I love you.
You read that correctly, I love you, each and every one of you; Christian, pagan, Muslim, friend, enemy, heretic, solid bible preacher, etc. I love you all the way Christ directs me to love you in scripture (1 John 4:7-8). In particular, I love my fellow small group1 leaders for heeding the call Christ has placed on your life to take on the responsibility of leading a small portion of his flock, many times sacrificing personal peace and comfort in the process. In fact, I love you so much that I feel led to ensure you fully grasp the weight of the position you occupy, as always, from a biblical perspective.
The Bible says that preachers will be judged more harshly on the Day of Judgment. Naturally, you may be wondering how in the world I could possibly apply that to small group leaders. The answer is actually quite simple and very apparent once you take a look at the Biblical definition of a Preacher.
Ephesians 4:11 says, “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers.” The word in Greek is poimen and literally means shepherd. Poimen occurs 18 times in the New Testament. A pastor/preacher and teacher is a shepherd of God’s flock who is to instruct, teach, and protect the people under his charge.2 Further, and quite unpopular in today’s postmodern world, this position is not permitted to be filled by a woman unless the hearers are composed of other women and/or children as scripture lays out in Titus 1:5-7, 1 Timothy 2:12-13, Deuteronomy 6:4-9, Psalm 145:4, and exemplified by women such as Lois and Eunice in 2 Timothy 1:5; this includes the positions of Pastor, Elder, and any teaching of the Scriptures during mixed-gendered public gatherings of the body, including weekend worship services and small groups.3
In today’s common church model of large congregations, the person often called the “teaching Pastor” or “lead Pastor” (the guy who preaches on Sundays) simply does not have the time on a weekly basis to instruct and guide the church congregation on a personal level. That is often the time when the idea and system of small groups is implemented so that members do not feel lost in the huge throng of weekend attendees and, more importantly, spend time each week digging deeply into the Word of God in order to wean from milk to meat. As the members of Christ’s church, we do not want to fall under the same rebuke as those in Hebrews 5:11-14 by not continuing to grow in our doctrinal knowledge and discernment skills. This is where small group leaders come into play.
I have observed in my own church and in others I’ve visited that the role of small group leader is something that people accept in a very cavalier manner, without much prayerful consideration or reverence for the position. In fact, church leadership often innocently slips into the fostering of such an attitude simply because they need people to step up and lead those desiring to be part of a small group. At its ugliest, the position becomes something the leadership tries to cultivate using a business-like model of leader-grooming in lieu of spiritual teaching, Christ-seeking, and constant prayer.
This should not be the case! Those considering accepting the position of small group leader need to understand that role falls in line with the aforementioned definition of a preacher/teacher, “…a shepherd of God’s flock who is to instruct, teach, and protect the people under his charge.” When one accepts this position, they are accepting the responsibility of instructing, teaching, and protecting the 8-10 people under their charge; they are accepting the role of preacher/teacher in God’s church and with that comes a heavy burden of responsibility and accountability! As the title of this article suggests, the Bible is very clear that those accepting the role of Pastor/Elder/Preacher/Teacher in His church will be held to a higher standard of accountability and ultimately will be judged more harshly than those of His flock whom they’ve been entrusted to lead.
If you are a current small group leader, do you feel that weight? It’s a glorious thing for the Lord our God to draw you to Himself, but for Him to then appoint and entrust you over some of his flock and to make you responsible in part for their edification and growth, that should bring you to your knees!
So why would God hold preachers to a higher standard? Logically it makes perfect sense, doesn’t it? After all, why would a shepherd and the sheep be held to the same standard? If that were the case, then why does a sheep need a shepherd to begin with? We’re called to know God’s Word and to handle it rightly. As small group leaders we should be shepherding the segment of God’s flock entrusted to us with great reverence and respect for the Word of God. If the idea of this responsibility scares you, it should! James makes it very clear in James 3:1 when he says, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” Do not accept a teaching position in the church on a whim, or just because you want to have some fun. No, prayerfully consider if this is truly God’s calling on your life. If you feel it is, take the responsibility seriously and submit fully to His direction and guidance.
One final point I’d like to make. Paul gave us some very simple advice regarding how leaders can learn to be Christlike. Philippians 3:17 says, “Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.” Since all believers are imperfect, they need examples of less imperfect people who know how to deal with imperfection and who can model the process of pursuing the goal of Christlikeness.4 This reminder should be ingrained in the heart of every single teacher, always reminding them of the humility and holiness it takes to walk the preacher walk.
If you feel the call to lead a small group, or if you’re already in a position of leadership, please prayerfully consider what is at stake when that responsibility is accepted. This isn’t just a time to “do life together”. No, when you lead a small group you are serving Christ in that position and you meet (or you should meet) all the biblical requirements of a preacher. Therefore, as James made very clear to us, you will be judged with greater strictness based upon how you handle God’s word and how you led the small flock He has entrusted to you.
Take this call seriously. Salvation and the edification of the Saints is not something to take lightly or pursue halfheartedly. Get your nose in His Book, your knees on the floor, and lift praise to the Creator of all the Heavens and the Earth. If you faithfully commit to those practices, you will be much more likely to correctly lead His flock.
I love you.
- To clarify, the church which I attend and where I serve uses the term “small groups” to describe a small group of worshipers who meet outside of weekend worship services to dig further into the Word. Other churches may refer to such groups as home groups, life groups, etc. ↩
- Slick, Matt. ‘Pastor’. N.p. Web. 16 July 2014. ↩
- Don’t get twisted up about this topic in this particular article as it’s only intended to fully describe the said position. I will be writing on the topic of the Biblical role of women in the church, in-depth, in the near future and you may feel free to flog me in the comments then. ↩
- MacArthur, J., Jr. (Ed.). (1997). The MacArthur Study Bible (electronic ed., p. 1827). Nashville, TN: Word Pub. ↩