Small Group Breakthroughs, Part 2
Commitment: Persistence With Purpose
Second in a 5-part series about building intimacy in your small group
People yearn for intimacy. That’s one reason the small groups movement has taken hold in churches worldwide.
The reason many small groups don’t get off the ground is not a lack of curriculum or good Bible content. Rather, the struggle lies in building close relationships, particularly when it comes to commitment, honesty, acceptance, and trust.
Remember the four small group members from our previous article? Mike, the first, has no siblings and is single. Loneliness is nothing new to him; people have come and gone throughout his life. Mike has not experienced commitment and unsure it’s even possible. Like so many small group members, Mike’s first hurdle to building intimacy in a small group is commitment.
Without commitment, your small group will be just like any other group you belong to – a supper club, a golf group, or a playgroup for your kids – always giving members the chance to walk away. Your small group can be different than that. Commitment is a prerequisite to authentic fellowship and the foundation upon which deeper relationships are built.
Commitment: What It Is and Isn’t
Commitment is often mistaken as blind trust. Small group members fear they need to drink the Commitment Kool-Aid with this approach: “I’m committed to this group so I will simply shut my eyes and plunge forward no matter what.”
No wonder so many push back in confusion. That is not commitment, but foolishness.
Authentic commitment is different. It is persistence with purpose. The purpose of commitment within a small group is to grow closer to God and each other. Persistence is persevering to reach that goal.
Commitment embraces purpose. Purposeful commitment to God says, “I love You and I want to obey Your commands – especially the one that says to love one another.” Purposeful commitment to the group says, “I’m willing to do what it takes to get to know you and have you get to know me – the real me.” When members understand that they will not be rejected, they can let down their walls and be themselves.
Commitment persists towards purpose. Commitment is marked by a willingness to stick things out (even when the going gets tough) in order to build intimacy with God and each other. Committed group members move out of their comfort zone. They give each other love and time, even when it’s inconvenient to do so. They’re willing to share courageously, listen without judgment, and confront rather than withdraw. It’s not an easy process, but God is in the business of transforming people and relationships. We partner with him in the process.
The twelve disciples demonstrated commitment once they captured the vision for that intimacy from Jesus. He was committed to them. He gave the disciples freely of his time and love in order to grow close to them. He persisted with them for the long-term, even when the disciples had disagreements within or challenges from without. As His days on earth came to a close, Jesus painted the picture of this true commitment for His disciples: “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you” (John 15:2, NIV). He challenged them to model that commitment to each other.
Blend: It’s What Happens When Commitment Happens
The twelve went on to build the body of Christ in a broken world. Yet could there have been a more motley group? They ranged from well-educated government bureaucrats (Matthew, a tax collector, was immersed in regulations and complicated formulas) to unschooled fishermen (Peter and John.) The 12 personalities ran the gamut, too: hotheaded and rash (James), passionate (John), outspoken and impulsive (Peter), skeptical (Thomas), and even a practical networker (Andrew.)
Yet their diversity actually glued the disciples together. Each brought special strengths to the group, contributing not only to Jesus’ three-year ministry but subsequently the establishment of the Christian church across the globe.
The diversity in your group is not a deterrent to intimacy, but quite the opposite – a plus that adds energy and vitality to your relationships. What is most important are not your differences, but rather your committed determination to know each other and love each other. Your small group is a living laboratory in which to live out that commitment.
That’s what happened to Mike. He made a personal commitment to God and a verbal commitment to his group to persist in getting to know them, even if things got hard. “I am very different from others in my group,” says Mike. “But I have no doubt that they are there for me and I am here for them. We are stronger together.”
Like the disciples, Mike had learned a powerful principle: commitment accomplishes an amazing eternal purpose. It builds up the body of Christ.