Some small groups are, in essence, dead. Many groups died some time ago, but no one realized it. There was never a funeral. No mourning. No burial. The people involved just kept showing up at meetings as if the group was still alive, but all that existed, in reality, was a cold, stiff corpse. These groups meet weekly; they do studies from Bible study guides; they pray for one another’s physical health. But that’s it. Like the Dead Sea, there is no outflow of life from the group. There is no demonstration of Spirit’s power through outreach and evangelism. Many groups go for years in this kind of lack of awareness or denial.
- A living group is growing. People are being transformed and the number of people in the group is expanding.
- A living group is moving. It doesn’t just meet or congregate; it is actively involved in something outside itself.
- A living group has a heartbeat. It has a purpose. It exists to do something other than just feed itself.
- A living group is maturing. It’s not just getting older, it’s developing into what it was created to become.
- A living group is missional. It exists to carry out Christ’s commission.
So there’s dead groups and living groups, but there is also a third category, closely related to the first. Some small groups were never alive in the first place! My friend Carl Douthit once described these groups as mannequins. They were not created with the intention of being alive, growing organisms. They study the Word only for knowledge, not to put it into practice. They are “all dressed up with no place to go”!
First, you need an infusion of life that can only come from Jesus. The first Vital Sign of a Healthy Small Group is it is Christ-centered. When Christ is really at the center of your group, you meet together in his presence, for his purposes and under his power, and that makes all the difference! Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life, so he can bring life to your mannequin-like existence. He is the Way your group should go. He is the Truth your group needs in order to be real and authentic. He is the Life your group needs to animate and invigorate and motivate and activate your group!
Second, you need to recovenant with your group. The fourth Vital Sign of a Healthy Group is it has goals and plans. It’s time for you to confront the brutal facts, as Jim Collins puts it, and then to decide as a group about what God is calling you to be (your vision) and do (your mission). Note: A Christ-centered group focuses on what God, not individual members, want the group to be. This is the difference between Christ-centeredness and self-centeredness.
A healthy group is a missional group!