Sunday, March 04, 2007

Bible Study Groups

Should Christian pastors encourage small group home Bible studies? My contention is absolutely yes. And below are the reasons why:

1) Fellowship - Home groups are a place for Christians to experience life with one another. Many Christians are distracted by the pressures and influences of non-Christian friends. It is important that Christians find others whom they can identify with, grow with, and be held accountable towards.

2) Transformation - In home groups, Christians can interact with the Word of God and discuss it with other believers. Bible study groups are an opportunity to interact with a text, and get questions answered. The Holy Spirit working through the Word of God shared at such an intimate setting can be a place for great spiritual renewal.

3) Mutual consolation and edification of brothers and sisters in Christ - Home groups are an opportunity to share your life with other Christians. They are a place to share your struggles, sins, and thanksgivings. They are a place to receive guidance, assurance of forgiveness, and prayer.

4) Mission - Often times home groups grow and multiply. Friends invite non-believing friends to come. The non-believing friends get their questions answered, here about sin, and the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. They are then brought to the Pastor to be baptized and instructed in the faith.


The most common fear I hear regarding small groups is that without a Pastor people are bound to go astray and be taught falsely. This is a good fear for all Christian pastors to have. We are responsible for the spiritual care of all the people entrusted to our care. We will give an account of the ways in which we conduct our pastoral ministry. So what should we do?

My hope is that pastors would not only equip small group leaders with orthodox materials, but that they would act as Overseers of the development of the groups. There should be no small group leaders who have not been instructed in the orthodox faith. I would also encourage a small group leader questionnaire to be given to those who desire to be leaders. This will ensure that the potential leaders are strong biblically, doctrinally, and have not forgotten their instruction. Further, a small group leadership seminar is a great idea as the leaders can get instruction and advice on how to lead a small group. And finally, I would encourage Pastors to meet with their leaders on a regular basis (maybe monthly or every other month) to check in on the development and progress of each group.

There are basically two options: 1) Option #1 is to operate out of fear and neglect the potential for fellowship, transformation, mutual consolation, and mission. 2) Option #2 is to trust in your system/process and pray that the Holy Spirit would bless such a noble endeavor. The benefits for small groups are enormous, and they have great potential for spiritual renewal and mission.

To operate out of fear and only have one Sunday morning Bible study taught by the Pastor decreases the potential for mutual consolation and mission. Fellowship and transformation can still occur but I'm afraid that people will likely be less open and there is probably less potential to grow. In large groups of people, people are less likely to share their burdens and confess their sins. Further, people from all different walks of life are less likely to attend a small group where they have trouble relating to everyone there. Are large amounts of high school kids going to go to Bible study groups with seniors? Are large amounts of college students going to go to Bible study with middle school students? These are some questions for us to consider as we plan our future ministries.

Some have identified home bible study groups with 17th century European conventicles because they meet at homes without pastors. However, this has no basis. First, conventicles were secret meetings without the knowledge of pastors. Second, the Eucharist was celebrated and lay people were not attending the liturgy. In home Bible study groups, the Pastors are involved. They are the ones who equip, provide the materials and oversee. And the Eucharist shall not be celebrated except where there is a Shepherd to administer it with the whole congregation on the Lord's Day.

In conclusion, small groups are an opportunity for fellowship, transformation, mutual consolation, and mission to occur. The Pastor is the preacher, teacher, the one who appoints leaders, the one who provides materials, and the one who oversees the groups. We can trust in this process and pray that God blesses it, or we can operate out of fear and will most likely not have as much of an impact on the people we are leading or the non-believers in our city.

13 Comments:

Blogger Dan @ Necessary Roughness said...

Good points. Small groups it seems so easily becomes misinterpreted as license -- the small group leader does what he wants to do or is seen to do what he wants to do.

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