Phil Howe

Small Groups

Why this // Why now // Why you?

A person may draw you to a church.

Perhaps a friend, the speaker, whoever…

But it’s the people that keep you there!

You may have come here to Greenisland Baptist because you’ve heard of the preaching of one; Michael Wylie

You may initially stay because of the warm welcome which we hope you received, and continue to extend to one another, but what keeps us plugged into church is our connection to one another.

We give thanks to God for the number of people we have coming to GBC and yet the reality of church life is that we can’t know everyone and also the reality that meeting new people can be difficult.

As the gathered church on a Sunday gets bigger,

the scattered church throughout the week needs to be smaller.

We need to get to know smaller groups of people that we can connect to, pray with, study alongside, learn from.

This is why we want to push Small groups back onto the agenda and radar for those involved in the life of GBC.

Small groups have been running for years in various ways and we want to extend the opportunity to everyone here to have the chance to get involved and put it front and centre!

We want it to be easy to get involved with (and equally easy to get out of if you realise it doesn’t suit everyone or perhaps you’d like to try a different group or whatever.) It needs to work for people!

Our plan is that all small groups will be going through the same material, all based around our sermon series on Sunday mornings, so you won’t need to do homework or worry about what people will be talking about or feel out of your depth because you’ll be going in with some sort of knowledge and know what’s going on.

We want to create a greater sense of connection around Biblical discussions and we believe by all small groups doing this it will bring a greater sense of connection, conversations and significance even with people who don’t go to small groups as the resource we are producing can be used individually as well and so you can be asking each other questions at tea and coffee about how you’re finding things.

We want people in this church to spiritually grow in their love and knowledge of Jesus and with His people.


Why this, why now, why you?


Have no doubt about it, we are in a spiritual war. Every day is a spiritual battle.

Each situation and circumstance is a chance to grow closer to Jesus or grow apart.

As Christians, our union with Jesus doesn’t change, but our communion with Jesus can vary.

There are times in our life when we feel closer to Him than normal and there are times when we feel far away from Him. But our status as sons and daughters of the King doesn’t change!

One of the things that can remind us of this, one of the things that can help us in our individual and collective fights are small groups!

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world

Do you know why?

It’s the only thing that ever has.” (West Wing Quote)

Small groups matter

Who we connect ourselves to matters. Who we surround ourselves with and the voices we hear regularly matter.

And it’s a chance to see church more intensely and close up. We have clearly have an opportunity to ‘One another’ well. One another is a repeated phrase in the Bible whether it tells us to love one another, care for one another, encourage one another.

The late and great John Stott said:

‘We are all designed to be a burden to others. You are designed to be a burden to me and I am designed to be a burden to you. And the life of the family, including the life of the local church family, should be one of ‘mutual burdensomeness.’” ‘Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ’ (Galatians 6:2)

We’re also able to look round a small group and say ‘this is church’! This is a sample of the eclectic mix of random people that are clearly connected thanks to Jesus! Sometimes it may even seem there’s no other reason why these people would be together but by Jesus!

I want to draw your attention to the Old Testament book of Nehemiah and in particular chapters 3 & 4.

When you read Chapter 3, you’ll be able to scan down and you can see a list of different groups of people rebuilding the part of the wall

Similarly,  we have small groups of God’s people all playing their part and a key phrase is ‘next to them’, next to them, next to them’. Although they were smaller groups they were still connected to the bigger picture.

In Chapter 4 we see a warning.

We see that the small groups can seem too spread out and there was a trumpet call that gathered God’s people together

Listen to Nehemiah 4: 19-20:

Then I said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “The work is extensive and spread out, and we are widely separated from each other along the wall. 20 Wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet, join us there. Our God will fight for us!”


The call of the trumpet comes every Sunday morning as we gather together, smaller groups connected as one. A unified declaration that our God will fight for us.

Why now?

With lots of new faces, lots of committed people already and wanting to make sure we look out for one another, we know that small groups can play a vital role in the life of the church and for everyday Christian living.

As a church we have to be wise for how life has changed, not just in the past decade or two with greater shift work opportunities, seemingly busier schedules etc but also even since COVID and so we have to ask how can we be a benefit to each other and not a burden.

The yearly programme that we are putting together for small groups is that during the month of October and November we want to push Small group engagement with December being a time for a social activity together

In the New Year, we’ll do another push to get people interested and then we’ll drive for a February-March commitment before pushing for a social get-together before, during or after Easter.

And then after Easter we hope to run what we did last year in the evening on a Sunday which was our cluster groups. It’ll be a chance for discussion, not necessarily with your small group but with others and we hope it provides greater opportunity for people to check out what a small group environment could look like and how it can help.

Why you?

Acts 20: 27-29 (Paul speaking with to a group of elders)

For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God. 28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. 29 I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock.

As part of our care of you, it’s not about anyone being more special or spiritual or having a higher wisdom. It’s about us facilitating space to connect with one another and connect with God and we believe small groups will do this.

It helps dive deeper into God’s word and to see the whole will of God.

We want everyone to be protected from the wolves out there who don’t want to follow Jesus or to follow a different Jesus than the Biblical one even remembering one of Michael’s leadership sermons challenging if we are disciples of Christ or disciples of the Culture. And we know that a lone sheep is an isolated sheep so we want to prevent that

At the same time, we have to be honest and realistic; small groups will not solve everything

Information on it’s own isn’t enough.

We need places where we are formed.

Preaching is necessary but it’s not sufficient on its own.

It’s not just information but formation where faith is witnessed and watched, it’s a faith that can be imitated and grown.

“Iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”

We read that in the book of wisdom Proverbs 27:17

This all connects because;   information PLUS formation = transformation

That’s what we want to see among us all!

We want to be transformed more and more into the likeness of Jesus like we read in 2 Corinthians 3:18

“And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”

Let's pray for the launch of new and existing small groups and pray for transformation individually and collectively in the life of GBC!

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