There are a number of things we can know about Jesus the small group leader just by reading the New Testament, particularly the gospels. And there are at least 10 practices that I need to learn:
1. Jesus invited men from the crowd who weren’t already connected. Isn’t this counterintuitive? How often are we taught to put our time into high capacity leaders from the core? Curiously, that’s not what Jesus did. Why do you think that was? I believe the 12 may have been more connected to the crowd and community than the core.
2. Jesus’ group began as a free market small group (net fishing was the affinity!). Not a bad way to begin. At least initially, they seemed to invite each other.
3. Jesus didn’t have an apprentice or co-leader. Technically, he was leading a turbo group.
4. Jesus developed his members with this 5 step process: (1) I do, you watch. (2) I do, you help. (3) You do, I help, we talk. (4) You do, I watch, we talk. (5) You do, someone else watches.
5. Their curriculum was frequently rehashing what Jesus had just taught on the mountain or by the lake (making Jesus’ group the first sermon-based small group!).
6. Their primary meeting environment was a third place. Their meetings were as much or more about what happened in between and on the way.
7. Once he formed the group, Jesus spent more time with the members of his group than anyone else (including his family). I know this is a challenging and countercultural observation. And yet…is it near the center of his impact strategy?
8. Jesus was intentional with his group members, challenging and encouraging them. He had a preferred future, an end-in-mind for them. He loved each of them. He called out their failings and cast vision for what they would become (Matthew 16:18).
9. Jesus set aside his rights to take care of his members (Philippians 2:3-8). How often do I take care of me first?
10. Jesus set aside time with God to recharge and recalibrate. He operated with clear priorities and understood his need for the power that can only come from time with God (Mark 1:35).
I don’t know about you…but looking at this list I am clearly not there. I want to be. But I’m not. Thankfully, I have learned from Paul that I can be thankful I am no longer what I used to be and moving forward to what I will be one day (Philippians 3:12-14).