People who love their small group want that group to stay the same forever.
This is true for long-time, mission-minded followers of Jesus just as much as it is for people who are experiencing the power of group for the first time. I was reminded of this last week when one of the most mission-minded women in our church shared her “sneaky plans” to extend the leadership development group she is in. She loves her group! She doesn’t want it to end.
I GET IT! GROUPS ARE AMAZING!
But they are more than amazing… they fill a God-given need in our lives. For many, family structures are distant, making small groups their only family. And they even get to choose this family! Once you find a good one, you want to hold on.
But holding on to something isn’t always the best plan in God’s economy.
Peter had an experience he wanted to hold on to. He had the unique opportunity of witnessing Jesus’ transfiguration.. and the presence of Moses and Elijah to boot! The presence and power of God was more palpable for Peter than ever before, and he didn’t want to let it go. He even offered Jesus a solution to keep it going!
But that wasn’t in the plan.
Instead, Jesus led them back down the mountain and went back to work. There was a mission to accomplish. The mountaintop experience shaped Peter and prepared him for the work ahead, but that experience wasn’t intended to be his home.
I believe “mountaintop” small group experiences are similar to Peter’s time on that mountain. These groups shape and prepare us for God’s mission, but they aren’t intended to be our long-term home.
Here are the top three reasons I believe this.
1. We only have one home, and we won’t get there until the work is done.
We will have glimpses of our future home, but we remain workers on a mission in a foreign land. I am grateful for those glimpses. They remind me that my work is not in vain and that home is coming soon.
2. Jesus’ small group was about His mission… no more and no less.
Jesus’ mission was to prepare twelve men to carry out His work of redeeming the world back to the Father. When He had fully prepared them, He ended the group.
Read the last part of John 13 and put yourself into that room. Jesus dropped a bomb on them by telling them He was stepping out and they would be stepping up. Interestingly enough, He proceeded to teach them a new command about loving one another. Notice, however, that Peter’s attention was still focused on the bomb. He interrupted Jesus’ sermon and asked “Lord, where are you going?” Peter didn’t want things to end… again.
Jesus was undeterred. There was work to do. There was a mission to accomplish. Jesus had prepared Peter to feed His sheep, and now it was game time.
Small groups, if they are to follow the model of Jesus, are to prepare every follower of Jesus to play their part in continuing and extending Jesus’ mission. Every other benefit from groups is icing on the cake, but they aren’t the cake itself.
3. “Holding on” is one sure way to lose what matters most.
Jesus said, “whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” My translation into group life is, “If you hold on to your group for your benefit, you will lose it. If you give up your group for Jesus’ sake, you will find it again and again.”
I have seen group after group prioritize their wants over Jesus’ mission and fizzle over time. They get sick. Some even get toxic. They were “coming down the mountain” the whole time but didn’t realize it until it was too late… and they have nothing to show for it.
I have also seen many groups become intentional about empowering others in their group to lead their own group. They even encourage them to take their closest friends in the group to go with them! In every instance, the relationships between those people only grew stronger… even when they weren’t in the same group!
This reminds me of another teaching of Jesus… “unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”
I don’t like the thought of dying. I don’t like the thought of my small group dying. That said, I dread the thought of Jesus’ mission dying in my group and under my leadership even more.
I love new life. I love the thought of MANY lives becoming new in many, many more small groups.
The best way for these lives to become new is for more and more followers of Jesus to give their groups back to God. Let’s all give thanks to God for the mountaintop experiences we have had in groups. Let’s also choose to let them go when Jesus invites us to get back to work to make room for more.
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