What's The Big Deal About Small Groups? Why was a small group such an important part of Jesus' ministry?
by Neal F. McBride
Your pastor could preach the most profound sermons this side of Heaven. The worship service might bring all who attend into the presence of God weekly. Your Christian education program could give your members enough ammunition to win a Bible quiz against any congregation in the country, hands down.
Yet even if all these things were true, something could still be missing in your church. That element, woven throughout the fabric of the New Testament, is an integral part of life in Christ: relationships with other believers.
Close relationships among the members of God's family provide a context for applying biblical truth, promote unity and caring among the members, meet spiritual and emotional needs, furnish a setting for lifestyle evangelism, and in short, demonstrate the Body of Christ in action. Every church needs a ministry format that will intentionally promote these kind of relationships.
I'm convinced that small groups provide the ideal format to accomplish these requirements.
Small groups are not just a sociological fad. Neither are they a clever gimmick to pump up church attendance, nor a panacea for all the ills that confront the church. Small groups are a ministry format with a solid biblical foundation.
While a rationale for small groups is found throughout the Bible, I'd like to focus on two lines of thought depicted in the New Testament: Jesus as a small group leader and what I'll call our New Testament mandate. Let's start with Jesus' example.
JESUS AS A SMALL GROUP LEADER
For me, Jesus' involvement in a small group is the most convincing argument for including such groups in the life of the local church. Jesus Christ is pictured in the New Testament as the greatest small group leader in history. As a group leader or participant you are walking in His footsteps. What can we learn from Jesus about the ministry of small groups?
Jesus began His earthly ministry by establishing His "small group," the apostles. When Jesus began His public ministry, one of His first acts was to form His small group (Mt. 4:18–22 , Lk. 6:13 ). The Son of God certainly didn't need the companionship or assistance of the apostles. Yet from the very beginning He elected to establish and minister within a framework of interpersonal relationships.
Jesus ministered in both large and small group contexts. Jesus proclaimed the kingdom to large crowds. Likewise, He met with small groups in homes (Mt. 26:6 ) and spent considerable time with His special group, the apostles. Both forms of ministry were important.
Jesus' ministry to large groups was preceded by and proceeded out of His small group context. Which came first, the chicken (large group) or the egg (small group)? In Jesus' case, small group emphasis preceded His large group involvement. Furthermore, it was the small group that provided the platform for Jesus' ministry to large groups of people. The apostles accompanied Jesus as He proclaimed the Good News to the multitudes. Yet He always withdrew to the familiarity and support of His select small group (Mk. 3:7 ).
Jesus spent the majority of His time with His small group. If we could add up the amount of time Jesus spent with the apostles, we would likely find that this group consumed the majority of His time. They were together constantly: They traveled together, shared meals, experienced mutual hardship, and literally lived together. As Jesus' crucifixion drew closer, He spent more and more time with His small group and less time with the multitudes that sought Him out.
Relationships, not organizations, were central in Jesus' method. The Kingdom Jesus sought to proclaim was not an earthly organization, but a heavenly realm (Lk. 17:20–21 ). Christ could easily have remained aloof from any relationships that entangled Him in human needs and suffering. Yet, as a practical demonstration of the gospel, He chose to spend His time with people—caring, healing, listening, forgiving, encouraging, teaching, and preaching. Because of His emphasis on people, not programs, the only "organization" that merited Jesus' continuing time and attention was His small group.
Jesus used the small group context to teach and model spiritual knowledge, attitudes, and behavior. Having formed His group, Jesus taught and modeled spiritual truth by drawing them close to Himself. It was not a formal or academic experience; the small group members simply participated with Christ in whatever He did. They saw and experienced the attitudes and actions He was admonishing others to adopt. It was through this intimate association that the apostles were granted "the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God" (Lk. 8:10 ). The apostles' small group was their living-learning laboratory.
The small group was Jesus' method for leadership training. Jesus devoted Himself primarily to the task of developing a select group of men, the apostles. His goal was to equip this small group of disciples to carry on the work of the gospel after He returned to the Father. Jesus selected common men, "unschooled, ordinary men" by worldly standards (Acts 4:13 ), who were ready to follow Him and were teachable. In turn, Jesus poured His life into these men and thrust the future of His whole ministry upon them. It would be "through their message" (Jn. 17:20 ) that the world would come to believe.
THE NEW TESTAMENT MANDATE
Much of the New Testament deals with the types of attitudes and actions God wants to characterize the members of His household, the community of believers. A quick review of some of the "one another" verses will give you a good idea of what I am talking about:
Be devoted and give preference to one another (Ro. 12:10 )
The list above provides only a brief taste of the standards that should govern the household of God. But what is the best setting to pursue these biblical attitudes and actions? Based on the biblical evidence, the most logical answer is small groups meeting in homes. This ideal context stresses relationships in an informal setting, which in turn facilitates understanding and obeying the New Testament mandate. This was true for the early church (Acts 2:42–47 ) and it is still true for us today.
Hebrews 10:24–25 provides us with further insight. Here we are instructed "not to give up meeting together." Our usual response to this verse is to assume we are being urged to attend "church," a Sunday morning worship service held in a church building. Certainly this application is legitimate, but it is not inherent in the author's intent. Specifically, we are told "to spur one another on toward love and good deeds" and to "encourage one another." This type of activity is possible in a large group service, but it is not likely to occur. On the other hand, the small group's relational dynamic provides the ideal setting.
Jesus said, "where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them" (Mt. 18:20 ). Hundreds of people aren't required. The vertical relationship the two or three Christians enjoy individually with Jesus is enhanced by the horizontal relationships among them. Thus, two Christians are the bare minimum needed to constitute a Christian community. "Church" is not limited to large meetings, but can also be a legitimate function of small groups.
SMALL GROUPS AND THE GREAT COMMISSION
Our mandate is not limited to an internal focus, a secret society for believers only. Jesus opens membership in the household of God to everyone when He commands us to "make disciples of all nations" (Mt. 28:19 ). Here again, small groups can play a significant role. Paul understood this. His efforts in mass evangelism and instruction (Acts 19:8–10 ) were augmented by "house to house" (literally "in the various private homes") personal evangelism and teaching (Acts 20:20 ). The conversion of Cornelius and his whole household is a good example (Acts 16:32–34 ).
Evangelism and discipleship are greatly enhanced in the context of a small group. Groups provide a person-to-person setting rather than a program-to-person agenda. This more natural, interpersonal context readily lends itself to sharing the gospel. A 1988 study on religion in America by the Princeton Religion Research Center, under the direction of George Gallup, Jr., cites small groups as "the outreach tool of the '90s."
BECOMING LIKE JESUS
Jesus is our model. By striving to become more like Him we will grow in character. As we apply His principles for ministry our lives, too, will bear fruit. What kind of structure will provide us with the instruction, support, and challenge we need to become Christlike—as well as enable us to follow His pattern for personal ministry? When we closely examine the life and ministry of Jesus, it becomes clear that one key method is small groups.
We've only tapped the surface of the biblical rationale for small groups, but the biblical evidence is clear. Small groups are a necessity—not an option—in the local church. Can we afford not to experience the opportunities for growth they offer?
James –But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
Sundar Singh was born into an important landowning Sikh family in Patiala State in northern India . Sikhism is a religion, founded about 1500 AD, that teaches belief in one God and rejects the caste system. Sikhs , rejecting Hinduism and Islam since the sixteenth century, had become quite established in the area. Sundar Singh's mother took him to sit at the feet of a Sadhu , an ascetic holy man, who lived in the jungle some miles away, while also sending him to Ewing Christian High School, Ludhiana in order to learn English .
The death of Sundar Singh's mother, when he was fourteen, plunged him into violence and despair. He took out his anger on the missionaries , persecuted Christian converts, and ridiculed their faith. In final defiance of their religion, he bought a Bible and burned it page by page in his home while his friends watched. Three nights later, he took a bath before going to the railroad track to commit suicide . While he was bathing, Sadhu loudly asked who was the true God. If the true God didn't show Himself that night, he would commit suicide. Finally, that night before the break of dawn, Singh saw a vision of Christ with His pierced hands.
Conversion to Christianity
Before dawn, he awakened his father to announce that he had seen Jesus Christ in a vision and heard his voice. He told his father that henceforth he would follow Christ forever. Still no more than fifteen, he was utterly committed to Christ and in the twenty-five years left to him would witness extensively for his Lord. The discipleship of the teenager was immediately tested as his father pleaded and demanded that he give up this absurd conversion. When he refused, Sher Singh gave a farewell feast for his son, then denounced him and expelled him from the family. Several hours later, Sundar realised that his food had been poisoned, and his life was saved only by the help of a nearby Christian community .
On his sixteenth birthday, he was publicly baptised as a Christian in the parish church in Simla , a town high in the Himalayan foothills. For some time previously he had been staying at the Christian Leprosy Home at Sabathu, not far from Simla, serving the leprosy patients there. It was to remain one of his most beloved bases and he returned there after his baptism.
In October 1906, he set out on his journey as a new Christian, wearing a yellow robe and turban . The yellow robe was the "uniform" of a Hindusadhu , traditionally an ascetic devoted to spiritual practice. The young Sundar Singh also viewed himself as a sadhu, albeit one within Christianity rather than Hinduism. This brought him a good deal of attention.
"I am not worthy to follow in the steps of my Lord," he said, "but, like Him, I want no home, no possessions. Like Him I will belong to the road, sharing the suffering of my people, eating with those who will give me shelter, and telling all men of the love of God."
Quite soon he put his new faith to the test by going back to his home village, Rampur , where he was shown an unexpectedly warm welcome.
This was poor preparation for the months that were to follow. Scarcely tough enough to meet physical hardship, the sixteen-year-old sadhu went northward through the Punjab , over the Bannihal Pass into Kashmir , and then back through Muslim Afghanistan and into the brigand-infested North-West Frontier and Baluchistan . His thin, yellow robe gave him little protection against the cold, and his feet became torn from the rough paths. Not many months had passed before the small Christian communities of the north were referring to him as "the apostle with the bleeding feet." This initiation showed him what he might expect in the future. He was stoned, arrested, visited by a shepherd who talked with strange intimacy about Jesus and then was gone, and left to sleep in a way-side hut with an unexpected cobra for company. Meetings with the mystical and the sharply material, persecution and welcome, would all characterize his experience in years ahead. From the villages in the Simla hills, the long line of the snow-clad Himalayas and the rosy peak of Nanga Parbat , rose in the distance. Beyond them lay Tibet , a Buddhist country that few foreigners had already visited. Ever since his baptism, Tibet had beckoned Sundar, and in 1908, at the age of nineteen, he crossed its frontier for the first time. The state of the people appalled him. Their homes, like themselves, were filthy. He himself was stoned as he bathed in cold water because they believed that "holy men never washed." Food was mostly unobtainable and he existed on hard, parched barley. Everywhere there was hostility. And this was only "lower Tibet" just across the border. Sundar went back to Sabathu determined to return the next year.ױ
He had a great desire to visit Palestine and re-live some of the happenings in Jesus ' life. In 1908 he went to Bombay , hoping to board a ship to the region. To his intense disappointment, the government refused to give him a permit, and he had to return to the north. It was on this trip that he suddenly recognised a basic dilemma of the Christian mission to India . A brahmin had collapsed in the hot, crowded carriage and, at the next station, the Anglo-Indian stationmaster came rushing with a cup of water from the refreshment room. The brahmin—a high-caste Hindu —thrust it away in horror. He needed water, but he could only accept it in his own drinking vessel. When that was brought, he drank and was revived. In the same way, Sundar Singh realised, India would not widely convert to Western-style Christianity. That, he recognised, was why many listeners had responded to him in his Indian sadhu's robe.
Formal Christian training
There was harder disillusionment to come. In December 1909 he began training for the Christian ministry at the Anglican college in Lahore . Singh's biographers depict his experience at college as that of an unhappy misfit. He did not form relationships with fellow students, and only met them at meal times and designated prayer sessions. From the beginning he found himself being tormented by fellow students for being "different" and no doubt too self assured.
Although Singh had been baptized by an Anglican priest, he was ignorant of the ecclesiastical culture and conventions of Anglicanism. His inability to adapt to Anglican life hindered him from fitting in with the routines of academic study. Much in the college course seemed to Singh irrelevant to the gospel as India needed to hear it. After eight months in the college Singh decided to leave in July 1910.
It has been claimed by his biographers that the cause of Singh's withdrawal was due to remarks made by Bishop Lefroy about the requirements of an ordained Anglican priest. The strictures, as the biographers report it, are that Singh was told he must now discard his sadhu's robe and wear "respectable" European clerical dress; use formal Anglican worship; sing English hymns; and never preach outside his parish without special permission. Never again visit Tibet , he asked? That would be, to him, an unthinkable rejection of God's call. The stipulations laid down by the bishop, however, were normative for all Anglican priests of that day in India.
With deep sadness he left the college, still dressed in his yellow robe, and in 1912 began his annual trek into Tibet as the winter snows began to melt on the Himalayan tracks and passes.
Stories from those years are astonishing and sometimes incredible. Indeed there were those, who insisted that they were mystical rather than real happenings. That first year, 1912, he returned with an extraordinary account of finding a three-hundred-year old Christian hermit in a mountain cave-the Maharishi of Kailas, with whom he spent some weeks in deep fellowship.
According to Singh, in a town called Rasar he had been thrown in a dry well full of bones and rotting flesh and left to die. He claims, however, that three days later a rope was thrown to him and he was rescued. As Singh has been represented by some biographers as a suffering preacher, it is worth recalling that the three days spent down the well bears resemblances to the gospel narratives concerning the death and three days of burial for the Christ before his resurrection from the dead.
At these and at other times Singh was said to have been rescued by members of the "Sunnyasi Mission" -- secret disciples of Jesus wearing their Hindu markings, whom he claimed to have found all over India .
The secret Sunnyasi Mission is reputed to have numbered around 24,000 members across India.The origins of this brotherhood were reputed to be linked to one of the Magi at Christ's nativity and then the second century AD disciples of the apostle Thomas circulating in India. Nothing was heard of this evangelistic fellowship until after William Carey began his missionary work in Serampore. The Maharishi of Kailas experienced ecstatic visions about the secret fellowship that he retold to Sundar Singh, and Singh himself built his spiritual life around visions.
Whether he won many continuing disciples on these hazardous Tibetan treks is not known. Singh did not keep written records and he was unaccompanied by any other Christian disciples who might have witnessed the events.
Footsteps of Christ
During his twenties, Sundar Singh's ministry widened greatly, and long before he was thirty, his name and picture were familiar all over the Christian world. He described a struggle with Satan to retain his humility but he was, in fact, always human, approachable and humble, with a sense of fun and a love of nature. This, with his "illustrations" from ordinary life, gave his addresses great impact. Many people said, "He not only looks like Jesus , he talks like Jesus must have talked." Yet all his talks and his personal speech sprang out of profound early morning meditation , especially on the gospels. In 1918 he made a long tour of South India and Ceylon , and the following year he was invited to Burma , Malaya , China , and Japan .
Some of the stories from these tours were as strange as any of his Tibetan adventures. He claimed power over wild things. He claimed even to have power over disease and illness, though he never allowed his presumed healing gifts to be publicized.
For a long time Sundar Singh had wanted to visit Britain , and the opportunity came when his father, Sher Singh, came to tell him that he too had become a Christian and wished to give him the money for his fare to Britain. He visited the West twice, travelling to Britain, the United States , and Australia in 1920, and to Europe again in 1922. He was welcomed by Christians of many traditions, and his words searched the hearts of people who now faced the aftermath of World War I and who seemed to evidence a shallow attitude to life. Sundar was appalled by what he saw as the materialism, emptiness, and irreligion he found everywhere, contrasting it with Asia's awareness of God, no matter how limited that might be. Once back in India he continued his ministry, though it was clear that he was getting more physically frail.
In 1923 Sundar Singh made the last of his regular summer visits to Tibet and came back exhausted. His preaching days were obviously over and, in the next years, in his own home or those of his friends in the Simla hills he gave himself to meditation, fellowship, and writing some of the things he had lived to preach.
In 1929, against all his friends' advice, Sundar determined to make one last journey to Tibet . He was last seen on the 18th of April 1929 setting off on this journey. In April he reached Kalka , a small town below Simla , a prematurely aged figure in his yellow robe among pilgrims and holy men who were beginning their own trek to one of Hinduism's holy places some miles away. Where he went after that is unknown. Whether he died of exhaustion or reached the mountains remains a mystery. Some said that Sadhu was murdered and his body thrown into the river; another account says he was caught up into heaven with the angels.
But more than his memory remains, and he has continued to be one of the most treasured and formative figures in the development and story of Christ's church in India.
Ramabai was a poet, a scholar, and a champion of improvement in the plight of Indian women. As a social reformer, she championed the cause of emancipation of Indian women. A widely traveled lady, she visited most parts of India, and even went to England (1883) and the U.S. (1886–88). She wrote many books including her widely popular work titled The High Caste Hindu Woman, which showed the darkest of subject matter relating to the life of Hindu women, including child brides and the treatment they receive by the government. She had a strong view of what should be accomplished so women would be able to have more freedom, including protection of widowed women and child brides and she was also against the practice of suttee.
Ramabai was born into an intellectual Brahmin family. Her father, Anant Shastri Dongre believed that women should have an education and against traditional Hindu social structure he taught Ramabai as well as his second wife, Ramambai’s mother Puranic and how to read and write Sanskrit. As well as how to interpret vedic texts. She was raised by her father
Her father, mother and sister died of starvation during the famine of 1874-76, and her brother and she traveled around and eventually ended up in Calcutta.
After her brother's death in 1880, even though it was considered inappropriate for a Hindu to marry into a lower caste, she married, on November 13, 1880, Babu Bipin Behari Medhavi, a Bengali lawyer at Bankipore, who was not a Brahmin. Six months after the birth of their daughter, Babu died, and Pandita was once again left with just one family member.
Ramabai received a scholarship to study in England. During her time in England, she converted to Christianity but did not ever lose sight of her goals for the social system in India. She clung to her roots and when she returned to India she helped put up Christian Churches which had Sanskrit writing instead of traditional Latin which was used in England. Ramabai attempted to combine her new Christian ideals with her old Indian Culture and used this mix to promote change in India. Being raised as in the Brahman caste made her uniquely able to bring both men and women to Christianity due to the caste’s image as social leaders.
She wrote a book about her travels to the United States and it has recently been published in translation as Pandita Ramabai's American Encounter. The book is a traveler's account of the people and culture of the United States. It contains a pointed comparison of the status of women in the U.S. and India, and strongly suggests that India should follow down the path of reform. However, the book is not without its criticisms of American society, particularly its race problem.
In addition to her writing she founded the Arya Mahila Sabha in 1881, the very first Indian feminist organization. She studied as well as taught about the issues which surround Indian women especially those involved in the Hindu traditions. She spoke against women who were forced to marry young and/or widowed young and wrote about the struggle involved in their lives.
Ramabai established the Mukti Mission in 1889 as a refuge for young widows who were abused by their families. In Marathi, her native tongue, the word mukti means liberation. The Pandita Ramabai Mukti Mission is still active today, providing housing, education, vocational training, and medical services, for many needy groups including widows, orphans, and the blind.
The signs are already there and if one is not prepared they will fall just like these countries did. The concept of a "Lollard" allows and prepares us to be ready for persecution and also be ready to continue to share the Gospel with everyone from every class and background if and when this fall should occur. We will work now to make ourselves independent of material needs as so far as we would be compromised if we relied completely on a job let's say, and then to keep that job meant compromising our faith. *If we can get such "Lollard" centers setup across the country we will be poised to not only help those who were not prepared, but poised to share the good news and escape complete reliance on the government or any other institution. Similar to when the Jewish nation was lead off into Babylonian captivity, we too must preapre to "thrive" in Babylon and serve God and love neighbor as self. At the very least this endeavor will help us to truly seek the living Christ in a higher way than a once per week one hour service ever could.
To be blunt and to the point...
Christian Theism (for better or worst) is rapidly declining in Europe and the United States (at least the nominal Christians which is an oxymoron in the first place). Affluency and personal peace usually means people believe they can do it on "their own". Needless to say "real" Christian theism is thriving in the "non-affluent/non-401k" areas of Latin America, Asia and Africa.
With that being said it is of the utmost importance for us Christian willing to be Christians over and beyond our own personal affluency and political correctness, should not only sink every cent they can afford to (both personally and as a church body) into the future church of Asia/Africa and support it every way they can (see www.GFA.org or www.Persecution.com , etc) but they also should begin making the needed arrangements today in the "West" for an increasingly post-Christian world for not only us but for our children and grand-children. The writing is on the wall so to speak and we should not be afraid since this is the very thing Jesus told us would happen but neither should we simply bury our heads in the sand "if" we really are Christ followers more than just in name and this is prayerfully what this site will help to accomplish; providing a historic and theological sense of how we may best prepare for a world that may be very non-Christian and perhaps even anti-Christian in the next generations.
(I have degrees in philosophy of religion and post grads in theology & ancient history and have worked with the persecuted church for many years and it will be through this perspective that I look "Historically" on what it took in the past for Christians to survive through overwhelming odds holding on to the name of Christ.)
The choice is yours.
Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? And in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. (Matthew 7:22-3)
Who are the "Lollards" and what do they have to do with us today?
NO this isn’t some attempt to say “let’s follow some 14th century group today and start a new denomination!” I am pretty much using the Lollards to hopefully promote the exact opposite of this! Before I can really use their example to make my point however, I will need to at least give you a very brief run-down of who they were and how they faced many of the similar problems we are facing today, (but to a much greater extent).
In a nutshell – the Lollards were really more of a movement founded by John Wycliffe (c.1330-1384), who was an Oxford professor, philosopher/theologian, who developed a number of doctrines and is considered by most way ahead of his time and the “Morning Star” of the reformation to go back to the bible as supreme authority and not the Roman Catholic Church. He taught that all persons had the right to have the bible in their own language and was thus charged with heresy a number of times. Among his greatest contributions to English literature was his inspiration of the translation of the Bible into Middle English, the first complete translation in the language, and a notable influence on the English language itself.
One of the practical initiatives undertaken by Wycliffe was the training and commissioning of laymen, or poor preachers, whose task was to teach the Scriptures throughout all lands in accordance to Christ’s great commission. Wycliffe stressed that his intentions were not to start some new movement or to replace the church, but to fill the growing gaps by the established church. Their simple focus was to go in groups of two, to offer Christ-like assistance and tell the core of messages found in the Gospels. Many of these poor preachers carried with them hand written copies of the Gospels in the common English language of the day instead of the Latin, so that all could understand. It is interesting to note that the printing press would not be invented for about another 100 years, so all of these Gospel tracts had to be hand written, (We can order 1,000 copies of the Gospel of John in almost any language for a reasonable price today). These poor priests followed the doctrine of the “priesthood of all believers,” and saw it as our duty to truly imitate Christ as well as tell others what Jesus’ words are vs. the churches, (which often differ significantly).
Lollards also followed similarly to Gandhi’s (and moreover to Jesus’) approach of non-violence, though they carried a staff for and their own 2 hands for self-defence of self and others, as they were for the most part against war, violence, and abortion. Lollards were effectively absorbed into Protestantism during the English Reformation, in which Lollardy played a role. Since Lollardy had been underground for more than a hundred years, the extent of Lollardy and its ideas at the time of the Reformation is uncertain and a point of debate.
So what we conclude with the Lollards is:
·They were persecuted for following Christ; had to operate underground (much like most persecuted churches to in other countries do today)
·Oxford University eventually had to expel Wycliffe for not following the “status quo” – similar to what we will face (see the Expelled documentary), in an increasingly hostile academia towards the God hypothesis and moreover to Christ.
·They used basic apologetics.
·They focused on the priest hood of all believers, and our responsibility and privilege thereof
·Simplicity of serving the poor vs. lavish and costly church buildings; formed house type churches and cell groups
·Follow Christ and Scripture as opposed to the governing church and authorities
·Following the Book of Acts – went out 2X2 to propagate the word to anyone who would listen.
·This was all happening during a time in history when Islam was attacking the remains of a weakened Byzantium Empire and thus placing pressure on southern Europe of possible invasion; coupled with the western church continuing to fight its eastern counterpart (resulting in Christ-ian vs. Christ-ian and fascist Islam vs. both, (similar to today and the future)).
·The Byzantine Empire would collapse with the fall of -->Constantinople in 1453 to Islam – during which many Lollard groups were underground due to persecution by the church.
·A small group like the Bolsheviks or Nazis were able to throw their dominantly Christian countries into an atheistic mindset; Islam wiped out the majority of Christian communities throughout the Middle East; Faith survived in these communities from small dedicated believers forming groups like the Lollards.
If we look at the house church movement of the Chinese church today, we can see how this "Lollard" type approach can work brilliantly in a like-matter that we see from the Acts of the Apostles:
So although this movement was over 600 years ago, I think we can see how very badly and urgently a similar movement is needed today. This movement basically knew more on the subjects I have covered in this book 600 years ago, than we do today. They knew what it meant to have to choose between death or Christ, they new how real the threat of fascist Islam was, (it had only been driven out of France a few hundred years earlier and was threatening European invasion yet again); they new more about the simplicity of being able to hold church in a home instead of a 30 year mortgage building that handicaps the churches of today; they new more about why we don’t need to go to a “temple” to worship anymore, but instead that we take the temple (of the body) to the church; they new more about non-violent fighting – how to protest without using a sword (although different, similar to the approach made by Gandhi in the 20th century); all in all, we truly need a “Lollard” movement or mindset today.
Why do we need to Prepare?
In a 1997 Fighting the Culture War in America speech, Charlton Heston rhetorically deplored a culture war he said was being conducted by a generation of media people, educators, entertainers, and politicians against:
"...the God fearing, law-abiding, Caucasian, middle-class Protestant – or even worse, evangelical Christian, Midwestern or Southern – or even worse, rural, apparently straight – or even worse, admitted heterosexuals, gun-owning – or even worse, NRA-card-carrying, average working stiff – or even worse, male working stiff – because, not only don’t you count, you are a down-right obstacle to social progress. Your voice deserves a lower decibel level, your opinion is less enlightened, your media access is insignificant, and frankly, mister, you need to wake up, wise up, and learn a little something from your new-America and until you do, would you mind shutting up?"
He went on to say:
"The Constitution was handed down to guide us by a bunch of wise old dead white guys who invented our country! Now some flinch when I say that. Why! It's true-they were white guys! So were most of the guys that died in Lincoln's name opposing slavery in the 1860s. So why should I be ashamed of white guys? Why is "Hispanic Pride" or "Black Pride" a good thing, while "White Pride" conjures shaven heads and white hoods? Why was the Million Man March on Washington celebrated by many as progress, while the Promise Keepers March on Washington was greeted with suspicion and ridicule? I’ll tell you why: Cultural warfare!"
In an address to students at Harvard Law School entitled Winning the Cultural War, Heston said, "If Americans believed in political correctness, we'd still be King George's boys – subjects bound to the British crown."
He said to the students:
"You are the best and the brightest. You, here in this fertile cradle of American academia, here in the castle of learning on the Charles River. You are the cream. But I submit that you and your counterparts across the land are the most socially conformed and politically silenced generation since Concord Bridge. And as long as you validate that and abide it, you are, by your grandfathers' standards, cowards."
Heston later stated, "Political correctness is tyranny with manners."
I couldn't agree more - unfortunately America has done nothing but continue its rapid decline in virtually every area of thought, reason and morality; this is at the core of "WHY" we need a "Plan B" option of small & tight-knit groups of what I am calling "Lollards" or "mobile monks" (or how about simply "Christians") as discussed in the book The Knights Templar & the Protestant Reformation. As Francis Schaeffer and more importantly the Bible has told us, we will either choose to be on Christ's side or against Him; there simply cannot be a compromise between the two and therefore we need to prepare now. If our choice is to lose our 401k and retirement to follow Christ then we should not hesitate to give it all up to follow Christ, (or quit pretending to be Christ-ian). How can we be "followers of Christ" if we do not "follow Christ?" We can make all the excuses in the world but we all know we are either for Him or against Him; there can be no neutral or compromising ground... I pray we all will be ready and found truly in Christ my brothers and sisters - Amen
The cell group is a form of church organization that is used in some Christianchurches . Cell groups are generally intended to personalize Christian fellowship , and are always used in cell churches and may also be employed by other forms of organization but with less emphasis. The cell group differs from the house church in that the group is part of an overall church congregation, whereas the house church is a self-contained congregation.
They may also be called growth groups, small group ministries, home groups, connect groups, home friendship groups, home care groups, house fellowships or small Christian communities.
The term "homegroup" is also commonly used in Twelve-step programs to denote the meeting most frequently attended by the program participant.
Cell groups are made of small numbers of Christians, often between 6 and 12, and led by a cell leader. Members may be in the same cell group because of common locality, schools or interests. Cell meetings are usually not conducted in the church sanctuary , if any, but in any of the members' homes, rooms in the church building or other third-party venues. When the cell group believes that the cell group has grown too large, the cell group may multiply to form two separate and smaller cell groups.
Cell groups are frequently intended to grow by members bringing along friends, who start attending regularly and become part of the group, becoming Christians at some stage. Even more importantly is that a small group (2-15 people) fosters accountability, bonding and discipleship that is missing the larger church atmosphere. When the cell members believe that the cell has grown too large (ideally less than 15 people), it may split into two groups, providing an opportunity for more members to assume leadership responsibilities for one of the two new groups. While members may participate in these cell groups, the church that it belongs to still holds weekly services or masses, handles collection of offerings, support of missionaries and community outreach.
The term cell group is derived from biology: the cell is the basic unit of life in a body . In a metaphorical sense, just as a body is made up of many cells that give it life, the cell church is made of cell groups that give it life. Moreover, as a cell multiplies, it is said that cell group members will also multiply. The term multiplication refers to the number of people attending a cell group.
Cell meetings may consist of a fellowship meal, communion, prayer, worship, sharing, bible study and discussion, depending on the choice of the cell members and doctrine of that denomination, or the lack thereof.
The nature of the cell meeting is also affected by how the cells are segregated.
Integrated cells may separate into male and female groups for a portion of the meeting so as to remove obstacles to open discussion while groups segregated by sex may have to make extra effort to interact with groups of the opposite gender or to involve one another's spouses in some meaningful way. Cells that are segregated by geography may only meet at homes within a given community so as to take advantage of the conveniences of proximity. These are, by depending solely on location, integrated cells to most extents. Cells segregated by marital status may focus on discussion of marital or dating concerns while integrated groups would stay clear of such discussions as they would be irrelevant to some of their members. Groups segregated by age or life stage may focus on discussions relevant to their given life stage and generation whereas again integrated cells would stay clear of such discussions that may effect to exclude some people.
In youth churches, cells are segregated by the "sire" system, whereby friends who were brought by a certain person is integrated into that person's cell. When the age gap between the oldest and the youngest grow too wide, the cell is divided into the older group and the younger group to better interaction intra-cell. This results in hybrid models of segregation; several different models of hybrids will appear in bigger churches.
There are no set rules for how groups should be segregated, and there are many cell-based models that are intergenerational and non-homogeneous.