The Spirit-filled Small Group
Small group resources tend to overlook the spiritual side of small group leadership. And yet most would agree that spiritual preparation is the most important aspect of leading a small group. Only Gods supernatural power can draw people to the truth and liberate them to be all that God wants them to be. Only through the Spirit's power can we expect to see the miracles that Jesus talked about when He said that if we would abide in Him, we would bear much fruit and even do greater works than He did while He was on earth. The key distinction of this book is the spiritual perspective it gives to small group ministry. So much of the literature about small groups that is already published relates to small group technique and only touches briefly on the Spirit's power. This book is a practical reference guide to help small group leadership begin to move in the supernatural realm. The books first priority is to help small group leaders and members trust the Holy Spirit to lead them, empower them and work in their group. Small group facilitators often sense a lack of guidance, power and spiritual authority. Jesus knew His disciples would be powerless without a touch from the Holy Spirit, and so He told them to wait in Jerusalem, saying, "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8). Small group leaders need a power boost to make small group ministry relevant and exciting. The second priority of this book is to help the facilitator identify and mobilize each small group member to use his or her own spiritual gifts. Small group facilitators often feel ill-prepared to identify spiritual gifts of the people in the group. I firmly believe that the small group atmosphere is the perfect place to develop the gifts of the Spirit in each member's life, and so it is essential that the facilitator know how to do this. Whatever denominational or non-denominational label a church wears, the most important characteristic, in my opinion, is promoting individual sensitivity, devotion and dependence on the Holy Spirit. In a Holy Spirit-charged atmosphere, cell leaders are best raised up and members are encouraged to minister in their giftedness. Some churches are better at empowering lay people than others. Those that are less adept often make lay people feel they must possess a theological degree (much like the pastor has) before they can successfully minister to a small group. The emphasis in such churches is on acquiring Bible knowledge rather than obedience to Scripture and dependence on the Holy Spirit. In such churches, a high premium is placed on sitting and hearing the Word preached each Sunday. While I agree that small group leader training is essential, ultimately the graduate must step out and depend on the Holy Spirit. And my observation is that success in small group ministry will hinge on that dependence. Effective small group leaders and churches emphasize the Holy Spirit's empowerment in daily life and the fact that all believers are priests and ministers of the living God. Such churches emphasize the need for each member to depend on the Holy Spirit to guide, direct, empower and even take the biblical text and apply it to daily experience. It is this atmosphere that makes small group ministry work successful, whether the church is Baptist, Methodist or Assembly of God. This book has been written for those who are leading (facilitating) a small group, participating in a small group or considering joining a small group. Group members should read this book for two particular reasons: First, members make a significant contribution to the life of the cell. Each member will be intimately involved in using the gifts, intercession, etc. In the life of the group, no one is to sit back and do nothing. The best cell leaders, in fact, rarely "lead" the entire cell, instead encouraging cell members to participate actively. Second, members are the next in line to actually lead the small group. I am assuming that the readers of this book are believers who desire God and are seeking to walk in the Spirit. I am also assuming that those reading this book are studying the Bible and growing in their relationships with the Lord. There are many great books dedicated to defining each spiritual gift in detail. Many other authors cover gifts beyond the scope of this book, such as voluntary poverty, hospitality, celibacy, missions, exorcism, martyrdom, artistic creativity, craftsmanship and music. Rather than cover every possible gift, this book will focus on how the Spirit uses gifts in the small group context and guides the leader to facilitate a Spirit-filled group. Because this book is written to lay leadership rather than senior leaders of the Church, I will not cover in detail the five-fold offices that Paul mentioned in Ephesians 4.8 Instead, the gifts I will cover in this book are explicitly listed in Scripture (the one exception is intercessory prayer, which I call a spiritual gift although some would disagree). To remain effective in small group leadership, I recommend that each small group leader have a coach. This coach might be the senior pastor, a staff pastor or another volunteer lay leader (for example, the leader of the mother cell that gave birth to the new cell). I will not cover the discipline of coaching, nor the small group coaching structure necessary to have long-term success."