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“WHERE THE ACTION IS” 

 

A spark was in the air.  You could almost hear it crackle, see it arc into visual reality, or feel its tingle.  It is happening here and now.  Places and circumstances differ and descriptions are confusing.  The power of Pentecost, the warmth of the fire that Jesus built for His disciples and the intimacy of the upper room have become a part of the contemporary experience of small groups of Christians in today’s world.

 

The spark has begun a fire on college campuses in small groups of struggling Christians coming to grips with their world.  To them, the titles do not matter.  From early beginnings in the “unions” of Great Britain, Inter-Varsity chapters are buzzing with “cell groups”, “fell groups”, and “link groups.”  On both campus and military bases, the Navigators find that “core groups” are reshaping men and women’s lives.

 

In homes and business offices, shops and schools, Christians are finding strength and outreach in “groups for strugglers,” “conversation prayer cells,” “home Bible studies,” “groups sharing,” and “disciple groups.”  The spark has begun to fan the flame that consumed the world of the first century.  In our fragmented, frantic, depersonalized age, we are returning to the methods of the carpenter of Nazareth and rediscovering the dynamic of primitive Christianity.

 

Lyman Coleman’s pointed observation strikes at the heart of the matter, “... in the fellowship of a small face-to-face group, the church has rediscovered an ancient method for ministering to modern man.

 

The current explosion of small groups in the life of the Christian community raises some interesting questions.  Why have small groups of interacting Christians been able to find this new vitality of fellowship and witness?  But more important than this is an even more pressing question.  Why have we ignored the use of small, face-to-face groups for so long in our churches?  Why are we not using them to the extent that we could on our campuses?  The central figure of the history of the church is a man who spent the three years of His active ministry with a small band of twelve men.  The history of the early church in Acts records the struggle of small groups who prayed, shared, studied, and suffered together.  Here the “incendiary fellowship” was in action, and the whole world was inflamed.  For too long, Christian educators and churchmen have overlooked the Biblical emphasis of the dynamic use of small groups.

 

Jesus Christ was not known as a rebel nor as a creative genius, but rather as a teacher.  Two functions can be seen woven together in the early ministry of Christ.  The first function was that of a proclaimer.  John the Baptist had proclaimed the kingdom was at hand, and Christ began His ministry with that same proclamation.  But the nation of Israel was not ready for a proclamation; they were unresponsive and confused.  As the rejection of the nation became apparent, Christ’s ministry turned to teaching.  The second function, the one that dominated His earthly ministry, was that of teaching.  It was that kind of particular people-centered teaching that was to characterize His life.

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