Fellow blogger Rick Howerton, whom I respect greatly as a leader in the small group movement, recently posted a blog detailing three things that a small group should not discuss—among them was the Pastor’s Sunday sermon. His reason? Gossip. I agree, if that’s where things inevitably turn.
However, I’m going to subtly disagree with my fellow small group apologist. Allow me to explain. While I am not a huge fan of a small group digging into the pastor’s message week-after-week, month-after-month, year-after-year, I do believe it can be a valuable tool for discussion and growth for a season of time. And I believe it can serve to challenge group participants in four very important ways. Here they are:
There is an expectation that small group members are in church each weekend. Group discussion about the sermon provides a measure of accountability for everyone. Subsequently, if an individual or couple can’t make it on a given weekend, there is the expectation that you’ll grab the CD or listen to the podcast of the sermon. This keeps you up-to-date with the sermon series, and keeps you engaged with the direction the pastor is leading your congregation.
Many times, people are in church, but they’re not fully engaged. When a small group agrees to spend time talking about the pastor’s message, it requires a deeper level of commitment. Group members will likely listen more attentively, they’ll likely take notes, and they might even dig more deeply into Bible passages presented in the sermon.
There’s just something about knowing that your friends and peers are expecting to hear how God spoke to you through a message that ratchets up everyone’s ability to focus.
3. Deeper Understanding
When a pastor teaches, he often communicates much more than most of us understand at first. Certainly, he teaches the Biblical text. Also, he often teaches Theological truths and the vision of the church in subtle ways that support his Biblical teaching. When a small group discusses the message—including its subtleties—it helps small group members get a deeper grasp of the church’s beliefs and philosophy of ministry. Great stuff for any small group to process and discuss in community!
One size does not fit all when it comes to personal application of a sermon. The Holy Spirit will instruct, guide, and lead you differently than He does another. That’s why it’s helpful to talk about the Spirit’s leading in your faith journey from your pastor’s Bible-based message. You might be led to respond with your heart, another with their hands, and another with their head in deeper intellectual pursuit. Processing these things in the context of community can help to refine and clarify your personal application.