It doesn’t take much investigation to find out that church growth has always gone hand in hand with small groups of people coming together to read the Bible. When the Bishop of Thika came over here, one thing he taught us about the church in Kenya was the importance of small groups. Every church member belongs to a cell who worship together, read the Bible together, pray together and – perhaps a rather novel idea for us – raise their part of the church’s income for the year. It is perhaps no coincidence that the Diocese of Thika has grown by many thousands since it was founded in 1998. But the experience of this diocese is no means unique. I can point to many examples around the world and across the ages where small groups have been key to revival.
So why are we so reluctant to embrace them here? After all, Jesus promises us that He will be there where two or three are gathered in His name (Matt 18:20). Luke tells us the early church was marked by devotion to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship (Acts 2:42). Paul exhorts us to let the word of God dwell in us richly (Col 3:16). There is a good Biblical basis for meeting together during the week, so we can Grow In Faith Together. Yet my general impression is that so often GIFT groups are seen as an optional extra for the spiritually keen, and all the statistics of churches in this country show that on average less than half of church members attend a small group.
Now I am sure there may well be good reasons for this, and I know the pressures so many people face during the week. Yet the overwhelming evidence suggests GIFT Groups are good for you. We have a Wednesday evening group starting this week at St Michael’s and a Thursday afternoon group starting this week at St Barnabas. We are spending the coming term looking at the psalms of David and seeing how they arose from the kind of real-life situations we all face. (If you want to see the exact programme, follow this link to Epiphany to Easter 2013)
So why not make it your New Year’s resolution to come along? You don’t even have to say anything, and you are welcome to bring a friend. But if we’re really serious about learning to be with Jesus* then I would like suggest our GIFT groups are one of the best ways of realising this goal.
*PS I hope you spotted the reference to our Mission Action Plan! We’ll be looking at this again at our next APCM – watch this space!