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Why We Won’t Have Small Groups (pt 2)

September 12, 2011 | By | No Comments

Hopefully you got the chance to read Part 1 of this series.

After much discussion with others about what community can and should look like within the context of going and making disciples of all nations, we are aiming towards a four level way of looking at relationships and community at Resonate. This is largely based upon Jesus’ model of relationships, from a 2-4 person model of intimate relationship (Matthew 17:1-9; Mark 9:2-8; Luke 9:28-36; John 21:20; John 21:15; Matthew 26:37), the 12 person model as with the Disciples, the 12 plus witnesses larger context (Luke 20:45; Mark 3:7; Matthew 5:1; John 13:35; Acts 2:47) as well as larger church-wide gathering (Acts 19:39; Hebrews 10:24-25; Acts 2:46; Acts 20:7; 1 Cor 16:2)

It will be HIGHLY important to remind you of two things before you read through all this:

1. Relationship and Community is HIGHLY organic. That is to say that its not easy to program relationships, growth, dynamics, and people’s spiritual journey. Sometimes relationships form very naturally, sometimes they need to be developed very intentionally. Some people have a knack for community, some people are more closed off and it requires more work to learn to trust. Either way, the constant preaching of the Gospel addresses all our deficiencies as broken, relational beings, and helps remind us of our sin and need for God to be center in relationship. All that being said, we can provide a trellis for which the relationship vine can grow, allowing structure for something that will grow organically.

2. This requires intense leadership and discipleship of a few key individuals. Community that continually grows and focuses on discipleship does not form just by putting people in a room together. At Resonate, we train, admonish, teach, develop, grow, disciple, encourage, and equip a few leaders to provide structure, vision, and leadership to our larger communities. This HAS to happen, otherwise you end up with small groups that gather, sometimes talk about Jesus, and really do not show any signs of disciple making disciples.

Four Levels of Community at Resonate 

Relational – LifeTogether

As I have found in my experience, even within the traditional ‘small group’ model, there are often just 2-4 people that I may TRULY do life with. They were the people that I spent any considerable time outside of ‘small group’ with, who knew me well, consistently had dinners with, etc. They are almost always same sex relationships, often groups of about 2-4 men or 2-4 women who develop a framework for confession, accountability, encouragement, prayer, and support. An even small community that allows very high levels of vulnerability. LifeTogether RARELY has to be “programmed,” because most people often develop or connect with 2-3 close friends. It is simply looking at these relationship with the lens of discipleship and the Gospel.

Communal – LifeGroups

The traditional small group model was birthed out of a good place, that is… Jesus’ model of intimate relationships. Jesus chose twelve men to follow him around, to go deep in spiritual development, and to be His disciples. In relationships of about twelve we develop dynamics including conflict, refinement, and bearing with one another in love that may not happen among the the smaller LifeTogether relationships. In these groups, there is an ability to walk together through spiritual disciplines, such as prayer, study of Scripture, fasting, and accountability. This also provides a context to plan, develop, and implement the larger LifeGatherings below, as well as pray, equip, and remind each other of the mission to make disciples. Most LifeGroups will meet 3-4 times a month.

Missional – LifeGatherings

Taking the definition from the previous post, this is truly the “Missional Community.” This is often groups of 30-50 and provides the ideal environment for building new relationships. Often these groups are formed geographically, but can also be focused on specific segments of society. Say a LifeGroup starts as a group of artists who really have a heart for the artist community within Atlanta. That same LifeGroup may start having LifeGatherings with other artists in the area with the intention of making disciples and proclaiming the Gospel to an artist community. Often these will occur over meals, just as the early church did (1 Corinthians 11: 20; Acts 20: 7) and Jesus did, so much so, he was even called a glutton (Luke 7: 34). Within these larger groups is where we socialize, serve, and celebrate, alongside nonbelievers or young Christians, as well as allowing them to see our joy, celebration, and love for each other. Most LifeGatherings will occur 1-2 times a month.

Incarnational – Resonate Gatherings

Eventually, as the pattern of meetings gets established, Resonate will begin to meet every week for the purpose of gathering all the LifeTogether groups which are part of LifeGroups which are part of LifeGatherings together to celebrate together. We will be ‘incarnational,’ representing the very body of Christ as we worship together. At these larger meetings, we will tell stories of how God is working in each missional context, pray for the larger needs of the city, mobilize and leverage the larger influence for larger mercy projects, celebrate the diversity of God’s people, and to continue to rally around the message of the Gospel of Jesus through teaching, songs, liturgy, and more. As people who have ‘Good News,’ this will often be a celebratory environment, but also recognizing the awe and wonder of the God who created all things.

Going Forward

We are novices at this, and don’t have all the answers, and some of this could change, but at this point, this is where our biblical convictions, cultural discernment, and vision has lead us. We look forward to seeing how best this plays out in our communities. If you are interested in getting involved in one of our LifeGroups, drop me a line at chriscase@resonateatlanta.org.

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