By Andrew Mason
In a content-driven information age culture, people can miss the value of sitting in a circle for the purpose of discussion. Most people don’t want to talk to a group of people or listen attentively to a handful of individuals. Others don’t care for either.
Acts 2:42 informs us that the early church was not only devoted to the Word (Apostles’ doctrine), prayer and breaking of bread; they were also devoted to fellowship or koinonia. Koinonia means, “to share.” I believe this forms the Biblical framework for group discussion. Scriptural fellowship is deeper than just a picnic or barbeque (however, informal gatherings like these can be some of the initial stepping stones towards achieving koinonia). I’ll explain this more towards the end of this post.
In order to appreciate the value of group discussion you have to understand how God uniquely blesses a dialogue in an interactive circle differently than He does a monologue in a large gathering. In light of this kingdom opportunity, conversational settings should be intimate (no more than 15 people), they should be in a fellowship-friendly environment (no loud noises or distractions) and they should always happen in the context of scripture, spiritual growth and love.
Here are 3 Reasons To Value Conversational Settings:
1. More oxygen for relationships to breathe. A conversational setting creates the opportunity for me to learn more about each person in the group. I love preaching, but I’ve always become more acquainted with someone else’s life and journey in a small group. Instead of a 30-40 minute teaching, a small group is engaged with questions. People are stretched to open up and listen attentively.
In a day of too much technology and crowded loneliness, people have placed a premium on being known. Conversational settings can make someone who is lonely into someone who is loved. In these times, to be known is to be transformed
2. Evangelism muscles are exercised. In Transformational Groups by Stetzer and Geiger, their research concluded that people who attended groups shared their faith more than people who did not attend groups. They stated the following, “…those involved in groups tend to spend more time thinking and discussing biblical and spiritual matters.”
Think about this: In a typical church service, an attendee is listening 100% of the time during the message. In a conversational setting, a participant is listening AND contributing.
The more a person engages in discussion, the more they will cultivate their language of faith. The more their faith language is exercised, the more natural it is for them to share their faith with unbelievers!
People need to be talking more about what they believe. They need to hear themselves as well as other believers who aren’t necessarily pastors or preachers.
3. Transparency is increased. Another finding from Transformational Groups was that regular group attendees are more diligent in confessing sins and wrongdoings. To put it another way, living in community with other believers brightens the light of the Holy Spirit in one’s life.
This shouldn’t be surprising because this is exactly what the Bible describes as fellowship: But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7).
Conversational settings not only create the conditions for vulnerability, I believe they unveil more light into a believer’s soul. Listening to the faith, the testimonies, the struggles and the perseverance of other Christians, allows areas of darkness to be exposed at a very close and personal level.
Obviously, there are many other benefits to conversational settings that I have not listed here, but I feel strongly that the three mentioned above – relationships, evangelism and transparency – are foundational to our motivations in group life.