Scripture: Matt. 9:37-38
Leading Question: Why do some people really like small groups and some people really don’t?
This week’s lesson trumpets the advantages of small groups. Before looking at some biblical material relating to that them, I will share a cluster of personal and general observations which might encourage discussion in Sabbath School this week.
1. Observation #1: Half my students really like small groups, half really don’t. Small groups in a classroom setting don’t function in quite the same way that small groups would in a church setting, though there is enough cross-over to make it worth pondering the comparison. Over the years I have tried a host of tricks to try and improve the percentage that like them. Nothing has made a difference. It may be simply the difference between the extroverts and introverts.
2. Observation #2: Communication experts say that once a group exceeds seven people, some members of the group cease to contribute. Since I am not an expert in the field, I am simply reporting what others have said.
3. Observation #3: Under the heading of “social support,” sociologists of knowledge say that much of what we consider “reasonable” is simply the consensus of those around us. Here I would offer three quotations in support, including one from Scripture. The biblical passage is from Hebrews 10:23-25:
Hebrews 10:23-25 (NRSV): “Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
The author of Hebrews was not a sociologist, but he did know that meeting together was crucial for believers. A quote from C. S. Lewis makes the same point. And the only sociologist in this cluster, Peter Berger, confirms the position from a sociologist’s perspective.
C. S. Lewis: “The society of unbelievers makes faith harder, even when they are people whose opinions on any other subject are known to be worthless.” – “Religion: Reality or Substitute?” in Christian Reflections, 43.
Peter Berger: “Put crudely, if one is to believe what neo-orthodoxy wants one to believe, in the contemporary situation, then one must be rather careful to huddle together closely and continuously with one’s fellow believers.” – The Sacred Canopy, p. 164
The author of our study guide cites two biblical passages that point to the success of small groups, the first is from the time of the Exodus when Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro noted the inefficiency of Moses’ way of doing things:
Exodus 18:21-25 (NRSV): “‘You should also look for able men among all the people, men who fear God, are trustworthy, and hate dishonest gain; set such men over them as officers over thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens. 22 Let them sit as judges for the people at all times; let them bring every important case to you, but decide every minor case themselves. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. 23 If you do this, and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all these people will go to their home in peace.’
24 So Moses listened to his father-in-law and did all that he had said. 25 Moses chose able men from all Israel and appointed them as heads over the people, as officers over thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens.”
The second example comes from the New Testament and Jesus’ selection of the 12:
Mark 3:13-15 (NRSV): “He went up the mountain and called to him those whom he wanted, and they came to him. 14 And he appointed twelve, whom he also named apostles, to be with him, and to be sent out to proclaim the message, 15 and to have authority to cast out demons.”
A call to small group development? Our study guide cites Jesus’ comments about the harvest as a possible call for small group development. What do you think?
Matt. 9:37, 38 (NRSV): “Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.’”