Why are Small Groups Necessary for Christian Transformation?
Dawning Realization: A Personal Story
In the early 1960’s, my friend Howard Butt, Jr., invited me to a dinner party. He seated me next to Dr. Billy Graham who was, at that time, the most well-known Christian in the world.
I was nervous, afraid that he might ask me a question about the Bible. A few minutes into the dinner, he turned to me and said, “Keith, Howard tells me you are focusing on the importance of small groups in your ministry.” (For Billy Graham, at that time, a small group might have been several thousand people.)
I nodded, “Yes, that’s true.”
He continued in a kind voice, “What’s your scriptural authority for focusing on small groups?”
(“Oh man”, I thought, “my worst nightmare.”)
Silently, I prayed that God would give me something intelligent to say since I couldn’t recall a specific verse.
Then I asked, “How much time do you think Jesus spent with the twelve disciples?” (Hoping it was a lot.)
But he said, without hesitation, “Approximately two-thirds.”
I nodded my head and smiled and said in a respectful voice, “Well, sir, if Jesus spent two-thirds of his time with a small group of twelve, that’s good enough for me.”
And in that moment I began to see that in order to establish a new culture (like the Kingdom/Reign of God) it’s necessary to create a small outpost of that culture in which people can examine all areas of their lives and change behaviors and language to reflect and live out the values, motivations and goals of the new culture.
Today—Establishing a Kingdom of God Culture
Jesus described and demonstrated what living the new right-side up behaviors of citizens of the Kingdom/Reign of God is. He pointed out that the political and social values and motivations of the Jewish culture of his day were not just flawed, but inverted, “upside down.” He wanted to show people how to live in a “right side up” culture that reflected this new Plan of God.
Today’s culture, dominated by self-centered and comparative, materialist values and goals in which people pay a big price to hide any physical or moral/ethical blemish or failure, is also “upside down.”
Jesus went about establishing God’s Kingdom/Reign on earth by spending most of his time (two-thirds) in an intimate relationship with a small group, twelve disciples and their friends and families sharing intimately the life he was proclaiming. These few shared with Jesus their common journey, message and questions about God’s Reign in human life. In this way, he and they were inaugurating the Kingdom.
People today who want to learn to live out the values, motivations and goals of the Kingdom of God need connection to others also wanting to learn to live this way. Keith thinks of small groups as outposts of the Kingdom of God—a safe community in which all areas of life can be examined, and behaviors and language reflecting the new culture can be changed to reflect the values and goals of the new culture. In this small group outpost, people can become able to live these values and goals—first within the community, and then out in the dominant culture where values conflict with those of the new culture being established.
Keith has developed guidelines for several kinds of small groups in which people could commit as much of their lives as they could to as much of God as they could understand so they could experience in a small community how to live the life of love and integrity that is essential for citizens in God’s Kingdom that Jesus came to announce and inaugurate. Although the guidelines deal with different situations or problems Christians face in their jobs, relationships, and infirmities, all of them have the same purpose of asking God to take away those things which keep us from loving and being loved by God and his other children. In each group people can begin to look and experience the kind of caring and openness necessary to begin trying out new behaviors that can lead to healing love and transformation toward reflecting God’s right side up Kingdom here on earth.
The Edge of Adventure
Have you ever wondered
what would happen to you…
…if you really tried to give God
the keys to your future,
to find and do God’s will
…for the rest of your life?
The History of The Edge of Adventure course
Picture this. Two men—who didn’t know each other—decided to find out what would happen if they tried to live guided by Jesus’ example for relating to God and to the people around them…in their families, their friendships, and at work. They had to re-think how to be a husband, a father, a church member and an employee, and struggle with their fears, problems
Eventually, they wound up at the same conference and met. Imagine how they felt when they found out that they both had been trying to learn how to live this same way! They became lifelong friends and companions on a life adventure.
Then they thought, “You know, other people might like to experience this.” So these two men, Keith Miller and Bruce Larson (teaming up with Bruce’s wife, Hazel) created study materials for small groups, so people could try living what they said they believed—at least for thirteen weeks. They named it The Edge of Adventure because it had been quite an adventure for them to use this approach.
What they came up with is this:
The recorded what happened to them.
They put together a book about their experiences. Then they wrote a Response Manual that includes reading assignments in the book and in the Bible, questions for discussion and assignments to be carried out and reported on.
They prepared Leader’s Guide, giving clear and simple directions to the person chosen to run the group meetings. To make it easy for a leader, they made the leader responsible only for:
- Starting the meeting on time
- Explaining the procedure for the meetings (These are clearly outlined in the Leader’s Guide).
- Playing the talks by Keith and Bruce on a CD player.
- Opening up the discussion by giving his or her own responses first (by listening to Bruce and Keith prior to the group meeting, the leader has time to prepare his or her responses.)
- Gently reminding people who strayed from the procedures to get back on track. (Suggestions about this are given in the Leader’s Guide).
If you get involved in an Edge of Adventure group…
…you’ll discover the difference Christian commitment combined with a small community of fellow adventurers can make in:
- your prayer life—personal awareness and contact with God
- reading the Bible—listening to God’s written voice
- handling relationship pressures and changes because of your awareness and contact with God.
- your job and your vocation
- your involvement in the church
- mending broken relationships, learning to forgive and ask forgiveness, and living with your moral failures
- overcoming your guilt, fears, anxiety, loss of faith, loneliness, depression, sense of inferiority
- succeeding in your marriage and developing a pattern for its growth
- finding a strategy for handling your failures
- discovering the keys to your future—finding your unspoken dreams.
How to Start a Group
The Leader’s Kit contains everything you need to lead a group. It includes the twelve recorded talks, a reading book and a Leader’s Guide.
The group meetings are once a week, and generally take two hours to complete. They can be held in someone’s home or at the church. Usually a home is the best place because it is more comfortable, friendly and relaxing.
The group can be as small as four people or as big as twelve people. If the group gets any bigger, there isn’t time to get everything done (for each person to respond to the discussion questions) in two hours.
“Yeah, that’s great,” you say. “But can a course created in the ‘70’s really be relevant today with our current problems? A lot has changed since then.”
We wondered the same thing. So in 2004 and 2005 we ran a test in eight states across the country. Ten churches in each state volunteered to experience this spiritual experiment, and wrote in their comments afterward. Here are just a few of the responses we received:
“The Edge of Adventure offers the ultimate of adventures—living life as a child of God, not as a child of the world. This book and my group experience has made me look at my life and my relationships in an entirely different way—and this is certainly not to say I don’t get mad and irritated and sad and lonely—but I do know, at some level, God is there, if only I will make myself open to Him.” Ashley
“I would like to say thank you to God. He has brought some very special people into my life during this experiment. The power of prayer has been amazing and spectacular. I see today that I must continue to perfect and enlarge my spiritual life.” Don
“My introduction to the Edge of Adventure was being asked whether I would be interested in helping someone else. I said I would. Then unexpectedly I became the moderator. I really was not sure I would be up to the challenge, but the Leader’s Guide had everything I needed, so I did not have a problem. Not one single time did I wish I did not have to attend one of the meetings.” Anonymous
“This Adventure answers so much with its direction towards Christ and tools. Some of this understanding of life is surprising and some of it isn’t pretty. Oh my!” George
“I said yes [to the invitation to join an Edge of Adventure Group], but not without some internal fuss and adamant feelings about not being stuffed into any religious box. My life was at a major crossroads regarding vocation and spiritual direction, and I really did want answers. How those answers came about was quietly astounding.” Phebe
“All of us in the group got to know each other in a more meaningful way than any of us expected. By comparison, our knowledge of each other prior to this experience was superficial. “Now, after lots of laughter and the sharing of personal thoughts and feelings we know each other on a very different level.” Anonymous
“The many years of socializing with other couples had not given my husband and me the kind of relationship we had developed in the scant three months of the course.” Jennifer
“Bruce and Keith were integrated into the heart of our group as active participants, not as absent professors.” Kelley
A Hunger for Healing
The Twelve Steps as a Model for Christian Spiritual Growth
This video series is based on the book A Hunger for Healing by J. Keith Miller. In his book, Keith shows how the Twelve Steps developed by Alcoholics Anonymous provide a classic model for Christian Spiritual growth. He also relates how these steps are based on spiritual principles for healing—such as confession, repentance, and prayer—which have existed in the church for centuries.
This series was first broadcast on the Vision Interfaith Satellite Network (VISN). VISN reaches viewers of all faiths, including Christians from across the theological spectrum. The philosophy of the Twelve-Step programs of recovery intentionally appeals to a wide range of people, some of whose spiritual journeys of turning to God may be just beginning. Consequently, this series can help draw people into the faith process who would otherwise have nothing to do with God or the church at all. For those who are already committed Christians, the series offers practical spiritual tools for seeking a deeper encounter with Christ.
The Twelve Steps are not intended to replace Christianity or the church’s role in the development of a person’s spiritual life. Our goals for this series are to help the leader and the group:
- understand what the Twelve-Step movement is all about,
- grow spiritually using biblical principles rediscovered by Twelve-Step groups, and
- allow God to help group members to deal with areas of pain and frustration in their lives
The series is designed for people, Christian or non-Christian, who feel some deep and persistent pain or discomfort, rather than for those who are purely seeking a deeper knowledge of God. So the early sessions of the series deal less with sin than with personal pain and self-esteem. Jesus Himself often approached people at the level of their pain before confronting them with their past failures. The Twelve-Step program follows a similar approach.
Punctuated by interviews with people who have worked the Twelve Steps in their own lives, A Hunger for Healing will take your group inside the Twelve Steps—and on a life-transforming pilgrimage toward God and the emotional and spiritual wholeness found in Him.
- Three DVD’s: Twelve 25-minute sessions on DVD
- One Leader’s Guide
- One A Hunger for Healing book
- 1 – 3 Books: $15.00 per book
- 4 – 11 Books: $14.25 per book
- 12 – 22 Books: $13.50 per book
- 23 – 33 Books: $12.75 per book
- 34 – 44 Books: $12.00 per book
- 45 – 55 Books: $11.25 per book
- 56 + Books: $10.50
Write from the Heart
Writing the Non-Fiction Book
Among the many guidelines discussed in this self-paced study course are how to clarify the subject of your book, capture research information, begin the writing of chapters, pinpoint your audience, and set realistic deadlines. Presenting a manuscript to a publisher and working with an editor are also discussed. Cues are given for when to turn off the video and do an exercise. Additional workbooks are available so the course can also be used by a class, a writing group, or by several writers in turn.
Few writers have ever moved as many people as deeply as Keith Miller. “I felt like he sat down and wrote that book just for me” – has been the response of literally millions.
How does he do it? And is it something anyone can learn? Now, for those in the process of becoming writers, in this eight-session DVD, Keith Miller shares the secrets of his craft.
Over the years he has written numerous best-sellers, and in this hands-on workshop he makes it seem so easy, you can’t wait to get started in your own book. In fact, if you follow his easy, step-by-step instructions, you actually will!
From getting your initial inspiration to finding the right title, from outlining to researching, from writing to re-writing, from marketing your manuscript to working with your publisher, it’s all here – just about every question you ever wanted to ask about becoming an effective writer is answered.
And something else is here, too: Keith Miller. So strong is his gift of communication, and so willing is he to share from his heart, you’ll have the feeling that he is right there with you – that, in fact, he made this video just for you.