“A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate.”
— Seth Godin
When we do small group right, we develop a tribe; and beyond allusions to ‘the tribal’ we can know that it is God’s will that the small group connects as a tribe. Tribes are intimate. They know each other. They share in each other’s struggles and celebrate each other’s joys. Not one is better than or worse than another; but there is difference, and a tribe learns to operate within, and appreciate, the difference—using difference as strength for the tribe.
For small group tribes to be effective in realising the will of God, through them, they need to connect not only with each other, but also with these tasks or purposes below:
1. Worship, within the Small Group, As a Lifestyle
We bring glory to God when we meet together with hearts bent on worship and praise.
From out of the small group experience comes the example of living broadly the worshipful lifestyle. Within the small group we have models of worship, from which we learn.
The most important purpose of a small group is to create a culture where worship is a lifestyle.
2. Small Group As a Means of Authentic Fellowship
As God is a community—the Godhead three in one: Father, Son, and Spirit—we were ordained from the beginning to belong within community. Indeed, coming together, authentically, and willing to be vulnerable before each other is an act of worship; an act of surrender to, and trust in, God.
Small group can be hardly any good for God’s purposes if it doesn’t break past superficiality. We must allow superficiality, but we need to be open if we are to create the deeper trusting and intimate relationships.
We literally need to share in each other’s lives; much as the First Century church did.
3. Growing Together in Christ
Perhaps the central purpose of meeting together is to grow together. I think it may be our core purpose in life to Grow In GOD.
We may think that growing together in Christ is possible in isolation, but it isn’t.
The vital ingredient for character growth is what many call ‘sandpaper ministry’; we cannot grow in Christ unless we do so together, learning to be humble, merciful, and just, in the midst of our relationships.
4. Serving Together within, and Beyond, the Small Group
Serving together is a direct means of growing together, as serving builds upon the purpose of fellowship (because we do it together), it ensures we remain humble (supporting the purpose of discipleship), and it, in itself, is an act of worship.
The servant-hearted serve with genuine joy, but someone who is just pretending will be found eventually in frustration.
5. Small Group As a Witness to the Wider World
When the preceding four purposes are achieved and made manifest through the group, the small group is well positioned to be a witness to the not-yet-believing world.
The reason why the First Century church was so attractive to those looking in was that it embraced the previous four purposes, and, by the power of the Holy Spirit, mastered them. That is our anointing. We have the self-same task.
As small groups, we have opportunities to broaden our reach, evangelistically, into the world.
When our small groups behave like tribes, integrating worship as a lifestyle, having authentic fellowship, growing together in Christ, serving each other together, and being a compelling witness of God’s power to the world, they bring glory to God.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.