21 Days of Prayer
Day 5: Our Small Group Leaders

“I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another.” (Romans 15:14 NIV)

Today we want to pray for our small group or home group Bible Study leaders or coordinators. Because we have the Word of God and the Spirit of God, each believer is capable of reading it for himself and understanding it. The Spirit also gives the gift of teaching and the role of teacher to the church, but these work together in the average Christian’s life to produce understanding and lead to maturity.

In a New Testament church not only are there God-anointed teachers, but there are also small groups where believers may sit together and learn from one another about what it means to be a follower of Christ. These small groups, whether they meet in homes or at the church, whether they are comprised of children, students, or adults, make up an essential ministry.

They also have leaders - whether we call them teachers or facilitators, specific people lead these groups. There are too many of them to list them here by name, so think of your small group leader. Think of your child’s Sunday School teacher, or your student’s teacher, of the AWANA leaders and workers, and of the many people - men and women - who lead small groups.

Here are some prayer suggestions for our small group leaders:

Pray for their own Christian walk (1 Tim. 4:16)
Pray that they would have compassion for the people in their group (John 15:17)
Pray that they may serve in the enabling strength of Christ (John 15:5)
Pray that they may bear eternal fruit for Christ (John 15:4)
Pray that they would be guided by the Spirit as they lead the small group (Romans 8:14)
Pray for their own spiritual life, that they would walk daily in the will of God and in fellowship with Him (1 John 1:9-10)
Pray that they would be God’s instruments to communicate divine truth (Eph. 1:17)
Pray that they would have patience and kindness as they lead (Gal. 5:22-23)
Pray for their marriages and their families (1 Timothy 3:5)

You may also know some specific prayer needs of your small group leader, or of your children’s Sunday School teachers. Lift them up today.

Blessings,

Pastor David

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History of the Small Group or the Home Group

In the New Testament we see that they had small groups. Acts 2:42-47 provides us with the first historical description of the New Testament church, and we see that the believers were meeting regularly in homes and that they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teachings. It is impossible to interpret this as anything other than a small group ministry, with informal groupings of the believers gathering together to study the Word of God.

And this was where much of the growth of the church was happening, for the passage also says that the Lord was adding to the church daily those who were being saved. The new believers were coming to faith as these small groups spread out and allowed the gospel of Christ to be proclaimed in homes. They prayed in their homes and studied there - see Acts 12:12. We also see something similar happening as the gospel spread into the Mediterranean world. For example, in Bearea the people “examined the scriptures every day” (Acts 17:11), which would most likely mean that they studied it in their homes.

However, in the historical development of the church, small groups and study groups began to be abandoned. Instead there arose a teaching that twisted the New Testament teachings slightly but significantly. The pastor became the priest, and the sharing of the Lord’s Supper came to be a sacrificial act that was done by the priests, upon which the others merely observed. Religion came to be something formal and ritual, not personal.

After the Reformation (1517 onward), the Lutheran churches in Europe came to be rather polemic in nature - defending their own doctrine and being critical of the Roman Catholic Church. The practice of the faith again came to be in the hands of a few - the professionals - and the average Christian was merely an observer.

Philip Spener saw a way that this could be changed, and he wrote a book called Pia Desideria or “Pious Desires.” He advocated six steps which he believed would revolutionize the church. To this day free evangelical churches and their seminaries have followed this practical advice. His six proposals were: 

  1. To use private readings and study groups, in addition to preaching, to more thoroughly acquaint believers with scripture
  2. To increase the lay leadership and involvement in the church
  3. To emphasize practical Christianity, so that that all believers put their faith into practice
  4. To approach religious discussions with humility and love, avoiding controversy whenever possible
  5. In pastoral education to emphasize not only the development of knowledge in the pastors, but to also seek to enrich and deepen their personal walk with Christ
  6. To seek to develop the faith of ordinary believers through the preaching in the pulpit

These six landmark proposals have largely been followed in free evangelical churches today, such as Baptists, and it has resulted in healthy, robust churches. The Christian faith, if it will be healthily experienced and passed on to future generations, must have this strong lay element in its experience.

Nothing in this contradicts New Testament teachings or principles, for, as we see above, the Bible says that believers are capable under the Lordship of Christ and with the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, to instruct one another. The Bible says: “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another” (Colossians 3:16). This is possible because of the work of the Spirit. He anoints each believer:

I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him. (1 John 2:26-27 ESV)

This does not contradict the gifted teachers that Christ gives to the church, for they are also the result of the calling and gifting of the Holy Spirit. Rather these two factors complement one another, and work together to build up the Christian in his faith and the church in her faith.

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