We continue on in Harrington and Absalom’s book “Discipleship that Fits” moving into the Social context. These are groups of 20-70 people. It is not “big church” and it is not small group. It is an in between group and this size group is very important in the discipleship process.
One of the most meaningful seasons of my life was working with a group of young adults about this size. I think many of us who were in that group look back on that time with great fondness. We were connected and serving together. We studied together. It was the perfect size group to have an identity all its own and to invite friends in to try things out and get a feel for the congregation and ministry. It very much reminds me of this line from the chapter,
“The Social Context is large enough that we can find diversity, common interests, and a shared mission, all of which pave the way for our engagement with the wider world as we acknowledge that the whole (of the group) is greater than the sum of its parts.” – p. 95
How did Jesus utilize the context? The authors note that we see it in Luke 10 when Jesus sends out the 72. It isn’t the 5000 and it isn’t the 12. It is the in between group where they are sharing mission together. I do wonder if the sermon on the mount was given to a group about this size. Jesus seems to have had his 12 there but also had more. Maybe it was larger than the 20-70 but it certainly wasn’t a smaller crowd than that.
The chapter also points us to Moses and the elders going up on Sinai. That group was in this ballpark and they experienced an unforgettable moment together. This size group isn’t so large as to allow anonymity. It also isn’t so small as to allow intimate conversation and depth of relationship in this group alone. We, again, need a diversity of group sizes for a diversity of purposes.
Typically in Churches of Christ we fill this slot with Bible class. In the first century house church, this would have been an entire congregation.
As we experienced in Florida with our young adults and as the authors reflect on the benefits of this size gathering they note one last thing of tremendous importance that I alluded to above – it can serve as a feeder for the larger gathering. The large gathering (corporate worship) by itself isn’t enough but it is still an important part of the life of the church.
When these gatherings are combined in intentional ways, great things can happen!
What Social Context size groups have you experienced?