“Wherever two or more are gathered in my name, there I am” (Matthew 18:20).
A “small group” is a gathering of people who meet regularly to look to the Lord and explore His truth with the goal of offering mutual acceptance, support, and encouragement for one another's life goals and challenges.
The New Church teaches that spirituality is to focus on love for the Lord and love for the neighbor. Small groups can help provide a context for loving relationships, and thus loving the Lord. In small groups we have an opportunity to get to know people on a deeper level, to understand their struggles, to help them in a way that is truly beneficial and to love them for their best qualities. This is hard to do if our only interaction with others with church is a brief comment about the weather after the Sunday service. “Love to the Lord and caring for the neighbor make the church” (Secrets of Heaven 4723).
In fact, heaven as a whole becomes more perfect as more people enter “Every perfection in the heavens increases with increase of number” (Heaven and Hell 418). So, the more people that are involved in a way where they’re really connecting with others, the more heavenly is the world around them! That’s not to say that “bigger is better” though, because large groups can be formed of smaller groups, and the increase in perfection results from an increase in variety. The human form is not made up of many cells that are all identical, nor of a variety of cells randomly mixed together. Rather the wide variety of cells are all grouped with other cells that serve a common function. Likewise, every community on earth is a reflection of the human form and is made of a variety of people formed into smaller groups with others who have similar functions and qualities.
Small groups make it possible to have variety within a larger context, like a congregation. Groups for people who are needy and for people who have a lot to give. Groups for people who want to learn and people who want to work. Groups that are open and flexible and groups that are structured and require commitment.
The Lord invites us to go and make disciples, yet few of us are able to influence our friends and neighbors to the point that they actually come to accept the Lord. The process of reaching out to others and welcoming people into the church is easier to accomplish when we work together to care for the newcomers. Including more and more people results from having an open, welcoming care for visitors.
Each of us have been invited by the Lord to help build the church in people’s hearts, minds and lives begin from that starting point. Since it is not we ourselves but the Lord who builds the church, He is our pattern and guide. When the Lord was in the world, He sometimes preached to thousands, He sometimes ministered one-on-one, and very often He worked with small groups. He called twelve disciples, sometimes meeting with all twelve, and sometimes just a few. Often he would eat at someone’s home, ministering to the family and friends who had gathered.
Joining, or even leading a small group doesn’t have to be a large endeavor in our lives. Just making a regular commitment to show up with an open heart is enough for the Lord to work with to do incredible things. The important thing is to do we help support each other along the way.
"The understanding cannot be enlightened unless it is believed that love for the Lord and caring for the neighbor are the principal and essential things of the church." (Arcana Coelestia 7233).
(top photo by Anni Glover)