- Holistic Small Groups. Commitment to small communities (6-12 people) within the larger community, which act like 'mini-church', where closer relationships can be formed, and where worship, prayer, pastoral support, ongoing discipleship, Bible application and outreach take place in a smaller setting.
What is this Quality?
That old model of church as petrol station where you go to get filled up with the Spirit to last you through the week is seriously flawed. The Spirit of God is “living water” as Jesus says – a spring within you. John 7:38. The common life of the Spirit is not something that happens in the Temple or Church Service – its what happens when you met together afterwards, at home, in the week. “Where two or three gather together” says Jesus
Holistic = whole. The real deal. The whole nine yards. The full monty. Hook, line and sinker. A small group who look after one another is good. A small group who study the bible together is good. A small group who support a missionary project is good. A small group who meet to pray is good. But they are not holistic. Holistic means that everything a church does on Sundays – the small group does when it meets in the week. And sometimes even more.
How is it shown in Jesus?
Matthew 18:20 “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” says Jesus. We tend to use this as a comforting excuse when not many people have turned up. But what if Jesus actually means that the small number is ideal for really meeting with Jesus? Jesus chose 12 from the hundreds of followers. Jesus chose 3 from the 12 for particularly focussed experiences. Most of Jesus' teaching – leaving aside the feeding of the 5000 and possibly the beatitudes – seems to have occurred in small groups of believers, enquirers or even opponents. It is there, where real face to face encounters can happen, that His truth is proclaimed. Sometimes is safer to hide in a big crowd. Cathedral, Festival, Conference or even Songs of Praise on the TV. There we can ride on the back of other people's enthusiasm, skill or relationship with Jesus. But Jesus turns to us as he did to Simon Peter at Caesarea Philip and asks “And what about you?” Matthew 16:15.
How is it shown in the NT Church?
In Acts we have the earliest description of Church life. Where are the signs of health here?
Look what they value most. Teaching – Fellowship – Breaking of Bread – Prayer – Signs & Wonders – Common life – Care for needy – Temple worship – Home groups – praise - good reputation. And that leads to growth. Look at the description. Can you spot the “8 quality areas” in them?
Here is a church who take their worship and fellowship outside the walls of the temple. They're all on facebook! They are all in Cell! The early church is structured around meeting in one another's homes. As persecution rose – so they were disseminated among the whole region.
How is it shown in our Church and in me?
We have adopted the structure of Cell church. This is where our primary pastoral care, discipleship training, outreach, community action are focussed. Of course, not everyone wants to be as involved as this. It is not compulsory. You may choose to opt out of these things. But you will be missing out on all that a small group can offer. Why small groups? More personal. More significant. More rooted in your life. More accessible to your friends. Our Cells have a set of values summed up in the acronym: CREED = Complete collaboration, real relationships, everyday encounter with Jesus, effective evangelism, and developing discipleship. These are values best pursued together.
Western religion has tended to deteriorate into the sphere of private, individual, personal opinion. It has been usurped by the rich and powerful and used as an “opiate” as Marx put it to defend the status quo. George Herbert's “rich man in his castle, poor man at his gate” has been used as the philosophy behind all sorts of chauvinism from race & class to one family being churchwarden for generations. This not the faith of Jesus Christ.