The following is a review of Chapter 1 of Why Small Groups? by C.J. Mahaney. This free e-book is available on the Sovereign Grace Ministries online store and is a helpful guide for accountability groups.
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You vowed you’d never do it again, and you did it again. You prayed, even cried out to God to help you stop, and yet you started again. You’ve read the Bible and found the truth that would set you free and were ensnared again. You faithfully attended church to worship God, only to find yourself broken at the altar of porn or some other vice again! Too ashamed to ask for help, hopeless of finding lasting victory, and guilt ridden to the point of despair, what else can you do? Dear friend there is an answer.
C.J. Mahaney and a cast of skilled shepherds offer Christians a powerful remedy in their FREE e-book Why Small Groups? Their arguments are persuasive, compelling, convincing, inspiring and best of all, biblically un-novel.
This short, easy to read book challenges Christians who crave to grow in God’s grace and holiness to reengage in Jesus’ style of ministry—small groups. In the opening chapter, which bears the name of the book, Mahaney makes the case, like a relentless lawyer, that God intends for believers to grow to maturity by faithfully involving themselves in small groups.
I enthusiastically encourage you to read this book. Better yet, gather together a band of brothers who desire to experience the blessing of knowing that God’s “lovingkindness is better than life” (Psalm 73:25), and certainly better than porn or any other vice. Read this book together and experience the truth that, as Mahaney argues, “Two are better than one and that a cord of three is not easily broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10).
Mahaney writes, “Genuine fellowship isn’t practical in a crowd of 200 or 2,000” (p. 3). While I agree with his intent, he could have validated small group ministry without de-emphasizing the edifying power of corporate fellowship. Since, in corporate worship, the full expression of the body of Christ is in action, it is the means of grace that brings believers into communion with the fullest expression of God. Yet Mahaney’s point is well taken. You can’t stop the pastor in the middle of his sermon and ask, “How do I do that?” You can’t stop that worship leader and say, “Show me how to love God like that.” And in order to overcome our secret struggles, we need to be able to unashamedly ask real questions and get straight-forward answers. You can do that in small groups! Fellowship, in both corporate and small groups, is essential. However, both are different. In small groups you can be known and get to know how mature believers live Christ-like lives.
Jesus, Himself, ministered to the disciples in a small group. He intentionally ministered this way so that He could show and tell them how to live holy lives.
“And He went up on the mountain and summoned those whom He Himself wanted, and they came to Him. And He appointed twelve, so that they would be with Him and that He could send them out to preach” (Mark 3:13-14, emphasis mine).
Mahaney applies this critical point theologically by distinguishing justification from sanctification. He explains that while all believers are equally righteous in their position before God as a result of being declared righteous, all believers do not equally practice righteousness, which is what theologians call progressive sanctification. In small group settings, biblical principles for righteous living can be applied and modeled specifically, by a person living victoriously to a person desiring to live victoriously. This happens, contends Mahaney, when small groups are established to meet these “four clear goals from Scripture: progressive sanctification, mutual care, fellowship, and the ministry of the Holy Spirit” (p. 3).
If you intended to overcome the snares of the world, the flesh, and Satan you need a well-supported Christian life. You need a life shaped by a biblical instruction for spiritual growth that looks like a triangle. We all need the strong foundation of corporate worship in a local church, balanced by the other two sides of the triangle, personal devotions, and small group accountability. If one side of the triangle is missing, then the other sides will not be stable and will collapse, and that is why so many Christian men struggle to gain lasting victory. God made Christianity a team sport, and too many of us are trying to win our battles alone.
For the weary, spiritually injured Christian craving for a holier life, Mahaney filled his opening chapter with hope inspiring truths. And I’ve only touched on the main thrust of his rich chapter. I hope you get the book and follow along with the upcoming reviews. In the next few weeks I’ll help you digest the rest the book—a chapter at a time.
If I had to point to what God used in my life to help me in my struggle to grow in maturity, it is the combination of the edification that comes from being in a sound local church, consistent personal devotions, and the influence of godly brothers in a small group setting. If the men of God are going to wage an effective counter-attack on the unrelenting assaults against our purity, then we need to apply Jesus’ strategy of banding together in small groups.
Chapter 1 of Why Small Groups? easily gets five stars from this reviewer. Well done, Mahaney! For the glory of Christ and to give hope to the scores of Christian men hopelessly living in spiritual defeat, I pray that this book gains a wider reading and sparks a small group revival in our churches.