Weekly Tips for Small Groups
The dynamics of men's small groups
Brothers are the sons of a common father. If you are a child of God and I am a child of God, it is undeniable that we are brothers. The same royal blood has been shed for us. We are heirs of a common spiritual inheritance, so as brothers we should be available for one another. Brothers stand in defense of one another. Brothers fight for each other and at times may even die for each other. In a manly way, they learn to love "one another."
According to the New Testament, the way Christ's love is manifested is by practicing the "one anothers." Therefore, as brothers in Christ and as men who are serious about our walk with God, we should "honor one another." We should "serve one another." We should "encourage one another." We should even "bear one another's burdens" as we "pray for one another." And the list goes on.
In fact, there are over fifty commands relating to "one another" in the New Testament. All of these commands, however, can be summed up under three major headings: to accept, encourage, and exhort "one another." The way these concepts build upon each other is the dynamic of brotherly love and the foundation of effective men's small groups. Let's look at them.
"Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you" (Romans 15:7). How did Christ accept us? Unconditionally. He's more interested in where we want to go than in where we've been. Therefore, our attitude should be the same, "Where do you want to go from here? Let's move forward in Christ together."
The first job of men's small groups is to learn complete acceptance: no judgment, no "I told you so" or "you should have known better." No hidden agendas! I'm not out to change you and you're not out to change me. If you and I feel that we have to put on a spiritual mask in order to be part of a small group, we won't stick around very long. Complete acceptance, however, will create a safe place where men can really be themselves.
"Therefore, encourage one another and build each other up" (1 Thessalonians 5:11). The word, encourage, comes from the same word as one of the names of the Holy Spirit. It means, "called alongside to help." To encourage one another, then, is to be vitally involved in what the Spirit is doing in the lives of our brothers in Christ. Either verbally or through our actions, we can affirm God's view of our brothers. In doing so, we move from accepting them to helping them in some tangible way. Encouragement is taking an active role in a brother's life.
"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom" (Colossians 3:16-17). The Apostle Paul says that "speaking the truth in love" we are to grow in Christ (Ephesians 4:15). How do we grow spiritually? How do we become the men God wants us to be? Growth comes from truth shared through meaningful relationships. Through "teaching" we learn how God wants us to live. "Admonishing" is helping each other apply those truths, even when it is difficult. We all fall short, but we all must keep trying! The group can become God's means of loving correction to help us apply the truth to our lives. Another word for it is accountability. This is exhortation as God intended it to be-brothers lovingly prodding one another to do their best based on trustworthy relationships forged over time as they "love one another."But, the only way that will be done is as part of a team. A team of brothers!
1. Exercise: Imagine a baseball diamond with first base being acceptance, second base being encouragement, third base being exhortation and home plate being Christlike. How do the "one anothers" build on each other to accomplish both personal growth in "Christlikeness" and interpersonal trust?
2. What does it mean to have "earned the right to speak into a man's life?"
3. Do you have a few men with whom you have created "a safe place," a place where you can share your victories and struggles? Why or why not?