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  • Marlon Lyon posted an update 5 months ago

    I learned the importance of Christian relationships at a young age. In the 7th grade, I attended a very small church. It was so small that I was not in the junior high youth group I was the junior high youth group. Every Sunday morning, my teacher Mr. Walters would sit on one side of an eight foot table and I would sit on the other. After he took roll and marked me present, Mr. Walters would ask and I would answer every question in that week’s lesson. This was a weekly ritual for one and a half years. At the time I didn’t realize the influence he was having on my spiritual development. But now, because of his example, I understand that the gospel flows through Christian relationships.In the book of Acts, the early disciples modeled a pattern for spreading the gospel message: they met in the temple (large groups), and in homes (small groups). This approach demonstrated a simultaneous and equal emphasis for making disciples through both public preaching and Christian relationships.By contrast, most American churches do not give small group discipling the same emphasis that large group events enjoy. Doing church in a large group (usually a weekend service) is typically the “main event” and thus elevated above all else. Doing church in small groups is encouraged but optional. Compared to the big events, small group ministries simply do not receive the same resources of time, manpower, and money. Evidence for this reality is everywhere.In light of this consider the words of Christian author, Dallas Willard: We must flatly say that one of the greatest contemporary barriers to meaningful spiritual formation into Christ-likeness is overconfidence in the spiritual effectiveness of ‘regular church services.’ They are vital but they are not enough; it’s that simple.Jesus’ ministry was small-group-driven, not event-driven. During his earthly ministry Jesus invested the greatest amount of time developing a Christian relationship with a relatively small group of disciples. He did not ignore the crowds, but they were not his priority. Why? Ultimately the gospel flows through hearts, not events.Jesus called his disciples to be with him. Disciples join a person more than a program. We must learn to see the church as a spiritual family of Christian relationships rather than a religious event. We need to shift our focus from attending church to being the church. Attending a church service does not equal being a church family. Many overestimate the lasting impact of events and underestimate the power of relationships. Drawing a crowd is not the same as making disciples. While large group events can attract, instruct and inspire, they cannot fully transform. Character development requires Christian relationships.As you examine your ministry priorities for 2010, make sure you follow the pattern that Jesus himself used to change the world. Make sure you devote yourself to being a spiritual mentor to at least one person. Make sure you spend the majority of your time with those who are devoted to multiplying. The gospel flows from heart to heart.