People involved with small groups often talk about “going deeper,” “getting below the surface,” or “connecting” in some kind of meaningful way. There is a sense that small-group members should be more than acquaintances—that we should really get to know each other in a way that is different from the superficiality of the culture around us.
Of course, that’s easier said than done. It’s pretty rare to find a small-group community that has achieved true relational depth. That’s because intimacy in human relationships is always preceded by authenticity. And showing real authenticity is a frightening experience.
You know that to be true, don’t you? There have been times in your life when you’ve tried taking off that mask you wear—that painted smiley face that tries to show everyone how you are a good person with a great life.
Maybe you confessed a sin to someone else. Maybe you spoke out against something that was controversial or wrong. Maybe you asked for help. Maybe you admitted to having some doubts about God or the Bible or what it means to be a Christian.
Whatever you revealed when you took off that mask, it was a scary experience. And the same thing is true for the members of your small group. It will take tremendous courage for them to remove their masks and open themselves up human beings who have the capacity to be flippant, mean, and judgmental. But it’s necessary work, because authenticity is the first step on the road to community. And community is a necessary element of spiritual growth.