Restoring Trust and Faith: The Power of Small Groups

by: Larry Davies | Jan 13, 2013

There were many significant people and events which profoundly impacted my life. Here are three:

 

  1. Disciple Bible Study met every week for two and half hours, required study and prayer for half an hour every day, all for a total of nine months as we studied nearly 90% of the Bible. This was intense but I learned so much about God and also about what God wanted me to do. For many years, I taught the same course with similar results. Nearly every new ministry that started at churches I served came through the leadership of people who took Disciple Bible study.
  2. Walk to Emmaus was an experience-filled three day weekend spent with approximately thirty men or women. In the midst of all the messages, singing, shared experiences, discussions and a lot of prayer, I discovered the power of God’s love and grace in a powerful new way. Today, I still look for opportunities to send others so they too can experience the Walk to Emmaus.
  3. Leadership Group started as a way to offer a time of teaching and support for the clergy on our district. When the group first met, we mostly talked about our churches and how we could be better leaders but as we got to know each other and trust each other, we’ve become more of a support group seeking spiritual guidance together from the God we love and serve.

 

Why am I mentioning these three experiences? What ties them together?

 

  • Disciple Bible Study taught the importance of teaching the Bible in a way that changes lives.
  • Walk to Emmaus taught the power of an intense group experience designed to help someone rethink their life.
  • Leadership Group taught the power of group encouragement and accountability combined with the power of seeking God’s will as a way to challenge each other to be better spiritual leaders.

 

All three were small groups designed to help us encounter or experience God in a life changing way. Within each group was a lot of work and organization but also a lot of trust in the influence of God.

 

This is so important for many reasons. Harris Interactive, the originators of the Harris Poll, recently polled 23,000 employees. Here are a few of their findings:

 

¨       Only 37% said they have a clear understanding of what they are trying to achieve.

¨       Only 1 in 5 was enthusiastic about their organizations goals.

¨       Only half were satisfied with the work they accomplished at the end of the week.

¨       Only 15% felt they worked in a high-trust environment.

¨       Only 17% felt their organization fostered open communication.

¨       Only 10% felt their organization hold people accountable for results.

¨       Only 20% fully trusted the organization they worked for.

 

If a football team had the same scores only four of the eleven players on the field would know which goal is theirs. Only two of the eleven would care. Only two of the eleven would know what position they play and know exactly what they are supposed to do. And nine of the eleven players would be competing against their own team members rather than the opponent.

 

Maybe some of you feel this way about your jobs. But church should be a place where these relationships can be restored and improved; where trust can be strengthened.

 

Churches have their small group Bible studies, Sunday school classes and other opportunities to learn about God. But nationwide, Sunday schools are declining and the number of people who attend church is going down.

 

Yet, the latest studies say that education and small groups can be the church’s most potent tool for helping people grow in faith. Of all the areas of congregational life examined, involvement in small groups was the number 1 factor in helping a person’s growing faith.

 

So, if small groups can help people grow in their faith, why are so many churches declining?

 

As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a village where a woman named Martha welcomed them into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. But Martha was worrying over the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.” But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are so upset over all these details! There is really only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it-and I won’t take it away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42)

 

What was wrong with Martha? Why didn’t she get it? Martha acknowledged Jesus. Martha was directly serving Jesus by preparing a meal. Martha had good intentions. Her motives were fine but she didn’t get it. Righteous motives even in the service of the Lord are not the main thing.

 

A growing relationship with Jesus? That’s it! That’s what Mary chose. She wanted to know and grow closer to Jesus. The Lord was (and still is) looking for disciples with whom to develop deep relationships. That is what is most important. Everything else should follow.

 

One study found that adults want to learn three things in church: The Bible, developing a personal relationship with Jesus and improving our skills at showing love and concern to others. A study of teenagers found they want to learn: how to make friends and be a friend, how to know and love Jesus, learn more about who God is.

 

In other words, most people come wanting to change and grow in our faith and in our love of God and each other. One church set this simple goal: “We want to know, love and follow Jesus.” That was it. That was their goal. It’s so simple yet it has guided this church to reach many new people for Jesus Christ.

 

Disciple Bible Study taught the importance of teaching the Bible in a way that changes lives. Walk to Emmaus taught the power of an intense group experience designed to help someone rethink their life. Leadership Group taught the power of group encouragement and accountability combined with the power of seeking God’s will as a way to challenge each other to be better spiritual leaders.

 

All three were small groups designed to help us encounter or experience God in a life changing way. Within each group was a lot of work and organization but also a lot of trust in the influence of God.

 

In a world struggling to discover and deepen relationships built on faith and trust, our local church proclaims the best way I know based on meaningful small group experiences. If you already belong to a local church, look for a small group that will help you deepen your relationship with Jesus Christ. If you’ve been away from church, it may be time to consider coming home.


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