Part 1: Why we believe in Connect Groups
Why small groups? Why all the trouble to start Connect Groups? Because from the outside, it can appear inconvenient. I've heard these excuses.
"You don't know how busy our city is; people can only attend one weekly meeting?"
If that's the case, ditch Sunday and make it the small meeting! That's how important it is. I've gone to some places where they say it's too dangerous. For example, in some of the townships in South Africa and some of the farming areas, it's too dangerous to go home and leave home after dark. And yet small groups are happening with great effect all over our country.
Well, it's God's plan.
If you look at the early church, they didn't just meet in temple courts; they met from house to house. So have you thought how it was, that 5000 people, 3000 people, and the women and children and friends etc. got added to a church in a single day? (Acts 2:41).
How did that work?
How did the church keep its values? How did they keep a sense of family? How could there be no needy among them at that size? How did they devote themselves to fellowship and breaking bread in such a large group? How did that work? It wouldn't have worked if it were just 10,000 people in a big building. It worked from house to house; when they planted churches, it was from house to house. It was like the two lungs that the early church breathed with. They met in temple courts, in massive groups where there was devotion to apostolic teaching and prayer, but they also met from house to house, whether it was breaking your bread, handling issues, or dealing with crises they faced. When people are in a Connect Group (small group), people have a sense of belonging.
Remember, when Lidiya in Acts 16 got saved, the woman who dealt with purple cloth, she said to Paul and his companions, if you consider me a believer, come to my house. She began to host meetings in her home. It's always when we do faith in each other's homes that there is a sense of family getting together. Then, there's the handling of the crisis. How do you handle a crisis if you sit there quietly with 10,000 people around you? Remember, in Acts 12, when the disciples were buttoned down, Peter was in jail, and James had lost his head. Where were they? They were at Mary's house. That's where they were.
People’s gifts grow in small groups. Remember the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus; Jesus loved to go to that house (Luke 10:38). Mary grew her gift of worship and extravagant generosity; Lazarus exercised his gift of being a friend; Jesus knew when he came to that house. Martha ran the administration and logistics. Giftings develop in small groups.
We have small groups because our connectedness, relationships, values, and ministries can be authentically worked far more effectively than in massive congregations. What you find is that if a church doesn't develop small groups when people are in groups of more than 150, they feel as if it’s no longer part of a family; they feel lost in the numbers. Many churches, of course, can get a lot bigger if they are not using small groups, but they become simply preaching halls—just a guy with a great gift calling a massive crowd together. But if you want to live out New Testament Christianity, it happens in small groups and big crowds.
My challenge for you is to put up your hand to be trained to lead a connect group. If you're already leading a small group, raise somebody else so that they can take over your group, so you can go and start another one. We should invite new people into our connect groups because that's how they connect with the body; that's where their faith is outworked.
The other day, I spoke to a guy who said I don't have to connect groups because I only want to listen to good preachers. Well, your understanding of connect groups is wrong. It's not a forum for someone to preach for half an hour. Instead, it's where we wrestle through the Word and connect with God. That's why we call them “Connect Groups;” you connect with God, you connect with others, and you connect to the Bible. Connect groups are very much in God's plan for you, and for me, Jesus did far more preaching, miracles, and discipling training in homes than in synagogues and temples; that should be our model.