Small Groups - Curved in or curved out?

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This is the second in a mini-series of posts looking at the purpose of our small groups at Christ Church Walkley. See the first post here.

Sometimes the fear with small groups is that they become curved in on themselves, self-centred, self-seeking and exclusive. The concern is legitimate, any small group of people meeting regularly in any context can become this way. But it doesn’t have to be what happens with small groups, and if they’re fulfilling their bigger purpose of helping us grow in Christian maturity, they won’t.

Often the answer to groups becoming curved in on themselves is to encourage them to look outside of themselves, and focus on those they’re trying to reach. There’s good wisdom in this, and the final post in the series will look at that. However, I want to suggest a more fundamental place we need to look outside of ourselves, to God, and his glory. 

Our growth in maturity isn’t primarily to serve ourselves, but to bring God glory. Ephesians 3:14-21 talks this way, some excerpts are below:

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and an earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being … that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen
— Ephesians 3:14-21, ESV

How do we grow in maturity, how are we strengthened? Out of the riches of God’s glory, by God working in us. Our growth in maturity is rooted in God’s work, not ours, therefore he deserves the recognition and praise for it. And that’s where Paul goes at the end, his prayer is ultimately that through our growth God would be glorified. 

I wonder if that’s our desire as we sit together reading the bible, as we pray, as we counsel one another? Is it our hope that God’s glory would be seen through us and in us? That our transformation would be a testament to the Spirit's work in our lives?

Small groups are places where the Spirit should be at work through God’s word and through his people. They should be places where we see God’s glory. 

One way small groups avoid becoming curved in on themselves is when they are looking outward to God; when they are seeking and praying for God to be glorified through them. It’s worth asking ourselves why we want to grow in knowledge, why we want to overcome our temptations, why we want to work through our sin and suffering? Is it for our glory, so we look better, fit in more, are more esteemed, more glorified, or is it so that God is glorified? If it’s for us, then we’ll likely tend towards being curved in on ourselves. If it’s for God’s glory then we’ll tend to increasingly be looking away from ourselves – to God, and in the end to others too. 

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