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#44405 Tue Mar 23, 2010 3:56 PM
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When I was growing up, I never attended a church which emphasized "small groups" (not to say there weren't any). Of course, members often gathered together in smaller groups, but I wouldn't call these "small groups" in the sense it is now used. About 15 years ago I start noticing churches beginning to promote small groups and now I would suspect there are very few churches at all that do not recommend that members should be a part of some small group in the church.

I can certainly see benefits to being in a small group and they can certainly help people to integrate more into the life of the church. I have been in small groups that have been a great blessing and some that have not. However, I'm beginning to think that small groups are often more of a danger to a church than not. The amount of Biblical error and confusion I've seen created in some of the small groups I've attended is depressing. In many there is very little oversight or leadership. I've seen the confessions questioned, RPW-worship questioned, etc. I wonder if that, even in solidly reformed churches, the roots of sliding away from the true Gospel often originate in some of these small groups.

What are your thoughts concerning "small groups" at church?

John

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John,

Our church introduced small groups about two years ago. The way it was done upset me a lot at that time because Rick Warren's 40 days of PDL was followed. The choice of which small group you wanted to belong to was your own. In my opinion, the small groups were for the majority just closed circles of friends. And it is hard to get into these circles. The small groups were supposed to also reach out to other people, also within the church. Well, no one from any small group ever came to me to enquire about my or my wife's well being. In fact, I think we became more isolated after the introduction of small groups. I really doubt it that the introduction of small groups in our church REALLY made a difference. If it made a difference then I am blind to it.

Last year I did attend a couple of meetings of a group which is not a formal small group in the church. I was shocked to hear the opinions expressed there on what the Gospel is, that there is not much difference between the RCC and Reformed Churches etc. Okay, these people had these ideas whether or not small groups existed or not.

I think one of the main motivations for small groups is that the early church met in houses and that is our example. Of course, there were specific reasons why at that time Christians met in houses. The funny thing though is that while some people say we have to follow the early church in this regard, they do not want to follow Paul's instructions on the role of women in the church. The latter is supposed to be a cultural matter of that time but the former not.

Johan


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Although their may be danger as you mentioned, small groups, if functioned correctly, greatly benefit the believer in the group and ultimately the church. Small groups help new people to get assimulated into the church, and it gives an outlet for those who are eager to grow spiritually. I think community is missing in the church today, and it is a vehicle to help community.

Now, a church does not want a particular small group to become so ingrown that it separates itself from the community of the church. I have not been a part of a small group where bad theology can be expressed without correction. I have heard some bad theology opined by a person in a small group, but 2-3 others will jump in to say that is not our church position nor what the Bible teaches. Imo, it is better for a peson to feel free to ask or comment without being fearful of chastisement.

Whether it is small groups or other ways, the church should be actively involved in discipleship. No one outgrows the need of discipleship, and expressing that discipleship is not one of person's gifts should not give one an opt out of partipating in discipling relationships.


John Chaney

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john #44409 Tue Mar 23, 2010 6:20 PM
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Originally Posted by john
What are your thoughts concerning "small groups" at church?
John,

I have mixed feelings about small groups. My experience with them has not been overly positive. However, I do see where they may have some value IF:

1. They are overseen by an Elder or an appointed teacher who is biblically and creedally sound.
2. They are limited as to the duration they meet, e.g., several months and not perpetual.
3. The focus is upon biblical study, doctrine, and its application.
4. There is no confessing of personal sins to the group which sins were not committed against the group.
5. No gossip of any kind is allowed.
6. All things are done orderly, unto sanctification and prayerfully.
7. Lastly, that the members of the group be confessing members of the church.

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Pilgrim #44412 Tue Mar 23, 2010 10:56 PM
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I agree with all of that.


Peter

If you believe what you like in the gospels, and reject what you don't like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself. Augustine of Hippo
Pilgrim #44418 Wed Mar 24, 2010 11:59 AM
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Originally Posted by Pilgrim
1. They are overseen by an Elder or an appointed teacher who is biblically and creedally sound.
2. They are limited as to the duration they meet, e.g., several months and not perpetual.
3. The focus is upon biblical study, doctrine, and its application.
4. There is no confessing of personal sins to the group which sins were not committed against the group.
5. No gossip of any kind is allowed.
6. All things are done orderly, unto sanctification and prayerfully.
7. Lastly, that the members of the group be confessing members of the church.

Pilgrim,

I think your suggestions are very wise and would help prevent a myriad of potential problems.

Thanks,
John

Johan #44419 Wed Mar 24, 2010 12:08 PM
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Originally Posted by Johan
Our church introduced small groups about two years ago. The way it was done upset me a lot at that time because Rick Warren's 40 days of PDL was followed. The choice of which small group you wanted to belong to was your own. In my opinion, the small groups were for the majority just closed circles of friends. And it is hard to get into these circles. The small groups were supposed to also reach out to other people, also within the church. Well, no one from any small group ever came to me to enquire about my or my wife's well being. In fact, I think we became more isolated after the introduction of small groups. I really doubt it that the introduction of small groups in our church REALLY made a difference. If it made a difference then I am blind to it.

Last year I did attend a couple of meetings of a group which is not a formal small group in the church. I was shocked to hear the opinions expressed there on what the Gospel is, that there is not much difference between the RCC and Reformed Churches etc. Okay, these people had these ideas whether or not small groups existed or not.

Johan,

I have experienced varying degrees of your experience with respect to small groups. I think #2 of Pilgrim's suggestions would go a long way towards solving the closed nature of many groups. I have also experienced having to study material that I found not very Biblically edifying. Recently, for example, The Didache, D. Bonhoeffer, and narrowly avoided an N.T. Wright study. Things like this would be helped by Pilgrim's suggestions #1 and #3.

John

John


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John,

My suggestions come from experience and admittedly they are not exhaustive. The ones suggested come from noting what abuses, perils and errors can happen and are often seen in these small groups. Many years ago I was part of a group of 5 men who met at 6:00 am weekly. We would alternate the 'lead' between ourselves and bring a brief study on a particular passage of Scripture with our understanding of the passages actual meaning and then a brief application, aka: meditation. We then had an open discussion on the passage. Lastly, we had a time of sharing of the past week, brought forth concerns for prayer, etc. I found it very edifying. And, a wonderful bond of fellowship was developed between the members.

So, small groups can be a blessing if conducted with wisdom with the aim of growing in grace.


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John_C #44421 Wed Mar 24, 2010 12:12 PM
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Originally Posted by John_C
Although their may be danger as you mentioned, small groups, if functioned correctly, greatly benefit the believer in the group and ultimately the church. Small groups help new people to get assimulated into the church, and it gives an outlet for those who are eager to grow spiritually. I think community is missing in the church today, and it is a vehicle to help community.

Now, a church does not want a particular small group to become so ingrown that it separates itself from the community of the church. I have not been a part of a small group where bad theology can be expressed without correction. I have heard some bad theology opined by a person in a small group, but 2-3 others will jump in to say that is not our church position nor what the Bible teaches. Imo, it is better for a peson to feel free to ask or comment without being fearful of chastisement.

Whether it is small groups or other ways, the church should be actively involved in discipleship. No one outgrows the need of discipleship, and expressing that discipleship is not one of person's gifts should not give one an opt out of partipating in discipling relationships.

John,

I agree with you and I am glad your small group experience has been good. I had much the same experience in the first small group I was in many years ago. When run properly, groups can be a great blessing. However, that has been the exception rather than the rule.

John

john #44422 Thu Mar 25, 2010 1:09 AM
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Originally Posted by john
Originally Posted by Johan
Our church introduced small groups about two years ago. The way it was done upset me a lot at that time because Rick Warren's 40 days of PDL was followed. The choice of which small group you wanted to belong to was your own. In my opinion, the small groups were for the majority just closed circles of friends. And it is hard to get into these circles. The small groups were supposed to also reach out to other people, also within the church. Well, no one from any small group ever came to me to enquire about my or my wife's well being. In fact, I think we became more isolated after the introduction of small groups. I really doubt it that the introduction of small groups in our church REALLY made a difference. If it made a difference then I am blind to it.

Last year I did attend a couple of meetings of a group which is not a formal small group in the church. I was shocked to hear the opinions expressed there on what the Gospel is, that there is not much difference between the RCC and Reformed Churches etc. Okay, these people had these ideas whether or not small groups existed or not.

Johan,

I have experienced varying degrees of your experience with respect to small groups. I think #2 of Pilgrim's suggestions would go a long way towards solving the closed nature of many groups. I have also experienced having to study material that I found not very Biblically edifying. Recently, for example, The Didache, D. Bonhoeffer, and narrowly avoided an N.T. Wright study. Things like this would be helped by Pilgrim's suggestions #1 and #3.

John

John

Agree ... sorry for the short response. Things are a bit tight here.

Hmmmm........ many John's on this thread: Johan, John just the same. claphands

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I have one more thought. If a church, which is mostly the congregants, cannot keep its small groups on track with sound teaching, how will the church maintain sound teaching in its other teaching avenues - pulpit, SS, etc? I see it as a problem within the church, not the small group per se.

Now, a touchy situation in solid churches is keeping its women studies sound.


John Chaney

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John_C #44438 Fri Mar 26, 2010 7:18 AM
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Originally Posted by John_C
I have one more thought. If a church, which is mostly the congregants, cannot keep its small groups on track with sound teaching, how will the church maintain sound teaching in its other teaching avenues - pulpit, SS, etc? I see it as a problem within the church, not the small group per se.

John,

That was one of my main points in my original post.

Quote
... However, I'm beginning to think that small groups are often more of a danger to a church than not. ... I wonder if that, even in solidly reformed churches, the roots of sliding away from the true Gospel often originate in some of these small groups.


Quote
Now, a touchy situation in solid churches is keeping its women studies sound.

I agree.

John


Pilgrim #44439 Fri Mar 26, 2010 7:22 AM
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Originally Posted by Pilgrim
So, small groups can be a blessing if conducted with wisdom with the aim of growing in grace.

Pilgrim,

My original question was not to bash all small groups in a church. I too have been in groups that have been a tremendous blessing and learning experience. When run properly, groups are edifying and a great benefit to a church and its members. It's just that some of my more recent experiences have made me wary of the danger groups can pose for a church.

John

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Oh, I agree that there is a potential for great danger if these small groups aren't properly conducted and/or supervised by godly men. Of course, this can likewise be said in regard to the pulpit ministry, Sunday School classes, Bible Studies and even prayer meetings. I think you are correct in not casting all blame upon the structure (small group gatherings). The godly and wise leadership of the church, which it seems in our day is a commodity rarely found, is where the responsibility rests in regard to how such groups are conducted. It should also be said that small groups are not necessarily going to be beneficial in some assemblies. But I fear, all too often these small groups are implemented because they are just another "program" put in place in order to attract more people. rolleyes2


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John_C #44442 Fri Mar 26, 2010 7:46 AM
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Originally Posted by John_C
I have one more thought. If a church, which is mostly the congregants, cannot keep its small groups on track with sound teaching, how will the church maintain sound teaching in its other teaching avenues - pulpit, SS, etc? I see it as a problem within the church, not the small group per se.
As per my reply to John below, methinks you might have your concern backward. wink Where the pulpit ministry particularly, is defective it will follow that so will the Sunday School, prayer meetings, small groups, outreach, etc., be deficient. The responsibility to keep things on a biblical track is upon the Elders for to them it has been given to teach the Word of God and to shepherd the flock and to do that rightly. (Hos 4:6; Eph 4:11-16; 2Tim 4:2,3; Titus 1:9)


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