Small Group Craze vs. Biblical Community
We live in the midst of a small-group craze. Name the group, you can join it. Forty percent of the American population participates in “a small group that meets regularly and provides care and support for those who participate in it,” according to Robert Wuthnow, a Princeton University researcher. People are crying out for relationships!
I fit the image of the modern man looking for a place to call “mine.” I recently moved into a new apartment with my bride, Shawna. This marks my seventeenth home in the last ten years. I have bought into the constant movement of our time. We search for the pot of gold — new job, more schooling, better town — at the elusive rainbow’s end, but we never stop to view the rainbow itself. We move on just in time to miss the beauty of living in true relationships.
HOUSE TO HOUSE
Christians in the New Testament found a remedy for our displaced world: They found solace in the church. They made church attractive and real. They related to one another. To illustrate how they lived, Larry Kreider, pastor of DOVE Christian Fellowship International, retells T.L. Osborne’s fictional conversation with Aquila in Ephesus:
“Good evening, Aquila. We understand you’re a member of the church here. Could we come in and visit for a while?”
“Certainly. Come in.”
“If you don’t mind, we would like for you to tell us about the way the churches here in Asia Minor carry on their soul-winning program. We read that you have been a member of a church in Corinth and Rome, as well as this one here in Ephesus. You should be very qualified to tell us about evangelism in the New Testament Church. If you don’t mind, we’d like to visit your church while we’re here.”
“Sit down, you’re already in the church. It meets in my home.”
“You don’t have a church building?”
“What’s a church building? No, I guess we don’t.”
“Tell me, what is your church doing to evangelize Ephesus? What are you doing to reach the city with the Gospel?”
“Oh, we already evangelized Ephesus. Every person in the city clearly understands the Gospel. We just visited every home in the city. That’s the way the church in Jerusalem first evangelized. The disciples there evangelized the entire city of Jerusalem in a very short time. All the other churches in Asia Minor have followed that example.”
Homes were the centerpiece of New Testament life. Acts 2:46 reads, “They broke bread in their homes …” They met from “house to house” in Acts 5:42 and 20:20. The homes of Jason in Thessalonica, Titus Justus and Stepphanas in Corinth, Philip in Caesarea, and Lydia and the jailer at Philippi illustrate the central role the home played in the early church.
Some blame the modern malady of the church on the fact that we do not use homes as a means of ministry and evangelism. While meeting in a home is a step in the right direction, this alone will not fix your church. Small groups meeting from house to house will not make the world take notice and ask, “Wow, how can I be a part?” The 40 percent of the population who gather regularly in small groups and the 60 percent who choose not to are not looking for another meeting to attend, even if it is in a home. They seek something real, something powerful, something that will change their lives.
God does not give us easy formulas such as, “Meet from house to house and your church will grow.” The power of the New Testament church supercedes meeting in a home. It supercedes meeting anywhere. The New Testament does, however, give us a model and a definition for relationships. It tells us how to live with one another as the church to impact our relationship-hungry world.