In the words of von Zinzendorf described in the textbook by Dempsey and Earley, “there can be no Christianity without community”. That community has always consisted of small groups starting with the church’s early history.
While large Christian parishes, neighborhoods, or even countries are a community as well, it is the subdivision of small groups that ultimately drives the faith. People form relationships with those close to them, living together but also worshipping and praying together, and engaging in Christian deeds together within their local communities.
The Christian church and parishes are one large family, but they are also locally and denominationally separated. However, this does not foster division but inherently builds unity as each individual and group realizes their purpose within God’s plan and the Church.
The small groups within the church allow for healthy growth. It is within these groups that individuals find faith, compassion, guidance, and even pastoral care.
There are instances where people come to church on Sundays, and listen to the pastor, but fail to truly connect with God or apply the Spirit in their lives, they are distanced, and their pastoral needs are not taken care of. That is not the fault of the church or the pastor, who tries his best to know and help everyone on a personal level while also managing the parish and preaching God’s truth.
However, the small groups within the church that represent the community can offer a personal touch and help the flame of faith to grow. It is through these groups that the church sees natural growth, both in population and spirituality, while also being the foundation of stability and accountability.
In the New Testament, discipleship is presented in the context of being a student to a teacher and being a follower of someone – in both cases in relation to Jesus. The Church outlines seven aspects of discipleship, the first of which is discipleship to Jesus. The Growth Group model contributes to the development of faithful individuals into disciples within these seven aspects.
For example, small groups are committed to Bible study which helps to understand the Scriptures and shape decisions of discipleship. In small groups, people can encourage and support each other in self-sacrifice for Jesus, while also benefiting from the wisdom and godliness of others to help build obedience to Christian teachings.
The close bonds of growth groups allow to shape character and habits for discipleship-making, while also developing close bonds of familial love for others in ministry, building trust and compassion.