Why Jesus Spoke His Most Important Truths in Small Groups

I wonder if Jesus was nervous. Did he lay awake at night agonizing over the message? Did he spend hours in prayer with the Father? Did he worry whether they would understand? This was the biggest lesson for them yet. One they simply must understand.

Photo by moodboardphotography at Creative Commons

Have you had those moments? As you study the Word, you feel the gut-gripping reality of what you’re preparing to teach. You agonize for hours, wishing your students would really understand the truth you’re sharing. If only they would grasp the love of God … the gospel … their identity in Christ … What to do?

Jesus’ topic was arguably the most important in history. He had already spent months together with his disciples. The time was now. They simply must know who He is. How to tell them?

If you were Jesus, what would you do? It’s absolutely critical that they get this right. There is no room for error. Any misalignment or mistake would be devastating. They must understand this perfectly. How to communicate?

Today, if we need to communicate something of vital importance, we might …

  • Write it down. That way, no one can argue over exactly what was said.
  • Record it. So people can listen to it over and over.
  • Plan exactly what we’ll say. To make sure there is no room for error.
  • Rent an arena, or make a YouTube video. So that everyone hears it.
  • Give an exam. You can picture Jesus: “Guys, I’m the MESSIAH. That’s spelled M E S S I A H. There will be an exam on Friday.”

But Jesus does none of that. He doesn’t give a speech or sermon. He doesn’t spell it out. He doesn’t threaten an exam later that week. He takes an entirely scarier, messier, and more strategic approach:
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16, NIV)

Did you catch that? This is arguably the most important truth in history. All of life and salvation hinge on this truth. Lives depend on the identity of Jesus Christ. And he makes it known through discussion. In a small group.

We’re often scared to share the biggest, most vital truths in discussion. We say …

  • What if someone says something wrong—even heresy?
  • There’s just not enough time to cover all the content that way.
  • This is too important to communicate with discussion.

But Jesus ignores all that.

He trusts the power of His Father to reveal truth to Peter (read the rest of the story).

He trusts his ability as a leader to guide his disciples to truth—or to expose their false beliefs.

And he knows that the most important truths must be communicated in a way that people will remember and believe.

And most often, that happens when they’re part of the conversation.

Question: What mistakes do you see others make when leading small group discussion? What do you think are the hardest parts of leading a successful discussion? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Leave a comment here.

(PS—This is the first in a series on leading small groups like Jesus. Want to hear a specific area addressed? Leave a comment or shoot me an email. Next time: 3 Essential Ways to Know if Your Small Group is Effective.)

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