It was 1995, and at 31 years old I understood for the first time the power of a small group to change a life.
Oh, I had been part of amazing groups before. Groups like bands, friends with shared interests, even a group of high school students in 1980 who spent a week together at a camp for creative kids. It was awesome. But it wasn’t until the earliest days of AC3 that I understood that, it’s in groups, that people really change. How people grow is in groups.
From the beginning…Groups!
As the 15 people who launched AC3 gathered weekly to worship, study God’s word and just live life together, I was experiencing a season of intense spiritual growth and transformation that I never had before, and have only enjoyed sporadically since. It’s in the presence and under the influence of other Jesus-seekers that we really begin to discover who God is, and who we are.
How can we understand what it is to love, without people to actually love? How can we understand God’s forgiveness until we must forgive someone else? Think of the insights and possibilities we would never discover because there was no one else to share a different point of view?
These are the things that cannot occur in 60 minutes on Sunday morning. Don’t get me wrong…there are many benefits to the corporate church gathering, and we should all attend…but if you want to experience real, lasting and deep transformation, you’re going to need to get with a small “band of brothers”.
No…from the VERY beginning!
Acts 2:46 introduces this dual approach to gathering. Notice how there is both a “large” gathering and a “small” gathering. Notice that the small gathering includes a meal. Many scholars think this is a reference to communion, but no one argues that it means less than a shared meal. And like all meals, we can safely assume talk, laughter, debate and sharing; an environment of potential change.
But why are groups such hothouses for change? In short, it’s how God made us. The Bible is chock-full of explicit and implicit descriptions of this. But we need go no further than “The Beginning” to see the first evidence:
“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:27
God “is a community” himself. Father, Son and Holy Spirit, living in mutual submission, co-equal and loving. We were made in that image, and it turns out neuroscience supports this! Your prefrontal cortex (the part of your brain that makes you human as opposed to just animal) can be thought of as three different “selves” ! We were made to function best in a community.
Because this is so central to the human experience, AC3 has always tried to organize herself in small groups. From the beginning and throughout the last 27 years we have encouraged groups, managed groups, re-invented groups, merged groups, split groups and supported groups. These days are no different. Last month saw our Unfuzz the Vision series dedicate an entire weekend to groups!
We put aside the “rows” for “circles” on February 12th, and everyone met in groups. It was a chance for people already in a group to share some extra time together. A chance for people who don’t have a group yet to try one out! If you’re not part of an AC3 E-Group, you can check them out right here. E-Groups meet weekly to “E”xtend the teaching of Sunday mornings. That means we discuss and dig deeper into the topic we covered last Sunday. It keeps AC3 as a whole focused together, but keeps us intimately connected to one another within these small “hot houses” of spiritual growth…’cause that’s how people grow!