Re-Thinking Small Groups

20293_SmallLifeCommunity_GroupIntimacy within small groups is a critical, yet complex construct involving several key elements. Of particular interest to Christian leadership is the notion that “intimacy involves a sharing of one’s whole self.”[1] An exploration of Pauline, Petrine, and Johannine ecclesiology reveals a consensus regarding small groups and Christian leadership. Simply put, there is no such thing as Christian leadership apart from small group intimacy on some level.[2] This principle was modeled by Jesus, lived out by the early Church, and reinforced throughout the New Testament. For example, the “vine” metaphor located in John 15:1-11 has several implications for small group intimacy. It is clear that in John 15, the church is described as “The Branches”, which must stay connected to the “Vine” – Jesus (John 15:5). Thus, the “vine’ metaphor implies that in order for the Church to grow spiritually and to produce good fruit it must remain connected to Jesus in every way. However, the “connection” of the branches to the vine also implies a connection “one to another” through love, fellowship, and prayer (John 15:12-17) After Jesus shares the Parable of the Vine and the Branches, he wraps up the discourse with a powerful command of love. Thus, lived-out koinonia involves connection, intimacy, abiding, and the production of fruit via prayer and closeness within the group.[3]

Stylistically, does the modern Christian small group, especially within the local church framework, promote the intimacy described in John 15? How do Christian leaders recapture “intimate-connection” and “abiding” in the context of a time-crunched culture? Are we doing enough to foster true connection?

[1] Gillette, J., & McCollom, M. (Eds.). (1995). Groups in context: A new perspective on group dynamics. Lanham, MD: University Press of America

[2] Choi, R. (2000). I am the vine: an investigation of the relations between John 15:1-6 and some parables of the synoptic gospels. Biblical Research 45, 51-75.

[3] Kariatlis, P. (2012). Affirming koinonia ecclesiology: An orthodox perspective. Phronema 27, (1), 51-65.


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