Mission and Multiplication or Relationship and Community

I am meeting with a handful of other small group pastors of the Milwaukee area today for one of our regular networking gatherings.   One of them posed this topic for discussion:

Small group  ministry will forever wrestle with the issue of which is the greater value:  mission and multiplication or relationship and community?    Steve Gladen (Saddleback’s small group pastor) writes,

Small groups need a simple mission. Too often small-group “theory” dictates that groups should be constantly multiplying. These strategies often place too much pressure on an average leader to be a “church strategist” instead of a relationship builder. We help small group leaders relax and use their natural desire to serve in ways that help their group grow closer.

When John and Mary walk in the front door of a small group, they’re hoping that someone will be there who will greet them warmly, love them for who they are, pray for their challenges, encourage their growth in Christ, and praise their answered prayers. The last thing they want is those friends they are starting to trust—those people who they now feel ready to open up with—suddenly say, “OK, it was fun knowing you. Let’s all pray about the new small groups we are going to start!” Life on life takes time. One piece of iron doesn’t sharpen another piece of iron with one brush against it. Iron on iron has to happen many times in order for both to be sharpened.

Yet many of us agree that to fulfill the Great Commission small groups can play a key role in multiplying disciples.  Is this a “both/and” rather than “either/or”?

Although I’m generally quite flexible on what small group leaders do with their groups, I have some strong feelings on this issue.  I am looking forward to seeing where our dialog takes us.


4 responses to “Mission and Multiplication or Relationship and Community

  1. hi, brian. i am struggling with this issue in re: to our house church coalition. if we truly “do life” together, how can we be breaking up the house church in order to multiply the impact of the kingdom? my coach, jim griffiths is one of just a few in the country who think that house churches should not worry about splitting…that if they want to live together in community they need to be in it for the long haul together. I am slowly moving in that direction, believing that in this case, addition might be as good as multiplication…and that there will be times when a house church goes beyond critical mass and some of church will want to form a new one. I do think there is a difference between house churches and small groups, though. I have seen small groups that did not bring in new people become destructive in the life of a congregation. Just some thoughts today.

  2. Definitely Mission and Multiplication.

    People gravitate toward huddling and cuddling as it is, so I believe the push needs to be toward sending.

    Multiplying a group doesn’t mean you lose all your friends. “Community 201” should be maintaining spiritual friends sans-small group. If you can’t hold a relationship together without a small group, it might not have been all that significant of a relationship.

  3. D. –

    I definitely feel obligated to multiply and send people out. The thought that followers of Jesus would focus on themselves and withhold the “light” from the rest of the world sounds contrary to everything the gospel is about.

    I get that addition would be safer, more manageable, and probably more relational, but I feel a sense of urgency to reach as many people as possible in the short time I’ve been given. Multiplication moves faster than addition – although I don’t want a production mentality, we do have to acknowledge that people’s lives are at stake and that some speed is needed. What I see of Jesus and the Holy Spirit in the Gospels/Acts suggests that sending and multiplying is very much God’s intention in furthering his kingdom.

    If you have more of a shepherding gift, it makes a ton of sense to gather and care for people. My thought is that you’d help further God’s plan for your house church by partnering with an Apostle/Evangelist type person as well to balance things. You and I would probably work together quite well!

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