Jesus knew what it was like to face trials in life. The writer of Hebrews reminds us that he is not “unable to empathize with our weaknesses” (4:15). He faced temptations in the desert at the beginning of his ministry and trials in the Garden and at the Cross at the end of it. In the middle, he had to deal with the hard hearts of the religious leaders and the hard heads of his followers. Yet he stood strong through it all—strong in his relationship with his Father, strong as he carried out the Father’s will.

Many of our trials in life are related to dealing with people. As someone has said, “Ministry would be easy if it weren’t for people!” You might say the same about your small group at times. Jesus had to deal with trials of many kinds within his group. While Jesus’ small group did become the World’s Greatest Small Group, at times it looked more like a dysfunctional mess!

Within two pages in my Bible, Jesus had to …

  • rebuke his leader-intern (Mark 8:33). Actually, this verse says he looked at all the disciples as he addressed Peter: “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men”
  • deal with Peter missing the bigger vision during their mountaintop experience (9:5-6)
  • stop an argument between some of his group members and the religious leaders (9:14-16)
  • rescue his group members when they couldn’t do what he had told them to do (9:18, 25-28)
  • correct his disciples who were arguing about which of them the greatest (9:33-34; also see 10:35-45)

The next time you grumble about tensions and problems in your group, look again at Jesus’ group!

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While Jesus’ group was a mess and often dysfunctional, it was healthy. That might seem like an oxymoron, but Jesus understood the principle of process. He saw not only what they were, but what they were becoming. And often this process of becoming looks very messy. But think about this: Jesus’ dysfunctional group became the World’s Greatest Small Group!

If your group is a mess—if your group includes a bunch of dysfunctional, sinful, pride-laden, argumentative men and women—don’t give up! Ask God to help you see the process of what your group members are becoming. At the proper time—God’s time—you will reap a harvest if you do not give up!

That takes standing on faith, as Jesus did. Jesus was also teaching—teaching by example—these men in his group to stand firm when they had to deal with opposition. Because they certainly would.

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-Michael C. Mack, World’s Greatest Small Group

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