I love my church’s small groups. I love them so much I attend more than one. Sure, part of the reason is because I’m one of the pastors of the church and am invested in several groups of men that are seeking the Lord and may become potential leaders. But, it’s also because I love hanging and actively pursuing godliness with my fellow church members. I also love my church’s Bible studies. I love the leaders and the attendees. I love hanging out in informal settings with other Christians. I love practicing hospitality and I love when others practice hospitality.
As much as I love these bi-weekly or weekly activities there’s something my faith needs more. If my entire Christian experience was isolated to small groups and Bible study then I would be severely malnourished. This does not mean that Bible studies and small groups don’t teach the Bible; our church’s surely do. It would be malnourished because my soul would be robbed of something much more important: Sunday Worship.
I know, from experience, that some Christians try and overemphasize small groups and Bible studies (or para-church ministries like campus ministries or Bible studies at work) to a fault. There are Christians who replace the corporate gathering of the church for these lesser Christian gatherings. What makes these groups “lesser”? Don’t we sing hymns at Bible study? Don’t we pray? Don’t we study the Bible with other Christians in this setting? How is this any different from our experience on Sunday’s? Can’t I make my small group “my church.”
Christians need to understand the difference between these gatherings. Take note of these biblical differences between mid-week gatherings and the Sunday gathering of the church:
Small Group + Bible Studies Are Demographic Specific; Sunday Worship is Not. Our church small groups are based off demographic categories. Either you attend a small group that is regional to your home or you attend a small group that is gender specific. This means that you are (more or less) getting advice from people who are where you are at in life. While the demographic separations may be helpful, they do not always provide the various perspectives you get when surrounded by other Christians who are completely different from you.
The Sunday gathering is a corporate gathering of Christians from all different walks of life. We benefit from surrounding ourselves with people outside of our immediate economic status, gender, and location. The diversity of the local church rooted in the gospel is a good thing. It helps us emphasize the main thing (the gospel) while learning from the experience and viewpoint of others.
Small Group + Bible Studies Do Not Practice the Ordinances. The Bible commands the church to practice two ordinances on a regular basis: (1) baptist and (2) the Lord’s Table. God does not command the Bible study or small group to practice these things. These ordinances require the gathering of the entire local church. From this perspective, your Bible or small group is not the church. Therefore, we cannot use these avenues to replace our commitment to a Sunday gathering for worship. People who try and replace Sunday worship with small group or Bible study gatherings are living in disobedience. The ordinances are not suggestions, but commands. Therefore, for a Christian to excuse himself from the voluntary practice of the ordinances by making small group or Bible study their “church” is disobedient to Scripture.
Small Group + Bible Studies Do Not Meet on the Lord’s Day. Christians have historically met on “the Lord’s Day.” In the New Testament, the “Lord’s Day” is a reference to the day Jesus resurrected from the dead. On our calendar, it is Sunday. Now, I don’t want to get into a debate regarding the Sabbath. I understand that there some out there who believe the true Lord’s day is Saturday. I am also aware that some believe that the “New Testament Sabbath” was moved to Sunday. I think better men and more extensive work have been given over to the task of discussing this topic. For the purposes of this blog, I do believe that the Lord’s Day is a clearcut reference to Sunday.
I am pretty sure there are more reasons that Bible studies/small groups are not the same as Sunday worship. I hope and pray that Christians would realize the importance of Sunday worship and make it a real priority. Making Sunday worship a priority in the life of a Christian is for a person’s spiritual good. For those who only attend small groups or Bible studies, please find a local church and commit and be blessed!