Proverbs 12:25-26 NIV - Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up. 26 The righteous choose their friends carefully, but the way of the wicked leads them astray. [Don’t let fears blind you & others]
Hebrews 10:24-25 NLT - Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. 25 And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.
Once Jesus began His earthly ministry, He quickly formed a small group of men that He instructed, empowered, and “did life with” in community. Continually, Jesus reassured His group. He told them not to fear, He taught them to pray, He expounded the Scriptures, He demonstrated love and ministry (sometimes in perplexing ways), and He trained them to bless others. After His resurrection, Jesus empowered His followers with the Holy Spirit so they would be His witnesses. Yet the group pattern remained. They met not only in large gatherings, but also in homes and in smaller groups. The churches that were begun had this small group pattern as part of it’s DNA - confessing sin to one another, praying for one another, providing for one another, and 50+ other ways of loving one another! In a hostile world in which persecution was a real threat and personal sin habits were even worse, the Christian method was already in place - group gatherings of Christians to build one another up. Despite the occasional “lone wolf” prophet in the Old Testament, God’s main vehicle for life-change and discipleship was always relationships more than religious systems. It is the reassurance, kindness, and friendship that is cultivated in smaller group settings that effectively serve as “close combat” against our fears, failures, and frustrations. Simply having close family, coworkers, or friends is not sufficient. It may be socially, but not spiritually. That is why authentic freedom and fellowship must be sought and practiced with those who will follow the lead of Jesus and encourage us to do the same. Will you pray for God to connect you into a healthy, life-giving small group in which authentic freedom and New Testament fellowship are practiced? Has God blessed you with a home or personality that can be used to better facilitate a small group? If you are more introverted or shy, why do you think God instituted such an intimate ministry setting given your personality type?