I am definitely an advocate for small groups because they have had a huge impact on my life. I believe they are essential to our spiritual growth! Why? Well, in order to grow, we have to interact with God and his people on more than a surface level. Praising God together in worship as a group is super important. But, we need to do more than this if we are to become the people we were meant to be. We must slow down and engage with a smaller group of believers in a real and honest way. This isn’t easy, but in the long run, the payoff far exceeds the struggle. There can be tremendous mental, physical, and spiritual health in connecting with a group of people where we can let our hair down and just be ourselves! In real community we laugh together and encourage each other. We also cry together and help each other when life gets hard. We correct each other out of love and we learn what it looks like to forgive and repair relationships. This kind of community is what life is all about! Verses 1-16 of Romans chapter 16 is a beautiful picture of what it looks like to be connected to the family of God! Paul mentions 29 specific people by name that helped, served, and loved right along with him. Here are a few examples: “Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their necks for my life”(3). “Greet Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners”(7). “Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord: also his mother, who has been a mother to me as well”(13). Paul is connected in a deep way to all kinds of people. Do you want these kinds of relationships and connections? The best way to get started is to join a small group and commit to be there every time the group meets! The first step toward real change is a commitment to ATTENDANCE. We have to put our bodies and minds in the right places to get what we need. Paul is excited about all the growth and incredible relationships, but he issues a warning. Paul says, WATCH OUT! Be on the lookout for individuals that are driven by their own desires. “For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive”(18). We must learn to watch people and listen to their words - just because someone is in the church and says they are a Christian doesn’t mean they can automatically be trusted. The church is a place for the sick, so all are welcome. However, not everyone is in the right place. Paul says we need to listen for SMOOTH TALK and FLATTERY. He goes on to say we should watch for actions that CAUSE DIVISIONS and CREATE OBSTACLES. Are you causing division in the body? We need to regularly evaluate ourselves too. Are we doing things for the right reasons? Are we too focused on ourselves and our own agenda? Often, the people causing the problems aren’t fully aware of what they are doing. They are just doing what they have always done and they don’t understand why they leave a path of relationship destruction behind them. They are driven by their own appetites. We need to pull these people aside in love and help them see what they are doing. Hopefully, they will be humble and admit their need for change. If they do, we can come alongside them and help. Why? Because the people of God UNITE and TEAR DOWN OBSTACLES. We bring people together, and we help them to get free from the sin that so easily
entangles. However, if there is no willingness to admit wrong and change, we have to do what is needed to protect the sheep. The people of God are not weak and naive, they are wise and strong BECAUSE of the Lord Jesus. “I want you to be wise to what is good and innocent to what is evil. The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet”(19-20).
Director of Small Group & Lay Counseling Ministries