THE "ONE ANOTHER" COMMANDS FOR SMALL GROUP MINISTRY
One of the strengths of small group ministry is its biblical conviction that the Holy Spirit officially commissions every believer into a ministry of caring for one another. None of the following commands are restricted to a particular title (such as elders only) or a particular gender (such as men only). Moreover, many of these "one another" commands can often be practicably more doable and particularly more effective in a small group context.
1. Positive Interpersonal Commands
Love one another - John 13:34-35
Accept one another - Romans 15:7
Greet one another - Romans 16:16
Have equal concern for one another - 1 Corinthians 12:25
Submit to one another - Ephesians 5:21
Bear with one another - Ephesians 4:2
Confess your sins to one another - James 5:16
Forgive one another - Ephesians 4:32
Be kind to one another - Ephesians 4:32
Be compassionate to one another - Ephesians 4:32
Wait for one another - 1 Corinthians 11:33
Honor one another - Romans 12:10
Live in harmony with one another - Romans 12:16
Be humble toward one another - 1 Peter 5:5
2. Negative Interpersonal Commands
Do not pass judgment on one another - Romans 14:13
Do not slander one another - James 4:11
Do not grumble against one another - James 5:9
Do not bite and devour one another (do not attack one another with words) - Galatians 5:15
Do not provoke one another - Galatians 5:26
Do not envy one another - Galatians 5:26
Do not lie to one another - Colossians 3:9
3. Interpersonal Commands for Mutual Edification
Build up one another - 1 Thessalonians 5:11
Teach one another - Colossians 3:16
Encourage one another - 1 Thessalonians 5:11
Admonish one another - Colossians 3:16
Speak to one another (with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs) - Ephesians 5:19
Spur one another on - Hebrews 10:24
4. Interpersonal Commands for Mutual Ministry
Serve one another - Galatians 5:13
Wash one another's feet - John 13:14
Carry one another's burdens - Galatians 6:2
Offer hospitality to one another - 1 Peter 4:9
Pray for one another - James 5:16
Small groups are not new to the church. Since the birth of the church as recorded in Acts, small groups have been an important form of Christian gathering. A classic example of the role of small groups is the Methodist Class Meeting which was formed originally to facilitate discipline. John Wesley describes their benefits this way:
It can scarce be conceived what advantages have been reaped from this little prudential regulation. Many now happily experienced that Christian fellowship of which they had not so much as an idea before. They began to "bear one another's burdens," and naturally to "care for each other." As they had daily a more intimate acquaintance with, so they had a more endeared affection for, each other. And "speaking the truth in love, they grew up into Him in all things, who is the Head, even Christ."2
1This arrangement of one another commands is adapted from Sue Harville, Reciprocal Commands: A Biblical Answer to the Fellowship Crisis (Coral Gables, Florida: West Indies Mission, 1976).
2Paul Elbert, ed., Faces of Renewal: Studies in Honor of Stanley M. Horton Presented on His 70th Birthday (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 1988), 258.
SMALL GROUP MINISTRY TIME
HOW TO MINISTER TO PEOPLE THROUGH PRAYER
There will be occasions in your small group that serious ministry time is needed. A person may really "unload." It could get emotional and even "messy." On that occasion you will need to go beyond "conversational prayer." Deep needs require deep praying. You will be standing in the authority of Jesus to do ministry for that person through prayer. It may seem scary. It will be a step of faith. The person may need eternal salvation, emotional or physical healing, or spiritual deliverance. How do you do it?
If they need to receive Christ as their Savior, begin with salvation. Follow the steps to lead a person to Christ. For other needs, consider the following guidelines.
1. Trust the Holy Spirit to guide you specifically for that occasion. Invite him to come, reveal his will, and to lead that time of ministry. "Holy Spirit, please come and take charge of this ministry time. Show us what you want us to do and help us cooperate with you in accomplishing your purposes."
2. Begin by blessing the person in a general way. "In Jesus' name I release God's peace, forgiveness, confidence upon this person. I release this person in Jesus' name from worry, fear, guilt." "In Jesus' name I bless you with a deeper sense of God's presence, joy, greater trust in God, an ability to accept yourself, an ability to forgive someone, protection from Satan and his forces, etc."
3. Ascertain the person's basic need. If necessary, ask, "How may we pray for you?" Or, "Will you share with us your need -- what you desire us to pray for?" Or, "What do you want Jesus to do for you?" A person can share their need in a general way without going into great and perhaps private detail.
4. Listen to the Holy Spirit's direction in prayer. Take a few moments of silent listening or quiet praise to wait upon the Lord. Focus on the God's attributes, the promises of God's Word, or the finished work of Jesus Christ on the Cross. Be asking God how to pray and listen for his direction.
5. Gather in a circle around the individual and discreetly lay hands on the person's shoulder area. Closing one's eyes to pray is not necessary -- you may observe God actively at work in the person.
6. As you discern the direction to pray, lead out in prayer, and others can agree. You may be asking God to give guidance, for the person to be receptive to the Lord, for the person to experience God's grace and power to deal with the issue. Or, you may be taking authority over and commanding certain things to leave -- physical or emotional conditions, or any interference by Satan or evil spirits. Or, you may be releasing God's Spirit to meet a specific need.
Let your prayer revolve around the insight or theme God is impressing upon you, for example:
+ Come, Holy Spirit. Release your Spirit upon this person.
+ Let your will be done, Lord, on earth as it is in heaven.
+ Grant a deeper revelation of the Father's love in Christ.
+ Bring an anointing for service.
+ Minister healing and wholeness.
+ Release your gifts and callings.
+ Bring the light and expel the darkness.
+ Open the eyes of this person's understanding, so that he or she will know the magnitude of their salvation.
+ More, Lord. How much more will the Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.
+ Bring peace ... ruling and reigning in this person's heart.
+ Meet this person's need in Jesus' name.
7. Conclude with words of faith and encouragement. If necessary, let them know how they themselves can take authority in case the situation or symptoms returns.
Not all of these steps may be needed in every situation, but they do provide some general guidelines to consider in practicing listening prayer within a small group setting.
Regarding the ministry of Jesus, the blind were healed, the deaf could hear, the dumb could talk, the lame could walk, demons were cast out, and even the dead were raised. Matthew described Christ's ministry of teaching, preaching and healing: "Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people" (Matthew 4:23).
The kingdom of evil showed its power, yet the power of Jesus was shown to be greater. Jesus performed signs and wonders that demonstrated his reign over areas in which Satan particularly works: sin, disease, demons, destruction and death. Jesus still demonstrates his reign in these areas.
When we pray in faith and see God dramatically answer those prayers, those answers:
+ will show people a supernatural God who works with supernatural power who intervenes in humanity's fallen condition to speak, to help, to heal, to care;
+ will prove to the world that God is alive and at work in his church;
+ will motivate the unbeliever to come to Christ; and,
+ will give the believer a foretaste of the full revelation of heaven while still on earth.
We exercise Christ's delegated power to demonstrate God's wonderful love. God continues to demonstrate his power through your prayers today! Yes, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever" (Hebrews 13:8)!
3Some of the material here is adapted from Charles H. Kraft, Christianity with Power: Your Worldview and Your Experience of the Supernatural (Ann Arbor, Michigan: Servant Publications, 1989), 150-157.