Now is a perfect time to join a small group of believers. Small groups are important because:

1. Small groups move us out of self-centered isolation. It’s the classroom for learning how to get along in God’s family. It’s a lab for practicing unselfish, sympathetic love. You learn to care about others and share the experiences of others: “If one part of the body suffers, all the other parts suffer with it. Or if one part of our body is honored, all the other parts share its honor” (1 Corinthians 12:26 NCV). Only in regular contact with ordinary, imperfect believers can we learn real fellowship and experience the connection God intends for us to have (Ephesians 4:16, Romans 12:4–5, Colossians 2:19, 1 Corinthians 12:25).

Real fellowship means being as committed to each other as we are to Jesus Christ: “Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers” (1 John 3:16b NIV). This is the kind of sacrificial love God expects us to show other believers—loving them in the same way Jesus loves us.

2. Small groups help us develop spiritual muscle. You’ll never grow to maturity just by attending worship services and being a passive spectator. One of the main tools of spiritual growth is participation in a small group, where your spiritual muscles get a regular workout. “As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love” (Ephesians 4:16b NLT).

Isolation breeds self-deception. It’s easy to fool ourselves into thinking we’re mature if there is no one to challenge us. Real maturity shows up in relationships. We need more than the Bible in order to grow; we need other believers. When others share what God is teaching them, I learn and grow, too!

3. Small groups confirm our identity as genuine believers. I can’t claim to be following Christ if I’m not committed to any specific group of disciples. Jesus said, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples” (John 13:35 NLT). When we come together in love as a small group from different backgrounds, ethnicities and social statuses, it’s a witness to the world (Galatians 3:28; John 17:21). You’re not the Body of Christ on your own. You need others to express that. Together, not separated, we are his Body (1 Corinthians 12:27).

4. Small groups are the best way to share our God-given mission in the world. When Jesus walked the earth, even he had a small group! Today the church is Christ’s Body on earth. We’re not just to love each other; we’re to take that love together to the rest of the world. We’re his hands, his feet, his eyes and his heart. He works through us in the world. “He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing” (Ephesians 2:10 MSG).

5. Small groups help keep us from spiritually backsliding. None of us are immune to temptation. Given the right situation, you and I are capable of any sin. God knows this, so he has assigned us as individuals the responsibility of keeping each other on track. The Bible says, “Encourage one another daily…so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness” (Hebrews 3:13).

“Mind your own business” is not a Christian idea when it comes to helping each other! We’re commanded to be involved in each other’s lives. If you know someone who is wavering spiritually right now, it’s your responsibility to go after them and bring them back into the fellowship. “If you know people who have wandered off from God’s truth, don’t write them off. Go after them. Get them back” (James 5:19 MSG).

Related to this is the benefit that being connected to a small group provides the spiritual protection of godly leaders. God gives shepherd leaders such as me the responsibility to guard, protect, defend and care for the spiritual welfare of his flock (Acts 20:28–29; 1 Peter 5:1-4; Hebrews 13:7, 17.). “Their work is to watch over your souls, and they know they are accountable to God” (Hebrews 13:17b NLT).

If you’re detached from the body of believers, I’m not responsible for you. If you are unplugged from the life of the Body of Christ and isolated from the fellowship of God’s family, Satan knows you’ll be defenseless and powerless against his tactics.

6. The Body of Christ needs you! You have a background and experiences that other people can learn from and draw strength from! God has a unique role for you to play in his family. This is called your “ministry,” and God has gifted you for this assignment. “A spiritual gift is given to each of us as a means of helping the entire church” (1 Corinthians 12:7 NLT). Your small group is the place God designed for you to discover, develop, and use your spiritual gifts and talents.

Dr. Rick Warren is passionate about attacking what he calls the five “Global Goliaths” – spiritual emptiness, egocentric leadership, extreme poverty, pandemic disease, and illiteracy/poor education. His goal is a second Reformation by restoring responsibility in people, credibility in churches, and civility in culture. He is a pastor, global strategist, theologian, and philanthropist.

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