Preaching and Spiritual Formation: How Small Groups Accentuate and Complement the Corporate Preaching Ministry of a Church
As text-driven preaching helps your church learn the Bible, do you know how to lead them to live the Bible? For far too long we’ve placed preaching and community in separate silos. But clear, biblical proclamation must always be connected to gospel-centered community. Otherwise, where will the practice follow the preaching?
Text-driven exposition is useful for small groups. Let us be preachers who think about the individual and corporate application of the Word preached. Small groups play a large part in the formation of a church. If preaching is the air war, small groups are the ground war. Both are essential on the Kingdom front. Aim to read and apply Scripture across all settings, large and small groups.
Pastor, you will be essential to your church’s efforts to live the Bible. And one of the best ways to do this is to champion the small group atmosphere as a place to take this learning into the everyday life of your people. It starts with you. Model this living of the Bible in your sermon illustrations. Mention your own small group. If you don’t already lead one, do so. And live the illustrations you preach.
Let the men and women who lead in these groups connect the learning to the living. Tell them that the best they have to offer the people in their daily sphere is their own passionate pursuit of God. Text-driven preaching serves the role of God speaking to His people, and we are all called to be faithful to that planted Word, nourishing it so that it may grow to its fullest expression and application in community.
Help your people and leaders connect the learning to living by giving practical aids. Stoke their imaginations in this way to connect the preaching to the rest of the week. Suggest they focus their Monday morning devotion on reviewing and rehearsing the preached Word heard over the weekend? Teach them how to take helpful notes so they can devote Monday’s waking hours to reviewing and renewing the call God gave through His preacher. You do the same, Pastor. Revisit that sermon and see what God is still speaking. What was the Holy Spirit directing your church to do out of the text? What spurred you on in holiness? What convicted you? What direction and conviction was given for you to encourage, confess, repent, reconcile or reach out? Be faithful to follow up on these God-given directions, and share them with your community of small group leaders. Your example will mean the most.
You can also aid them—and yourself—when you write out three or four application questions from your sermon for your leaders and small groups. They can keep considering that Word throughout the week and lead others to do so. And all be continually shaped by it. The sermon and the small group should complement one another, working in tandem to form a people after God’s own heart.
There is great historic precedent for this. John Wesley recognized that the need for church members to share their lives and convictions was not met in the large weekend service. So he purposed “band meetings,” smaller groups of believers from within the church, to encourage one another for holy living. He saw these groups as an outgrowth of Sunday’s sermon, building into them an emphasis on application of the preached Word as members regularly shared their spiritual condition, confessed sin and hardship, and prayed together.
We can create a culture of unity and authenticity as we lead our groups to devote their shared study time to the books and passages preached on the weekends. The complementary resources and suggestions are based in the Scriptures and are a direct outgrowth of your commitment to holistically equip saints to do the work of ministry. This is the place of the preached Word in your community. Spiritual vision is cast from the pulpit and carried out in and through your small groups. A gospel-centered community is the ideal opportunity for applying God’s Word in caring deeply for one another and living the Bible in the trenches.
In this, we have the opportunity not only for increased gospel-centered community but also for gospel-centered multiplication. Preaching and community are not the end goals. Making a disciple is. Even as preaching is to drive and direct small groups, the truly gospel-centered community knows the message doesn’t stop with the group. Together, we constantly consider ways the Word of God may multiply out into the souls with whom we share a wider sphere.
Jared Musgrove is the Groups Pastor at The Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas.