Although Paul was not a systemic theologian or a small group facilitator, his writing in Ephesians 4:11-12 about the way the Spirit works to create a community of believers provides some ideas about what is necessary for a group to grow in spiritual maturity, service, and unity:
“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” (NIV)
The various leadership roles in the life of the church have one primary purpose: “to equip his people.” Those who are leaders of a group invest themselves in others. They call out the best in the group members and encourage them to stretch their boundaries as believers. All of the leadership functions are important and contribute to group development.
The “works of service” are the ministries that believers perform. These works grow out of one’s relationship to Christ and are not intended to earn salvation but are instead a sign that one is already “in Christ.” These works of service may be internal to the group—serving sisters and brothers in Christ—or external acts of service to those outside the fellowship.
Leadership and service help to build Christian community. We are called to “unity in the faith” by sharing, learning, and service together. As we work together, we learn more about each other, our experiences in Christ, and the One who has called us.
In this process, we are also being formed as disciples. We receive “knowledge of the Son of God” and “become mature” as His followers. Believers challenge and encourage one another in their journeys of discipleship.
All of these are necessary to a healthy, growing group of believers—leadership, ministry, community, and formation.