October 23, 2011

Spiritual Disciplines XXIV: Covenant Groups

Task Oriented Relationships

I am generally a task oriented person but even these types of people need relationships in groups. God created us to be relational first with Him and then with others. Either way we are not called to isolate ourselves. Things do not always need “doing”. Sometimes the tasks that will need to be done to accomplish God’s will cannot always be addressed in a task oriented manner, it often needs to be addressed in a relational manner. We cannot run up to people and think we can just fix them like they are machines or a task to be completed. Sometimes part of the fixing is the relational element itself. Sometimes healing only comes through friendship of love, not wrenches and duct tape.

The Core Group

My family is the obvious first thought when I think of core groups but outside of this are two churches that I attend personally. One I preach to on Saturdays and one I take my family to for fellowship and concern for their growth on Sundays. I also have a local Bible study I try to attend as much as possible on Wednesday nights where I care for the men there and they care for me. Finally I have school where I have good friends that are in my theological and pastoral ministry classes that I am essentially working my way through school with. God has really supplied me in this area with support both for me and my family. I am chock full of places to engage in covenant between both them and God. I pray it stays this way. These are my core group(s).

Preference For Group Size

If I have a choice...I prefer to ministry with one-to-one or small groups. I will minister to any size group but the dynamics begin to change the larger the group gets. Not everyone can follow along in a larger group setting and/or keep up. When groups are smaller they tend to be easier to manage. Once a group gets about 7-12 people it must be consider a larger group and things become more corporate rather than individual. I cannot dedicate myself as hands-on as I would like.

Fellowship With God in Groups

In the one-to-one setting I experience God through the prayer and communal aspect of working together in a spiritual endeavor to reach together to God, small groups it is more of a study atmosphere that has been productive and for the large group it is usually in joint worship either in music or preaching whether I am listening to the preaching or giving a sermon myself.

Jesus Groups

Jesus appears to have enjoyed one to one contact and smaller groups. He had 12 disciples meeting with them as a group and individually. Towards the end of Jesus’ ministry we see Him mainly focus on the twelve as they worked their way to Jerusalem for the crucifixion. Jesus also often met with His disciples one on one and even met with people like Nicodemus one-on-one. I believe that if Jesus’ optimal size for his discipleship was 12 and later the 70 it is safe to say that Jesus seems to have preferred the former small groups but being the Son of God He could clearly make due with large crowds also whether there be 70 of them or 5000.

A Band of Christians

Jesus gathered a core group around himself. In the case of the disciples there were 12. Judas eventually abdicates his role through betrayal and sin to be replaced by Matthias. Some will say that there was one disciple for each tribe of Israel. What I can say for sure is that 12 is what God wanted and 12 is what God got. Their names will the 12 foundations of the walls of the New Jerusalem as stated in Revelation 21. Although Jesus was God, He still allowed Himself to be made of no accord in the form of a man and in so being He was limited to the physical aspects of humanity. In humanity it appears the 12 is the optimal group for teaching. If you have more the group begins to get too large and the dynamic of the becomes unwieldy if the group is small and more could be added without a need for another teacher than effort is lost and not utilized correctly. We also know also that within the twelve there was even a smaller inner circle of intimates who were Peter, James and John that were witness to the Transfiguration among other things. This tells me something more. Although Jesus picked twelve, only three were exceedingly intimate with Him. This tells me that the other 9 were not quite as close as the Peter, James and John...the core group.

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