Now if you want a group to grow in God, at the very least that has to be an explicit aim. We need to say it regularly and often. “We expect that as a result of belonging to this group everyone will be growing in God and will be further on in their spiritual walk in a year than we are now.” “The purpose of this group is to explore together where we could be with the Lord and then to prayerfully seek to go forward.” “The reason this group exists is to spur each other on in our spiritual walk and to see each other living by faith, taking risks for God, honouring and praising him in every area.”
Clarifying the vision helps people to grasp the purpose of what they are doing. It gives meaning, focus and hunger for God. It injects hope that God might do things in and through us that are greater than we have yet experienced. It helps us walk by faith. It establishes a normal and normative expectation of growth. Developing a community and the hearts of its members means building an environment where the normal expectation is that people will grow spiritually.
So what do I want to see in small groups that look like this? All groups are a work in progress. I work with some who are highly resistant to this kind of model. Some deliberately because they don’t agree with it, some just out of inertia, some because group leaders were so comprehensively taught that small group = inductive Bible study that they can’t grasp a different concept.
When I think about spiritual growth and spiritual maturity I think about the centrality of the cross over everything I am an everything I do. And that is what I want to lead others to see and to reckon on in their lives. Effectively to live every aspect of life working out what it means in practice to be justified and sanctified by grace through faith. What does having a big saviour and a big cross mean for my work life? What does it mean for my relationships? What does it mean for the way I direct all my energies and spend my money? What does it mean for the way I watch TV that I am justified by grace?
So I contend that this is what we are being encouragers of. We are Barnabas-leaders in order that everyone we have the privilege of working with is helped to measure their life by the cross and is helped to take further steps in living out their redemption in every area.
Question: do small group leaders in your context ask the group every week “what has God been doing in your life?” If not, what are the factors that prevent?