By Mark A. Taylor
Mike Mack and Brian Jones probably wouldn’t agree about everything. But both of them have expressed enough concerns about traditional small group ministry to make every group leader or participant think twice.
Brian, who blogs at BrianJones.com, posted a series of outspoken entries this summer under the general heading “Why Churches Should Euthanize Their Small Groups (and what we should replace them with).”
“I believe in creating disciples,” he wrote June 17 to introduce his topic. “And I believe this is what the church is called to do. But in most instances disciples are created in spite of the small groups people participate in, not because of them.”
In his post the next day, Brian expresses thoughts that resonate with the suggestions Mike offers this week:
Looking back on my 23 years of following Christ, here’s what I’ve noticed: every “small group” I’ve ever been in that helped me grow as a disciple started by what appeared to be an accident.
I wasn’t looking for it. I wasn’t interested in joining a “small group” in the least. And in many respects I didn’t even feel a need to grow spiritually. . . . For the most part that’s exactly how it’s been happening in the Christian community for, say, the last 1,960 years.
That is until we westerners, particularly Americans, started messing it up.
Well-intentioned Christians, armed with the latest insights in organizational theory, let their pragmatic and utilitarian hearts delude themselves into thinking they could organize, measure, and control the mystical working of the Holy Spirit in community in order to consistently reproduce disciples in other contexts. . . .
We messed it up from the start, like we Americans do with just about everything that is supposed to be a genuine work of the Holy Spirit.
What would happen if we euthanized all of our small groups, taught the value of discipleship and community, and then simply let the Holy Spirit do its work?
By contrast, Mike, in his article on page 4, does not propose that we eliminate small groups (read all of Brian’s posts, and you’ll see that’s not his ultimate conclusion, either). But Mike does challenge us to allow groups to form more naturally as God does his work of connecting the members of his body together. That’s the intersection of Mike’s and Brian’s insights that should give pause to every small groups advocate reading this magazine.
Brian stimulated quite a bit of discussion about this subject on his blog. We’d like the discussion to continue. Compare what he wrote with Mike’s thoughts in this issue and then tell us what you think. Is your church’s approach to small groups creating meaningful connections and maturing disciples?