foul deeds await | John 13.18-20
I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’ I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.” John 13:18-20 | ESV
“I just wish I could say this applied to all of you and your doings! I know you, I choose you – but the Scripture will always have the last word: ‘He who eats my bread, me underfoot will tread.’ From this point on, I’m posting everything in advance, before any of it happens – so that when it does, it will only serve to bolster your conviction in the reality that I AM. Double underline this in ALL CAPS: Anyone who takes in anyone sent out with my name, my message, my heart, takes in me; and if you take me in, you’re taking in the One who sent me.” MAV (Mike’s Amplified Version)
I often tell small group leaders that according to the experts the optimum size for a small group – optimum size meaning the number that will maximize life-giving face-to-face interaction – is eight to ten people.
With two or three you have quorum: “Wherever two or three of you are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of you.” Which means two is the bare minimum. (No, my fellow introverts, you can’t have a small group of one; if you have a small group of one, that’s actually a psychological condition that needs to be addressed.)
The trouble with a group of two is that it tends to become a game of Ping-Pong – which is great if you know each other really well. But even in that case, there’s something about that third person joining the circle that creates a catalyst for life – witness the two disciples walking to Emmaus in Luke 24.
Call it the Trinitarian principle.
When you have three, anything is possible! Four, five, six, seven – the possibilities multiply. Eight, nine, ten, eleven – now they’re become exponential. Twelve – well, now you’re risking one of them hanging themselves, with possibly the rest of you helping. That’s counsel I share with just a bit of tongue in cheek, but it serves to highlight a sobering reality of small group dynamics or what Bonhoeffer calls our Life Together: Be prepared – foul deeds await.
Every face-to-face encounter is a moment filled with possibility and peril.
It is a place of bonding as well as betrayal, of godliness and gossip, of foot washing and backstabbing. Which is why the whole one member small group often sounds so very appealing sometimes. But the truth remains: it is not good for a human being to be alone – at least not for the long haul.
Which means we shall have to learn how to navigate these often treacherous waters of life, and as we round the rocks of betrayal and heartbreak, we may just find ourselves being borne on them to golden shores under a swift sunrise.
Possibility or peril. Which have you experienced most frequently in your small group experiences – whether on the job, at church, or in the ultimate small group arena – your family? How have you navigated the peril?
Lord, let me not fear the hurt that will come from experiencing life with others; and let me be a harbinger and harvester of possibilities, rather than the visitor of perils. Teach me how to belong well. Through Christ.