Today in my on-line class we're "talking" about small groups, and the remarkable impact being part of a "covenant community" can have on the individuals involved...
But... not just the individuals, but the larger community too. There's good evidence to suggest that developing purposeful small-groups is possibly the most significant intervention available when it comes to moving any given church from stagnant/non-effective to vibrant/transformational.
Unfortunately, the idea is still a hard sell in many faith communities. Especially those where the rot has already set in. I'm an observer by nature, plus I've conducted in-depth interviews with well over 300 clergy in the past few years - and my conclusion is that there's one common denominator in most failing churches.
Pencils out - ready? Here it is: These churches seem to be stuck in a social/cultural reference of what church should look like (typically based on "I remember when I was young..."), rather than a following-Jesus model and - consequently - they're constantly looking backwards instead of "upwards".
The irony is that most of these are so-called Reformation churches! The idea of reformation is supposed to be a constant, where God's Word interacts with the individual and the community, constantly pushing the envelope in terms of what it means to be an active "Christ-like" presence in this world.
My natural tendency is toward inertia. I like my familiarity and I love my comfort level; it's not so much that I'm lazy as that I'm resistant to change, especially when change disturbs my comfortable rut. You know the physics, "a body at rest has the tendency to remain at rest..." That's one reason why the small group environment is so good for me - my friends can be a catalyst for reinvention.
A church that has even 10% of it's membership actively involved in this kind of encouragement, support, prayer and accountability is going to see dramatic shifts in the fundamental drive and steering dynamics.
This movement from passive club-membership to transformational faith-community is not optional - it's a requirement for life. And, in my humble opinion, the best crucible for that kind of dynamic life is active small-group participation for as many members of the body as possible.
In my on-line class we're discussing my Advent book, "In My Heart I Carry A Star". There are twenty congregations represented in the workshop, from five denominations in nine states. One is sponsoring a church-wide study - around 25 small-groups all studying the text at the same time; around 300 people all involved in a transformational experience with the prayers and support of small-circles of believers...
And that - as Rebekah would say - gives me chilly-bumps!