Groups That Grow Deeper
“How was your group last night?” I hesitantly texted a congregant.
After a few moments too long, the reply finally came, “I’m sorry David, but I just don’t like my group. It feels like a waste of time.”
This was the type of message I dreaded receiving.
“Hang in there. God’s got this” I replied back, wishing I had something better to say.
“Is this working Lord?” I silently prayed. “If small groups are supposed to help people grow, what am I doing wrong?”
The idea is simple. Small groups make disciples. Help a congregant join a group and they should grow as a disciple of Christ. However, should is a dangerous word. What about when it doesn’t work? What about groups that look healthy, but don’t produce spiritual growth?
These questions led me on a journey to dig deeper into what actually makes growth happen in a group. What I discovered was this: the relational dynamics within a group determine the discipleship that occurs. While curriculum is foundational, how a member experiences being with God, others and themselves, shapes everything about their relationship with Christ. Let’s look more at how these dynamics affect our spiritual growth:
1. With God | Growth begins by recognizing that transformation is only possible through the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus instructs us in John 15:5, “apart from me, you can do nothing.” A group who desires to grow must first awaken to the presence of the immanent God who resides in their hearts. Dallas Willard wrote that spiritual growth “is neither active nor passive, but interactive.” All transformation comes from growing in our attentiveness to God and being with Him in all things. Agroup who is walking in an interactive process with God will continue to grow spiritually together.
2. With One Another | Tim Keller writes, “to be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God.” When we experience relationships with others who know us deeply, yet love us as broken sinners, we get a taste of God’s love. God’s love transforms our hearts when we move beyond superficiality and into a group experience where brokenness is not only accepted but expected. 1 John 4:12 says, “No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” When the truth of ourselves encounters the truth of God’s love for us, we are inevitably changed. Through vulnerability our shame is broken, fears are overcome, sin is defeated and we experience real transformation in Christ.
3. With Ourselves | Spiritual growth involves looking both upward to God and His Word and downward in examination of own hearts (Psalm 139:23-24). John Calvin writes, “The whole sum of our wisdom, which is worth calling true and certain, is practically comprised of two parts: that is, the knowledge of God and of ourselves.” In order to put off the old self, we must know the old self. This requires being aware of the areas in our life where we are weak and struggle. It involves knowing our own story and understanding where we have come from and where we are going (Gen. 16:8). Groups made up of individuals who know their own hearts are continually interacting with what is beneath the surface and in doing so follow Christ’s instruction to “first clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean” (Matt. 23:26).
Today, I no longer fear text messages that reveal the lack of spiritual growth in a group. Instead, these acknowledgments are an invitation into a deeper level of honesty with God, others, and ourselves. Imagine the people in your church not only participating in groups but also being deeply transformed by them. As we cultivate and care for the relational dynamics of a group, we will see discipleship that goes deeper and truly transforms hearts into the image of Christ.
David Krall is a Life Groups Pastor at Rolling Hills Covenant Church. He has served at RHCC for seven years and is passionate about creating transformative communities that experience spiritual renewal and the depths of life with Christ. He holds an MDIV from Talbot School of Theology and loves being a husband to his bride Kelsey and dad to his two-year-old Jaxon and newborn son Zander.