Advice to a New Elder: Small Groups, Part 1

shepherd3Churches of Christ, on the whole, have been slow to adopt small groups, although many have done so.

The objections go along these lines:

  1. The best time to meet is Sunday night, but we can’t give up Sunday night church.
    (Yes, you can. Or you can give small groups permission to skip Sunday night church to meet. The time for two-worship services on Sunday are past — and that model only appeals to Church of Christ members age 70 or older.)
  2. They might teach something unauthorized. (I suggest a camera in each meeting as well as a couple of spies. And maybe some wire taps. Get over your paranoia and learn to trust your fellow Christians.)
  3. They aren’t authorized by scripture. (In Acts 2 a single congregation split up into separate houses to study and eat together — while also meeting as one in the Temple courts. Maybe this is a binding example? I can make a better argument that it’s mandated than you can make that it’s prohibited.)

The literature on small groups often makes the point that groups can be formed for several purposes. Chapter 1 of most books gives examples of small groups for assimilation of new members, evangelism, Bible study, personal accountability, counseling, etc. Chapters 2 through 13 talk about evangelism — because church is about nothing but going to heaven when you die.

However, recently I observe a more mature trend — that is, to have groups that form for multiple purposes and so take multiple shapes. Sometimes what people need are friends. Sometimes they need a place to volunteer. Sometimes they need help growing as disciples. Sometimes they need a third lesson on the same topic as the sermon and Bible class (okay, not really, but it’s a common theory because it’s easy). Sometimes they need a time to talk about the sermon (you’d better have a Cracker Jack preacher or else the lesson will be about the deficiencies in the sermon). Sometimes they just need a place to go to talk about raising children and marriage and such.

Now, if you’ll recall the posts on group dynamics, the size of the group impacts what the group can do. It’s okay to have some four-person accountability groups that meet over breakfast while other groups have 30 members and a great teacher who works to mature the group in the faith.

So watch out for small group books and small group leaders who come with a model and template in mind — who talk about multiple types for multiple needs but really just want one kind of group. Bait and switch tactics are no more right in church than in business. Just be honest.

Group purposes can change from year to year. And the old idea of multiplying groups is largely discredited. People who find a group that meets their needs don’t want to change because of some unproved theory. Form new groups out of new members and old members not presently in groups.

Sometimes a group gets too big — if they can’t meet in someone’s house they’re too big — and they do have to multiply. But rarely do both halves do as well as the group as a whole, because successful groups are usually built on the leadership of a gifted hostess or teacher. Be sure the new group has real, proven, trained leadership, or it will fail.

So I’m pretty laissez faire about group purposes and size — so long as the groups don’t attempt the plainly impossible — such as being a 20-person accountability group. Contrary to thinking 20 years ago, a group of 20 may well work very well evangelistically because there are so many people that a visitor might connect with — and personal connection matters much more than doctrine to most people not raised in a Church of Christ. Friends matter.

On the other hand, I also believe that anything worth doing is worth doing right — and “right” includes —

  • Measurement. Take roll. Ask the staff how many were in attendance last week. If they don’t know, ask them to please find out. Insist that we take roll and turn it in to the office. And this is really hard, but you can’t oversee that which you don’t measure. It’s not that attendance is sufficient or the only measure — but if you don’t know the names and numbers, you won’t see the warning signs when a group starts to fail. You won’t even know if things are going well. But it’s really hard to get group leaders to get you the numbers. The solution is a new invention: the telephone. If people won’t log into the website and give a count, and if they won’t email the names, then call them. Nothing works like Alexander Graham Bell’s invention — and no one has really tried until they’ve called.
  • Volunteerism. We asked small groups to take on service projects several years ago, and we had good success with that idea. But the point wasn’t to use the groups to get church work done. It was to get out into the community and serve. Unfortunately, some churches want to assign all unpleasant tasks to the small groups. Need meals cooked on Wednesday night? Have the small groups take turns. Need groceries bagged for the food distribution program? Have the small groups take turns. Need the grass cut? Small groups can take turns! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Why? Because it quickly makes small groups very unattractive. If you sign up for a small group, you’ve also signed up for 20 unpleasant jobs. And it doesn’t match gifts to service. The members will quickly figure out that they can meet “off book” and then no longer have to report attendance and do 20 chores that no one else will do — all while doing what they always wanted to do. They might even be evangelistically effective off book — since they don’t have to cut the grass and cook the meals and sack the groceries. (When you start passing chores out to small groups, you’ve obviously lost interest in using them for evangelism.)
  • Read the literature. Saddleback is the place to start since they have 120% of their members in groups. Most books for 15 or more years ago are badly out of date. Find something current. The times have changed.
Profile photo of Jay Guin

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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33 Responses to Advice to a New Elder: Small Groups, Part 1

  1. Mark says:

    Please do not use secular politics as a litmus test for who is in the “in crowd” of the small group.

  2. Jeremy says:

    I’ve been part of intragenerational small groups, mixed generation small groups, several groups of misfits, groups that were changed every year, groups that were pretty much set in stone, groups that met for 60 minutes and left, groups that could top 4 hours with a meal and activities, groups who studied material and groups who just wanted to do life together. Some groups worked, some didn’t, and one even blew up spectacularly.

    I’ve noticed that churches that have to rent out school gyms or other buildings on Sunday mornings are more likely to have a thriving small group infrastructure by necessity for Sunday evenings. If you grow past 150-200 members, it’s hard to get to know everyone, even just past their name. Not to mention churches that are 1000 to 2000!

    You need a “church within a church” to get back down to a 14-16 people level, and people are comfortable with getting to know others on a deeper level. I hear that books say that people will stay connected to a church if they feel they have five close friends there. Small groups are a good way to cultivate those deeper relationships.

    I think too, when you really get to know others at a non-superficial level, you find that others struggles aren’t as different than your own. And you find folks who have gone through the trials that you find yourself in. Those things can be an encouragement and build up the body.

  3. John says:

    Mark, very wise advice.

  4. Jeff Richardson says:

    Times have changed, says you. I would dare say that most people who advocate for small groups do so with an agenda in mind. Not all of course, but most in my opinion. These small groups can become gripe fest and a way to usurp the authority of the Elders. A way to separate the weak from the flock and influence them with doctrines of demons. A way for false teachers to spread their venom and spit congregations. If you would notice, most people in a congregation gravitate to those whom they are most comfortable with anyway. They become small groups in and of themselves. fellowshipping and enjoying one another. We separate into different classes (small groups) when we meet, why does this not meet this need? But we as a body of Christ are commanded to come together on the first day of the week. Elders in most areas have determined that Sunday and Wednesday nights are also a time for the body to come together as well. This has worked in the church for many years, why are WE now so special, that the tried and true way is no longer of any value? Have we become spoiled? Do we have to change for change sake? Look, it may work well where you are with no problems, but I promise, danger is around the corner.

  5. John says:

    Jay,
    What’s up with the failure of multiplying groups? Isn’t the point to keep them small so folks can keep with each other (or isn’t that what the literature says)? I’m totally open to new ideas: is the point that small groups can be any size as long as they are meeting a specific need or needs?

  6. Profile photo of Kevin Kevin says:

    I live in Tampa, and virtually all congregations of all denominational stripes only hold one congregational service on Sunday morning; Sunday evening is either omitted or for small groups. Same goes for the Church of Christ denomination; conservative, progressive, and even non-institutional congregations have all adopted the same practice. I think most have realized that small groups are critical to remaining faithful, being an active Christian rather than an intellectual Christian, and establishing friendships and connections with other Christians. All this leads to growth and accountability.

  7. Profile photo of Kevin Kevin says:

    Jeff,
    Welcome back and I hope all is well with you and your family.

    I would dare say that most people who advocate for small groups do so with an agenda in mind. Not all of course, but most in my opinion.

    Really? Most people have an agenda? Like what? By ‘agenda’ I assume you mean something nefarious. On the contrary, isn’t it quite possible that most people just think that there may be a better way of doing something? You know, like in the New Testament.

    If you would notice, most people in a congregation gravitate to those whom they are most comfortable with anyway. They become small groups in and of themselves. fellowshipping and enjoying one another. We separate into different classes (small groups) when we meet, why does this not meet this need?

    Why does the only ‘correct’ way HAVE to be your way? If your way works best for the congregation that you attend…super. Press on. But for other congregations, your way is just not as effective and doesn’t work best for them. That’s great too. Romans 14.

    This has worked in the church for many years, why are WE now so special, that the tried and true way is no longer of any value?

    First, who says it is the “tried and true way”? Let’s see the scientific data. The last time I checked the numbers for the CoC denomination, people were leaving in droves, and I don’t think the CoC has experienced a rebound of late. Congregations are dying off in rapid succession. Tried and true? Hardly. Maybe people are leaving because the CoC too often legislates “tried and true” opinions as matters of faith…?

    Look, it may work well where you are with no problems, but I promise, danger is around the corner.

    Problems arise when one attempts to force their opinions onto others. Opinions are great, and this is all just a matter of opinion. If Congregation A desires to worship as a whole on Sunday evening, then I support them in their decision. But criticizing Congregation B because they have small group on Sunday evening does nothing to further the Kingdom.

  8. Jeff Richardson says:

    Kevin, I was just voicing my opinion, I do have a right to one don’t I. I don’t believe I condemned anyone, I just stated what I believe to be true. Kevin, did you just force an opinion on me?

  9. Johnny says:

    When we dropped Sunday night services and began small groups on Sunday night we almost doubled participation. I can’t see a downside other than a lack of families willing to host.

  10. Profile photo of Kevin Kevin says:

    Jeff,
    of course you can have an opinion, but your comments imply much more than opinion…at least that is how I read them. You connected MOST people who advocate for small groups with agendas and implied that these advocates are false teachers who teach doctrines of demons.

    Ergo…since you believe them to be false teachers, you seem to have made this a matter of faith rather than a matter of opinion.

    I would be thrilled to have misunderstood you.

  11. dwight says:

    Yes, Jeff I read it like Kevin read it.
    “I would dare say that most people who advocate for small groups do so with an agenda in mind. Not all of course, but most in my opinion.”
    How many small groups do you know? or home groups?

    I once went to a blog site called ARE and they made a similar statement, but offered no personal example or data. They connected small groups, particularly those who met in homes, as having an agenda of liberalism or progressiveness, when in actuality when you go to the sites of those people they are in form closer to the NT assemblies.
    To argue such a point would be to argue from having seen it or knowing someone that has gone through it.
    Most people that meet in homes or small groups who are “liberal” or “progressive” are that way not because of the group form, but who is in the group when it started.

    “This has worked in the church for many years, why are WE now so special, that the tried and true way is no longer of any value?’
    OK, but we who argue for scripture, will not find our form in the scripture to justify this form, thus any form is within reason. Right?
    And just because something has “worked” for many years doesn’t mean it is actually working. I hear the same thing said about the invitation system, but when figures are looked at, the system fails and yet we still do it. Most people who are baptized are done so not at the time of the invitation, but either later or much later or earlier.

    Your argument of “Look, it may work well where you are with no problems, but I promise, danger is around the corner.” should have been told to the early saints who did just that.

  12. Jeff Richardson says:

    Dwight, I would be interested to know in scripture, when they separated themselves into small groups? The whole body came together, which were small groups to begin with and they met in homes. I know of no separating of these already small groups. I believe this idea is a rather new concept, not necessarily a scriptural one.

  13. Mark says:

    That meeting in a home was the small group, even when the Temple existed. However, they could also be represented by the small groups of Christians practicing their illegal religion when they met in the catacombs of Rome.

  14. Dwight says:

    Yes, Jeff, I think Mark understands what a small group is. Every time the saints, the church, form a group…it is a group of saints, the church. It could be small, 3-20 or fair-to-midland, 30-100 or larger, 100-500, etc. We have examples of them meeting in homes to partake of the Lord’s Supper and then a school to learn, but beyond that we don’t have any example of a formation like how we do it today on a scale of how we do it today in a place like how we do it.
    Not that it is wrong, but it isn’t how it was done.
    I fail to see how your argument of “The whole body came together, which were small groups to begin with and they met in homes. I know of no separating of these already small groups. I believe this idea is a rather new concept, not necessarily a scriptural one.” make sense.
    If the whole body came together, that would be everybody that is a saint.

    What we find are the saints meeting in different venues in assembling, but mostly in homes.
    A building paid for by the saints is never in the scriptures. They didn’t need a place built to meet as they already had places to meet in or at.

    What is not in question are those who meet in homes in regards to becoming smaller, but rather those who meet in your everyday common church building (50-300) and reducing down to a group that would fit in a home(20-30).
    The venue or size of the group doesn’t make the church, the church makes the church.

    So in answer to your question, every time the saints met in their homes, they met as small groups, as opposed to what we would seen in our churches on any given Sunday morning.

  15. Thanks for that reminder, Jay.

    Jeff, it is the gaggle of autonomous, independently-governed, discrete, disconnected congregations in a city that is our own creation and is inconsistent with what we see in the life of the early church. Our modern practice makes lots of room for wolves to roam from churchhouse to churchhouse, encourages the unrepentant to take their sin with them down the street to a new congregation, and creates an identity (“our church”) that actually competes with our identity as part of the Body of Christ. It prevents doctrinal error from being rooted out by exposure to mature leaders from across the city and allows it to fester under “locally autonomous” elderships who are answerable to no one and who give the sheep no alternative but to flee the fellowship to seek relief.

  16. Jeff Richardson says:

    Again, my point would be, in the first century church they came together as the body. Small in number for sure but the body none the less. They indeed met in each others homes, but they did so as the body, the whole body, they moved from place to place, probably for safety’s sake. I don’t see this body separating out even further. What we see today is the body separating into small groups, forming another “body”. I see the factions that the Corinthians created and Paul condemned. What can happen is the formation of many small bodies who have no Elder oversight. All doing their own thing causing more disunity than unity.
    Charles M, Elders are accountable to Christ and will give an account of what they have done. If Elders are doing their best to honor God and to do His will, the “sheep” are obligated to honor the Elders, if they don’t, they don’t honor Christ. The number one reason I believe many do flee the body, they seek change, they are not satisfied with following the pattern, they desire to do as they see fit and not as Christ has commanded. Not all who advocate for small groups have this mind set, but the danger is still there. When Titus was charged with appointing Elders in every city, I don’t believe the idea was to have many small groups with Elders over seeing them all. The difficulty in that is plainly seen. We are to come together, together we make the body of Christ in a particular location. There is nothing more disappointing when traveling on a Sunday evening, to find a local congregations meeting place, only to find out that they have separated into small groups at other locations and there is no one to worship with.

  17. Mark says:

    Jeff, Do you not consult a website for service times? When you do not have a denominational hierarchy to order churches to have a Sunday evening service, why are they not free to make their own decisions?

    Matt. 18:20 “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” I believe this sanctions even the smallest of groups.

  18. Profile photo of Kevin Kevin says:

    Jeff,

    When you state the following — “They indeed met in each others homes, but they did so as the body, the whole body, they moved from place to place, probably for safety’s sake. I don’t see this body separating out even further” — are you stating fact or opinion? Just wondering what the basis is for this statement. You seem to be suggesting that each small group or house church was it’s own independent congregation.

    The number one reason I believe many do flee the body, they seek change, they are not satisfied with following the pattern, they desire to do as they see fit and not as Christ has commanded.

    You are erroneously suggesting that people leave the “one, true church” because they know the truth, and they desire to reject Christ in favor of their own personal preferences. Jeff, you have a lot to learn about people. No one does that. Nobody. For those leaving the CoC, here is how many of them would phrase it (and this is based on direct conversations): “I left the Church of Christ denomination because I could no longer tolerate the unbiblical & Pharisaical legalism that is so prevalent in my congregation. I no longer desire to be affiliated with a group that emphasizes tradition over Christ. I don’t want my children to grow up in an insular group that binds where God has not bound and teaches as doctrine the commandments of men.” There is a big difference in what you perceive and the reality.

    There is nothing more disappointing when traveling on a Sunday evening, to find a local congregations meeting place, only to find out that they have separated into small groups at other locations and there is no one to worship with.

    Why is that so disappointing? You refer to the authority of the local Elders. Why should it bother you If the local Elders have decided to either forego corporate worship on Sunday evening in favor of small groups or to not meet on Sunday evening at all (as many congregations have decided). Contrary to our perceptions of patternism, there is no actual command in the Bible to meet on Sunday evening at all. Or on Wednesday. Or Sunday morning Bible study.

  19. Dwight says:

    Jeff, If they came together as the body, then what were they before they came together. What were the others who came together in other places? What you suggest is that there was one body located at one place when they came together, thus excluding all others who came together at other places. It is just confusing and wrong, unless that isn’t what you are suggesting and then it is just confusing.

    You say, “What we see today is the body separating into small groups, forming another “body”.”
    What?
    If the body as you suggest came together in homes, then if anything smaller than that is not the body, then anything larger than that is also not the body as well. We then in our current form in the coCs are then sinning.

    The church or body is the people of which Christ is the head. The church/ body is not limited to group size or place. In Acts 2, “the church went everywhere.” Now the church can be in a small location, but this is just a section of the church or congregation, but this doesn’t define the congregation, which is also represented by people not in church/assembly at that moment and people who are in assembly in other places.

    Sectarianism, which is the point of Paul in I Corinthians, has nothing to do with size or location, but rather people aligning themselves with a name or person who baptized them (be it Paul, Apollos, Christ, etc.) beyond that which was supposed to unit them…being in Christ.

    You remark “When Titus was charged with appointing Elders in every city, I don’t believe the idea was to have many small groups with Elders over seeing them all.”
    The problem with your statement is that it defies what is actually going on versus what you think should be going on to the point of condemning what they were doing, but in a way you are right.

    The elders didn’t oversee small groups, but they didn’t oversee one large group either, they oversaw people that were in their proximity. When they were in a town, they oversaw the people in that town. There was no group membership or static structure. If you were a saint and you came into the town you would immediately be able to go to the elder or elders of that town. It is not as complicated as we would like to make it.

    You stated, “There is nothing more disappointing when traveling on a Sunday evening, to find a local congregations meeting place, only to find out that they have separated into small groups at other locations and there is no one to worship with.”
    Have you encountered this problem?
    And if so, then why? If you are aware of this church, then you would probably be aware of where the smaller groups were.
    My wife and I went out on a vacation and went to assemble with others on a Sunday morning only to find that the church had moved to some other place. So we went to another church. We were late, but we still assembled.

    What you are doing is placing problems in front of the answer, so you only see the problems.
    The problem is groups and if it doesn’t meet your definition of what a group is in any other context, then you are confounded.
    What is ironic is that if Sunday morning is the “right size” group, then Sunday and Wednesday evening cannot be, since they are usually a much, much smaller group.

    Jeff, I tell you what. I have an article I wrote on “the church”. I will send it to you to look over. If you can find problems with it where you can point to an alternate concept using scripture, I will change the study if you relate back to me where and why. So far anybody I have sent it to hasn’t been able to do that. I’m not saying it is perfect, but it is better than what I see out there today in our understanding in our church culture. It is not based upon this blog site or any other writer and it tries to adhere to the one concept of the church or body as the people to be the guide as we have a tendency to jump around from one concept of the people to the church as a thing and then there we stick.

  20. Dwight says:

    Kevin, Actually if we follow what we know of when the Passover was and read I Cor.11:23 “on that same night in which he was betrayed took bread”, we would only meet on Sunday evening. This forms a “what we do is right, even when not technically correct, but not so much you.”

  21. Jeff Richardson says:

    Congregation, a group of Christians who congregate, come together to worship and work together on a regular basis. I can attend another congregation, but I am not a part of that congregation. I don’t work under the authority of their Elders. Yes, we are all Christians but of different congregations. Dwight, all congregations were small in the beginning. You seem to be assuming that the church at Corinth, met all over town in small groups. With Elders roaming around keeping an eye on them. The picture I see is one small group of Christians, who came together to be a congregation at Corinth. Meeting in different homes each time. You don’t see the danger of people in small groups aliening themselves with their group leader, creating a faction and disunity in the body as in Corinth? Elders over see those who are under their charge, not proximity. Are you suggesting traveling Elders? The church and each congregation of it has Christ given structure to it. Your right, size has nothing to do with this, it is the dividing and separating that is the point. Now if a congregation becomes to large, they may want to consider planting a congregation elsewhere to make it smaller and better managed. But this is far different than creating small groups. I wonder out loud sometimes and wonder, if a congregation were to keep their Sunday pm and Wednesday pm service times and have a small group on Friday night, how well attended would it be? Where I attend we have a not so youth group, under age 40 who get together once a month. The attendance is all over the map, just like Sunday pm and Wednesday. So what’s the point? Fellowship? ok, that’s good. They say, well those who are shy will be more apt to speak, ok, most people are in a social setting. We have small classes at the building that give them that chance as well, so what’s the point? Are we back to fellowship? maybe we just need to be entertained?

  22. Johnny says:

    Jeff, we went to small groups on Sunday night, Group leaders went through training and were given materials each week to use for small groups discussion. The material consisted of discussion of the sermon on Sunday morning. Most groups met at homes, some met at the church building. Groups were multi generational. Food was served in the homes. Elders attended the small groups as did staff members.

    The net effect? We doubled the numbers of member who were engaged in bible study on Sunday night. They was no less oversight than we have in Sunday morning bible studies. Teenagers and Senior Citizens sat side beside. Young people got to see older members sharing their faith.

    The only thing I regret is that we did not do it sooner. It has been a resounding success. Our congregation is busting at the seams and plans to split off a portion of the church in a new church plant. We are vibrant, growing and making an impact in our community. Was small groups the only reason? Of course not, but it certainly has led to deeper friendships, more serving each other and the community and more time spend in group bible study.

  23. Profile photo of Kevin Kevin says:

    Jeff,
    It may be helpful if you read the four posts that Jay provided in his comment yesterday. They specifically address the fact that small groups were not individual congregations. Based on the grammar, analysis, and archeology, the argument seems rather sound.

    If you think his position is incorrect, I’d be very interested to real your counter-arguments from scripture.

    maybe we just need to be entertained?

    I am curious; is there anything inherently wrong with wanting to enjoy worship or small group? We often trot this argument out as if enjoying worship is a bad thing. In the small group that I attend, we sing songs, we pray, we study the Bible, we plan community outreach events, and we share a meal. Very enjoyable; yea, entertaining. That’s just two ways of saying the same think.

    According to my online dictionary, entertainment is defined as: providing amusement or enjoyment. So, Jeff, on what basis do you oppose entertainment in either small groups, class, or worship? BCV please?

    Since I know you like the KJV, I looked up the word ‘joy.’ It occurs 165 times in the KJV, many of which are linked with worship.

    Worship doesn’t have to be like pulling teeth without anesthesia in order for it to be acceptable to God. On the contrary, worship can both honor God, edify participants, and be joyful / entertaining. The no entertainment argument is a miserable failure. Naturally, there is a balance to everything. If the sole purpose of worship is to entertain ourselves, then something has gone dreadfully wrong. But so is the other extreme that many CoCs frequently preach: we can’t have any enjoyment / entertainment. Both extremes are unbiblical.

  24. Jeff Richardson says:

    Good for you and your congregation Johnny.

  25. Dwight says:

    Jeff, that is not the definition of the Biblical “congregation”. Congregation has nothing to do with coming together to congregate, but rather with those who are called out into a group, as Christians are called out to form the congregation of Christ. The word for church is “ekklesia” meaning “called out”, but relating to a congregation or group of the called out. The congregation of Christ forms when Christ adds to the congregation according to Acts 2:47 “added to the congregation daily”. According to I John when we walk in the light as “He is in the light we have fellowship one with another”, thus the fellowship with Christ puts us in fellowship with others who are in Christ. Those who are in Christ are of the congregation of Christ or body of Christ. According to I John fellowship with Christ and others is not dependent upon gathering or being in a assembly. When the apostles wrote to the churches in the cities, they were not writing to an assembled group, but rather those saints in the city.
    Jeff, If you walk in the light, you are in fellowship with Christ and all other saints in all other places, thus when you assemble in one place, you are not disfranchised from the other saints.
    Any preacher will tell you…the church is not a place, but a people, thus the congregation is not a place, but a people. When you worship at home, you are still part of the congregation of the Lord, same as when you worship at an assembly. The only thing that changes is the amount of people you worship with and not your status among them through Christ.
    I would dare say that if you went to their assembly you would be under the authority of their elders. Why? Consider if you went to another assembly and caused trouble, under your argument, they couldn’t do anything to you because you are not a part of their congregation. The one thing you do not find in the scriptures is a membership to an assembly, but rather a membership to God.

    Jeff, you wrote (which you need to read out loud to yourself), “Dwight, all congregations were small in the beginning. You seem to be assuming that the church at Corinth, met all over town in small groups.”, but if they met in homes, then they did just as I suggest. There is no way you could fit all of the saints in Corinth in one home. The saints wouldn’t have had to break up due to the fact they were never joined as static group, but rather joined as a people of God that increased daily as people were baptized.

    The elders in the OT didn’t roam around, just as the elders in any assembly don’t roam around, they usually sit back and handle issues as they come or teach.

    You wrote, “You don’t see the danger of people in small groups aliening themselves with their group leader, creating a faction and disunity in the body as in Corinth?”, but this happens in any size group. I have personally seen it happen in groups of fifty and groups of hundreds with the preacher, even when elders were present.

    You say, “Elders over see those who are under their charge, not proximity.”
    How can you prove this, as I can prove otherwise. We read of “elders among you” or “among the elders” and we know they were appointed not in a group, but in a town, so the elders handled those that came to them or watched out for those that sought to harm the people of God. As such the elders didn’t travel, but were local, but if they did, did they hang up their eldership?
    Even in the OT, when the elders were called away to hear the word of God, they were acting as elders in receiving the word of God in that capacity. The fact they weren’t in their home town didn’t defrock them of being elders, any more than a person is defrocked of being a preacher when they are going from town to town as they did in the scriptures.

    You say, “Now if a congregation becomes to large, they may want to consider planting a congregation elsewhere to make it smaller and better managed. But this is far different than creating small groups.” In what way. If they “plant” another congregation, it will be usually a smaller group that is planted. Arguably, we don’t see congregations planting other congregations, we see people gathering in assembly. According to your thinking it would be wrong if a group of people decided of its own to break away to relieve the large congregation and start another work.

    In your “wonderment” you are suggesting a “small group on Friday night”, which is what you seem to be against. This small group is not inherently different from the large group, except smaller. Whose elders would this smaller group on Friday be under if not for the elders that they know and who is over the larger group on Sunday.

    I have found that worship in the homes is more personal than worship in the church building and people have a greater chance of getting to know one another. This is a good thing.
    Consider this, we are making the difference now the church building and not the assembly itself, but what happens after “worship service” is over? The people meet in the lobby and …wait for it…socialize, even while they are in the building. Weird…right. If we wished to be consistent we would make the people leave the building and property to socialize, but we don’t. And we are still the church even then.
    According to I John fellowship doesn’t begin or end in the building, but in Christ. We are “added to the congregation” that has no walls, but is headed in heaven by Christ who added us. Only Jesus can remove us as well.

    Again I will send you, or anybody my study, and you can chew it up if you want, but I want to know why and where on paper.

  26. Dwight says:

    Kevin, you are correct. On the day of Passover the congregation of Israel did the service of the Passover, by each family going to their homes and eating of the lamb, etc. in what is called the Passover feast in remembrance and honor of God who delivered them out of Egypt. The feast was a full meal and was respectfully a good time.
    It would be similar to our Thanksgivings feast, but with actually more God injected into it.
    What we don’t realize is that the Jews didn’t have entertainment, at least not secular entertainment, but it was Godly entertainment in singing in playing of instruments, praying, etc.
    When we get to Amos do we read where the Israelites were doing these things for themselves without any hint God involved to reap pleasure…kind of sounds like us right. God was not happy at their secularization of their lives leaving Him out.
    The concept of personal entertainment wasn’t an issue in the Jewish society, but was largely brought in by the non-Jewish cultures, such as Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, etc. There is one word “entertainment” that is missing from the scriptures, but that concept involved self pleasure. How many times do we get together to play cards? Where is God in all of this?
    Go to movies as a group?
    Our problem is that we have divided ourselves into secular time and God time, when all our time is God time. We are not secular people, so when we do things they are not secular.
    “Whatever we do in word or deed do all in the name of Jesus.”
    We are afraid of bringing secular things to worship, when there should be no such thing as secular things, as all should be done to the glory of God.
    What is sad is that we purposely leave God out so as to not offend Him.

    Now in truth small groups are not individual congregations.
    But then again if we look at the congregation of God and then consider each town, the towns themselves were separate from the other towns, which we would call individual congregations.

    The thing is that while there may be smaller groups or larger groups, they are still of the same group. It is in our heads that worship somehow becomes different when it is done by many people in assembly, instead of ten in the home. Worship is worship is worship. The early church met and worshipped in their homes and worshipped on the steps of the Temple, etc. in small groups and in larger groups. The Jews before that worshipped in the Temple…and they worshipped at home as well and sometimes the Jews would gather and worship outside of the Temple.
    My point is that the congregation of God can be seen in small groups and larger groups and will always be the congregation of God, even when in different venues of congregating.

  27. Dwight says:

    Self correction:
    “Congregation has nothing to do with coming together to congregate,” It does, but only in the narrowed sense. Most of the time when we read of congregation it is talking of the saints in general and very, very few times does it mean in the assembly sense. The letters weren’t written to a assembly, but the saints in the town. One letter was even written to the “dispersion”, but still the congregation. In I Cor.14 Paul says, “Therefore if the whole church comes together in one place…”, which means that Paul understand that the congregation exist even before it comes together.
    This is reflected in Acts 15:47 “Now when they had come and gathered the church together…”

    But then we also read in I Cor.11 “For first of all, when you come together as a congregation….” so the congregation is understood to be within the context of the people before they assemble in their spiritual connection, but can be used for when they do assemble in an earthly sense. But they are the same people. The small congregation (assembly) is hardly seen in the scriptures, barely mentioned, and is never in contrast or counter to the over all congregation of God. They are not separate people.

  28. Jeff Richardson says:

    The people in Corinth were not separate people either, but they had divided themselves into factions. I am of Apollos, I am of Paul. The Corinthian letters were written to the “body” of believers who met (congregated together as the church) in Corinth.

  29. Dwight says:

    Jeff, “who met (congregated together as the church) in Corinth.”
    How and where?
    Into whose house did they meet in that could hold hundreds, possibly thousands of people at a time?
    The logistics are crazy, but let’s not let that get in our way.
    Go back and read the letters and there is never a hint he was writing to an assembly, but rather to the people (saints) of the town of Corinth. HE never refers to them as an assembly or as a people gathered.
    Notice that when he gets to I Cor.14 Paul says, “Therefore if the whole church comes together in one place…”, he places the congregation outside of the gathering and places a big “IF” there. “IF the whole church come together…” meaning it hadn’t been done yet or was yet to be done. The church was outside of the assembly.
    But also later he wrote But then we also read in I Cor.11 “For first of all, when you come together as a congregation….” meaning that the congregation could come together to congregate, but still they were not an assembly in their natural state.
    The people in Corinth were bound not by assembly, but by Christ. Their connection to Christ put them together, even as they tried to separate themselves into factions.

  30. Monty says:

    Jeff R said,

    “The number one reason I believe many do flee the body, they seek change, they are not satisfied with following the pattern, they desire to do as they see fit and not as Christ has commanded.”

    Care to elaborate on this “pattern?” BCV? Is that code language for communion every Sunday and singing without an instrument and saying “for he remission of sins”, at baptism?

  31. Mark says:

    Or is it hear, believe, repent, confess, be baptized?

    Or is it 2 songs, prayer, 1 song, sermon, invitation, song for LS, LS, offering, closing prayer? No Bible reading, proof texted sermon that begins “If you have your Bibles, turn to B C:V where we will begin this morning.”

  32. Dwight says:

    What Monty and Mark point to are imaginary boundaries imposed by those who think they have a set pattern for righteousness. The irony is that many who “flee the body” are only fleeing the coC, and seeking a better way of worshipping more in line with the scriptures and not more commands that come from thin air.
    I heard that similar statement over the weekend about some people who “have left the church” and I’m very impressed that they were that tight with God to know who He had subtracted from the congregation that only he could add to.
    Just because a person leaves the assembly of the coC doesn’t mean he has left the church any more than one who comes and becomes a member of the coC means he is in the church.
    Only God knows who is in or who is out, but we are to act like they are in to the point that if they sin we stop interacting with them on all levels except to correct them.
    It is interesting that the letters were written to churches or the saints in town with which we would have very little to do with because we are better than them and the apostles still regarded them as saints and brothers and children of God, etc.
    The coC and many others have a very poor understanding of how to follow a pattern in that they deny some as worthless and adhere to others they reason as commands. We have clear scripture indicating that the saints met for the LS on Sunday evening, but since this doesn’t fit in with the church thinking, it doesn’t make the cut.

    But getting back to the letters being written to the saints and not the assembly as we imagine.
    I Cor.5 “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named[a] among the Gentiles—that a man has his father’s wife! And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you. For I indeed, as absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged (as though I were present) him who has so done this deed. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, WHEN you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.”
    This is strange talk for those who are obviously gathered together as he is writing to them, unless they aren’t.

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