Monday, April 5

Wisdom Regarding Small Groups

I love the church for it is the creation of our Lord Jesus Christ! As it is connected intimately to Christ, I cannot but help to adore his grand design in giving us this living reality of His presence. While there have been aberrations within her (as there necessarily must be where redeemed sinners gather) we must not throw it out as if the church were man's idea, or as it we can destroy what God has created! It is not nearly so tenuous a thing as that. Truly, even the gates of hell shall not prevail against her!

We have Small Groups at our church, and I'm glad we do. But I am not unaware of the tendency which Wuthnow surfaces in this 1994 article from Christianity Today. I would always want to do what we do in the right way. And I am ready to be corrected. So, I hear his concerns.  
The kind of community small groups create is quite different from the communities in which people lived in the past. These communities are more fluid and more concerned with the emotional states of the individual. Some small groups merely provide occasions for individuals to focus on themselves in the presence of others. What's more, the social contract binding members together asserts only the weakest obligations. Come if you have time. Talk if you feel like it. Respect everyone's opinion. Never criticize. Leave quietly if you become dissatisfied. Families would never survive by following these operating norms. Close-knit communities in the past did not, either. . . . A majority of small-group members says they joined because they wanted to deepen their faith and that their sense of the sacred has been profoundly influenced by their participation. But small groups are not simply drawing people back to the God their fathers and mothers. They are dramatically changing the way God is understood. God is now less of an external authority and more of an internal presence. The sacred becomes more personal, but, in the process, also becomes more manageable, more serviceable in meeting individual needs, and more a feature of the group process itself. . . . The deity of small groups is a God of love, comfort, order and security. Gone is the God of judgment, wrath, justice, mystery and punishment. Gone are concerns about the forces of evil. Missing from most groups, even, is a distinct interest in heaven and hell, except for the small heavens and hells that people experience in their everyday lives. (ROBERT WITHNOW, "How Small Groups Are Transforming Our Lives." Christianity Today, 2/7/94)

No comments: