The question has been asked, “Won’t small groups create cliques that will divide our Church?” Great question.
In Mark 3:13-19, Jesus is followed by a large crowd of people all vying for his attention. The Bible says that He healed many, before eventually pushing away from the crowd. (That’s right, even Jesus got away to rest occasionally).
While heading up the mountain to get away, Jesus does something interesting:
And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach and have authority to cast out demons. He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
Here is the point in Christ’s ministry where He separated the twelve from the rest of the crowd. He called them out to be His “small group.” They would spend concentrated time together training and preparing for ministry. Put another way, Jesus started His own clique. There, I said it. But before you call me a heretic, let’s define “clique.”
Usually we use the word “clique” with a negative connotation. But a clique is simply a group of people who spend time together.
Cliques, like most other things, can be good or bad. Cliques that are inward focused and never reach out to others are bad –especially when they consider themselves superior to others. Those kind of cliques deny the biblical concepts of unity in Christ.
But cliques which use their special fellowship as a launching pad for ministering to others (the way Jesus did with the twelve) are a great tool for the kingdom.
Imagine if Jesus had tried to give personal ministry training to each one of the hundreds who were following Him at this point. It would have been as chaotic as an elementary school trying to teach 100 students together at the same time instead of breaking them into classes.
Thank goodness Jesus doesn’t expect a handful of staff members to disciple hundreds at the same time. Instead, He gave us a clear pattern to follow as we fulfill the Great Commission: Reach a few in order to reach the world.
That’s the advantage of small groups. Just like Jesus, we are pulling people out of the crowd to practice ministering together and multiplying disciples around the world, then sending them out to start new “kingdom cliques” to do the same!