Small groups of Spirit-filled Christians are often more effective than traditional congregations. The New Covenant Scriptures clearly express this. Spiritually strong small groups are the Lord’s revealed model.
REAL INDIVIDUALS / REAL FELLOWSHIP
The Lord teaches us that each individual Christian matters. He did not sacrifice His life for groups or congregations but for individuals. Though it may be a difficult concept to grasp, the reality of His greatest of all sacrifices was based on a one-to-one relationship in that He died for you. And He also died, simultaneously, for each of us. We must not see His sacrifice as a one size fits all in which He gave His perfect life for a large, nameless, homogenized blob of folks congealed into what we term “the world” but for every single person who would ever live.
Each of us has a name and a story and a history and a heart. We are each attempting to find our way and survive in a fallen sinful kosmos of mankind. It is a world primarily built and influenced by sinful people after selfish gain with no real heart for the other. We learn to get along because the smart ones among us learn early on that life goes better that way. Regardless of beliefs, we know if we treat others well most will treat us well. Most will understand that we too are simply trying to live as they are, against long odds, and fraught with the burden of getting by.
The Lord told us to love one another. We know this intrinsically, as children (though there are exceptions). We naturally love others and put up no defenses. We must be taught to do the latter and it certainly becomes necessary once we understand the presence of evil people and the danger they present. But early on most of us are unaware of such dangers.
The people of earliest times learned the value of coming together in groups. These initial groups were small and family based. By coming together they lent each other protection from the wild natural world and also made their chances of survival better. Their greatest need for protection, however, was from other groups of people. I would think most of these groups had no initial evil intent but some certainly did. The evil groups made life much harder for those who were not so inclined. The good guys did not like being forced to grant a relatively large portion of their limited resources to this form of defense but knew survival depended on it just as it did against other forms of attack. Thus, these small groups learned they must develop and possess a warrior mindset or they wouldn’t be around for long.
As other groups formed and these people groups grew in size they maintained a family or clannish identity. They were not necessarily based on a single family head or generational leadership from a single clan, but on a community model which allowed for its greatest strengths to manifest, and whoever might be in possession of such was granted greater control. The community was grounded on what was best for all and allowed for each individual to develop since this process was obviously perceived as what was best for the group as a whole. This meant they valued and cherished the individual. They raised their children that way. Who knew what child might come forth to be a great positive for the group in the future?
Other groups took a different tack. What developed among them was the opposite of strength by individual. They chose instead strength by the strong man. They allowed the rise of a single powerful man which they all subjected themselves to, much as what often takes place among wild animals. These groups were convinced that a powerful alpha male would make their group stronger against others. This meant the individuals in the group accepted an increasingly lesser role and agreed to be ruled over. The strong man would gather the strongest members around himself, force them to pledge loyalty, and this was approved by the group at large. Hence, the strength of the group gravitated to the top. Soon, the large submissive subgroup had little inherent strength or power and the relatively small ruling group effectively had all of it.
Because there was no love or respect for individual rights and the God-given strength and gifting of each individual, the ruling group began to despise the weak ones who voluntarily surrendered their power and began using force to keep them under subjection. They then learned to attack other small groups and bring them under their power. In time, they massed large groups of subjected individuals and forced them to do their bidding. This made it easy to defeat even the strongest of groups. Other strong men in other areas did the same and when these large groups clashed it became a major war with even higher stakes.
THE LORD’S EXAMPLE
When He started His ministry the Lord chose a mere twelve men. This was His core. Each of these men were equal. But also, and very importantly, their individuality was greatly respected and prized. He chose each of them for a reason. He never chose a “group” but individuals. His intention was to develop each of them to the fullest. That was primary. Secondarily, He would teach them how to be strong, gifted, powerful individuals while simultaneously getting along very well with one another. They must learn to work together. This is the greatest community challenge Christians will ever face.
However, this method and model never enters the mind of the strong man. He knows all he must do is get each individual to submit to his leadership. He will then use deceptive force of some kind or another to make them get along (or else).
One should see then, that a group composed of very strong individuals is much more effective than a group of underdeveloped submitters headed by a single strong man, especially because his strength is most often a mere carnal strength and not spiritual. Whether the strong man is secular or religious, he uses the same tactics. He uses some level of force, often understated, to gain control over people. He will also do the same in gaining control of their minds. Once he convinces those under his control that his leadership works best for their lives and demonstrates it by making them believe their small undeveloped lives are better than what they could ever gain elsewhere or through any other means, the submitted choose the very little over the hope of better and greater, especially because (1) They are undeveloped, dependent, and individually weak, and (2) They are convinced this is how they were meant to be and live, because their small weak lives are much more appreciated by their rulers.
STRONG INDIVIDUALS ARE THE GREATEST THREAT
The strong man, the evil ones, absolutely hate strong, developed individuals. They greatly fear such people. They know such strong individuals are the only ones who can dethrone them. It is why they fight them at every turn. And because they are in their place unlawfully, they will not restrict themselves to lawful conduct in fighting their foes. They will use any means available to maintain their power. As soon as a strong individual with righteous intent comes forth, the strong man pools his resources against him. He does the same with the next one. But if strong individuals intent on righteousness keep rising up and coming forth, the strong man will have to apply lesser resources in overcoming each and will have a lesser chance at defeating them.
Keep this in mind when thinking of the Lord Jesus. He spent His first thirty years becoming the absolute best He could be. He was fully developed in personal strength, knowledge, and everything else. When the time came to start His official ministry, through which He revealed Himself as Messiah and Savior, He was anointed from on high with great spiritual power. He was already filled with the Spirit of God without measure. This happened at the incarnation. He was always God. Then He became a Man. But He was still God. Yet, He lived an obscure quiet life of preparation prior to His ministry and when He came forth He was fully prepared.
This is exactly how He trained His twelve original disciples. He would teach them and bring them to full preparation. Each one, other than he who chose perdition, became powerful, strong, fully developed individuals with an individual ministry. By that time they had also learned to work together and love each other. The group they composed was one of the most powerful groups of men ever assembled, if not the most. Other disciples had been added throughout the Lord’s ministry and His approach to them was the same. The only thing lacking before the official beginning of their ministries was Holy Ghost Power. The same way it happened with the Lord, in that He was baptized and anointed with great spiritual power, so were the original 120 water baptized and then filled with the Holy Spirit on that wonderful Day of Pentecost.
Thus, members of one small group of nobodies submitted themselves fully to the Lord, and through His guidance and direction became a powerful group of individual spiritual stalwarts able to take on all the evil strong men of this world, including the devil himself. And one must never forget that, relatively speaking, this was a small group! The original Christians were never a vast conglomeration of non-Spirit-filled weaklings as so many of our present congregations have become, but a collection of powerful small groups comprising a whole. In fact, Christianity in general has become the opposite of what the Lord intended. Those who defend it are doing a disservice to the Lord but also doing a disservice to themselves. Whoever submits to the strong man, whether secular or religious, has accepted another one to rule in place of the Lord Jesus. This is exactly what Adam did which resulted in the great spiritual fall of mankind.
May we all receive the revelation that each of us matters, each of us is called and gifted by God, and each of us is vitally necessary for the task at hand which grows more problematic by the day. The Lord created a body of which each of us is a vital part and we must each be about our Father’s business.
THE BODY OF CHRIST
For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. If they were all one member, where would the body be? But now there are many members, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”
On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable members have no need of it.
But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it. [1Corinthians 12:12-27]
© 2020 by R.J. Dawson. All Rights Reserved.
 Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.
The following is an excerpt from Real Christianity, The Nature of the Church © 2001 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.