There will be unbelievable changes when the elders and the members are involved with the Small Groups program.
"But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light" (1 Peter 2:9).
In this passage Peter indicates our condition and mission. He reveals that all of us belong to a "royal priesthood," and that we are all called to "announce Jesus." That means that our ministry is part of the spiritual body of Christ.
Peter points out that we are ministers, because we belong to a royal priesthood. All of us as ministers have the mission to guide and evangelize. When that takes place in our midst a true revival will take place in the church and we will experience the same awakening that took place in the primitive church.
In the primitive church all Christians took part in pastoral care and evangelism. The pastors were the apostles and missionaries, who went everywhere planting new churches and organizing others. The primitive Christians met mainly in homes.
It is evident that those churches were small groups (Rom. 16:5; 1 Cor. 16:19; Col. 4:15; Phil. 2).
The apostles appointed lay leaders to direct the small groups.
The biblical ideal is for lay members and pastors to do the ministry.
There was a gradual separation from this ideal, but we need to return to the model of the New Testament Church. This return must also be gradual. That will not be easy, but we must begin under the leadership of the Holy Spirit.
The beginning must be with much prayer so that the Holy Spirit may direct the church toward a new revival.
The primitive Adventist Church followed closely the model of the New Testament Church.
For about fifty years after its organization, the pastors evangelized and the churches were taken care of by lay leaders. Apostasy was considerable less.
The first Adventists attended three basic religious services, every week:
1. Sabbath service. They found themselves each Sabbath in church praising the Lord as a body of believers. That gave them the feeling of belonging to the same organization. That conviction was reinforced during camp meetings, where the first Adventists met hundreds and thousands of other Adventists. That helped them to understand that they belonged to something bigger than the small group in the church.
2. Sabbath School. That was the study period of the Word. There the intellectual needs of the believer were reinforced.
3. Small groups. That was known as a social gathering. In these groups there was social growth of the members. The small group also contributed to close relationship and friendship among the members.
Ellen G. White describes the activities of those social meetings: "What is the object of assembling together? It is to inform God, to instruct Him by telling Him all we know in prayer? We meet together to edify one another by an interchange of thoughts and feelings, to gather strength, and light, and courage by becoming acquainted with one another's hopes and aspirations; and by our earnest, heartfelt prayer, offered up in faith, we receive refreshment and vigor from the Source of our strength. These meetings should be most precious seasons and should be made interesting to all who have any relish for religious things." Testimonies, Vol. 2, p. 578.
Osmar Reis is in the Personal Ministries Department of the South American Division.
Translated by Antonio A. Rios.