If you have been following this blog for any length of time, there are some common themes - even if you are a farily recent reader, you know I just finished teaching the 5-Fold School of Ministry.
Did you know the church cannot function without vision? Nope, and most of us either embrace the pastor's personal vision, or we find ourselves rejected and left out. Certainly it is good for those that embrace it and tough on those that don't. The Bible says that the people perish for lack of vision. (Proverbs 29:18) So, we've got to have vision. The problem is that a pastoral vision is incomplete. Ouch! I know, but let me explain.
Every vision is subject to the Biblical principals. The president of the United States may have vision for something, however; he is still subject to the laws of the land. His vision couldn't include some sort of illegal policy. It is the same with church vision. Spiritual vision cannot violate God's principals.
I want to take a look at the overall mission of the church so that we can attach a local vision to it, and get something done in our community for Jesus. The overall mission of the church is to preach the Good News, and get out there and heal the sick, cast out demons and use other types of power and love ministry to advance the kingdom of God. The vision of the local church needs to achieve this mission: where there is power and love, God's work will be accomplished. The actual work is done through the church, and the individuals in it. From the macro view, what to the micro view how, that is how we need to look at the process. Vision must include a what and a how, and of course a when and a where. What are we going to do (Preach the Gospel , heal the sick, do VBS etc.), how are we going to do it. (Let's face it the methods some churches use are ineffective)
The problem with the personal vision of a single leader, is they spend a lot of time trying to get everyone to adapt to it. It will ultimately fail the mission even though it may grow a local church. Why because the vision must be 5-fold (Eph 4:11). The fruit of the biblical mission is not numbers, it is disciples that can replicate the vision and accomplish the mission! Jesus did it, then he sent out the 70, then the 120, and then He gave the great commission for us all to go out.
Many different models have been suggested for replication and church growth. Since the beginning of the church, small fellowship group models have proliferated. And I think small groups are good, but they replicate a significant problem in the church. Most of them are pastorally led. Many times, they don't do evangelism or outreach, and the small group pastor is usually forced into teaching. Many small groups also do not have a prophetic voice. The church, whatever size it is, need all the gifting that it can muster from the participants.
As much as I love huge celebration services with hundreds or thousands of people, small group is still church. Therefore; it needs to be a collective microcosm of the 5-Fold ministries or roles. Jesus said that where two or three come together, I am there. I am going to suggest that you would want to have the pastoral and teaching roles met, and hopefully add evangelism. The apostolic and prophetic roles certainly can be resident, but they may foundationally support more than one group.
Before we get all legalistic about how to run a small group, there is some very good advice from Paul in 1 Corinthians 14:26-40. The primary point of this passage is that we should, based on our gifting, be prepared to bring something by His Spirit. This would be a hymn (some sort of music), a lesson (teaching) and a revelation (prophecy or tongue with interpretation). These are the essential ingredients in a church meeting, and are as valid for a home/small/cell-group situation as well as a giant celebration.
What has happened with this model, is that the pulpit has become an icon for "church," pushing aside the apostle, the prophet, the teacher and the evangelist.
If our 5-Fold equippers have done their job, their small groups will replicate a vision that fulfills the mission of the church on a local and regional level.