hope you’ll pray for the success of Oasis’s adaptation of it this Spring. In the meantime, I’d love to hear what your church does, discipleship-wise. What’s working where you are? What’s not? What experiences, good or bad, have you had in Sunday school or small groups that we can learn from? Let’s hear all about it in the comments.

Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 28:19)

P.S. Gotta give some link-love to my friend Mike over at Reboot Christianity, whose story of grace and basketball really spoke to me today.

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