Someone recently commented to me that pastors are the only ones who really enjoy Sunday mornings as the high point in the week. I hope not! This individual insisted that other Christians look forward to their small groups more than corporate worship. She said it is more exciting for the congregant to be in a small group where they can ask questions, pray for others, discuss their own views, and get to know one another more intimately. I understand this sentiment and appreciate the desire to connect with others, but in all humility I would say to this well-intentioned individual, “You don’t understand the distinct privilege corporate worship is. We are communing with the saints before the holy throne of a majestic God.”
He hit this topic from a slightly different angle, but I’d like to take the chance to interact a little bit. I would like to come out right now and make one thing very clear:
A Small Group Bible Study is NOT the Church
It might become a church (article from an IMB missionary who plants churches through small groups coming soon). It might be under the authority of your church. It might even include every member of your church, but it is not the church, nor is it a replacement for your church.
The Church is distinguished by particular marks
The church has elders/pastors. The church can (and should!) practice church discipline. The church is responsible to baptize and participate in the Lord’s supper. The small group bible study does not have those things and should not being doing them.
What IS a Small Group?
A small group is a training ground for upcoming leaders. A small group is a time for prayer and mutual encouragement. A small group is time for fellow believers to work out how to apply God’s word to their lives. A small group is a chance to confess your sins, one to another. A small group does a lot of good things that are required in Scripture, but a small group is not the church.
The small group Bible study is a tool used by the church to accomplish a part of what God has called the church to do: Love and admonish the saints, and to reach the lost. The small group can no more supplant the church than the tire can supplant the car.
Read the rest of Jason’s article.