I am asked quite often what success looks like within the small group world. As I have considered that question, and looked into how others have answered it, what I have found has served to only deepen my desire to seek and rely on the Holy Spirit. Many churches will gauge success exclusively on numbers. How many groups are meeting? How many people attend these groups? Their determination is that a high percentage of groups and attendees equal a high percentage of people becoming mature in Christ. Cha-ching! Success!
Church leaders have good reason to think this way, as it does seem logical. If people are going to church-centered activities then people should be growing in Christ. I liken this thinking to the salvation-card measurement of people saying yes to Jesus. 200 salvation-cards should mean 200 people have secured their eternal destination. Right? Well, this is pretty idealistic thinking but quite honestly neither scenario actually guarantees the fulfillment of its intended purpose. Human effort can never change human hearts – that is the Holy Spirit’s job. Thus, measurements of this kind can never signify the evidence of changed lives. These measurements only measure our effort, not the Holy Spirit’s activity or power.
The end game of the church should not simply be getting names on a salvation card. Nor should it be simply getting people plugged into a small group. Both are well-intentioned, but what does the card actually mean, and what is the group actually offering? If the card does not come with intentional follow-up and discipleship, and if the group is not genuine in its effort to lead people in the pursuit of God through real community, then neither is truly being affective in its purpose. A card simply becomes the source of misinterpreted statistics. The group simply makes people feel like they are fulfilling their religious duty beyond Sunday attendance. Neither involves the Holy Spirit. The danger, then, is at best we only lead people to lukewarm Christianity, and we know how Jesus feels about that (Rom. 3:16).
True success, then, comes not by statistical analysis, at least not in our traditional church way of thinking. Consider these two scriptures…
You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you. – Romans 8:9-11 (NIV)
I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. Now he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come. God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church. And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself. – Ephesians 1:19-23 (NIV)
Church and small group success comes through resurrection power. It is by, and only by, the power of the Holy Spirit. The same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead. Numbers do not reflect success, unless they are numbers that indicate that lives are changing. When darkness turns to light it is noticeable. When Christ comes, the old life leaves and the new creation appears (2 Cor. 5:17). As the new spreads, communities will be affected. As a result, the statistics that have traditionally measured the manifestation of evil in our communities will begin to reflect the power of Christ’s resurrection. And others will take notice.
This Sunday is Resurrection Sunday. This is the day we celebrate our salvation through the most incredible, most selfless, and most powerful act of our great God. It took power to raise Jesus from the dead and scripture makes it clear that the same power that raised Jesus can raise us also. In other words, this power did not simply come and go. It is available to us to this day. As a groups ministry we can operate in this power. It won’t come by simply doing the typical small group thing, fulfilling our religious duty to involve ourselves. We are no longer “…in the realm of the flesh, but are in the realm of the Spirit.” Therefore, we must seek God in faith filled worship and prayer. We must teach each other to consume and do His Word. We must build unity in the body through relational intentionality. And, we must stir up the power of Christ’s Resurrection in our communities through the obedient following of Him “…who fills all things everywhere with himself.”
Go Deeper – Grow Stronger