Learning from the Past to Enhance the Future

By Joel Comiskey, check out Joel’s latest book, Living in Victory

Last week, Celyce and I spent three days in Idyllwild, California at the House of Solitude, a spiritual retreat center. Our goal was to review the past year to live more victoriously in 2021. We spent time alone and then came together to review what we learned. A lot of our time was spent looking at past diary entries to uncover problems, patterns, and areas of victory to help us become more effective in 2021. Some areas of reflection went all the way back to childhood, not just 2020. We noticed once again that it’s impossible to separate our past from the present.

Small group ministry has a rich past that should guide us into the future. If you are a small group-based church or in transition to become one, the past will help you navigate the future. In fact, the primary motivation to implement small groups is because of the biblical history!

God has given his church an inerrant Bible that is filled with small group history and direction, all the way back to the Old Testament. Exodus 18 tells us that Jethro counseled Moses to “select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens” (verse 21). Because Moises obeyed the counsel of Jethro, the nation of Israel was based in groups of ten people.

In the New Testament, Jesus ministered in a small group of twelve and chose houses as his preferred gathering place (over 19 references to Jesus in a house). He sent the disciples into the homes, and the early church was a house to house ministry (Luke 9, 10; Acts 2:42-46).

Many small group movements arose throughout church history, like the Celtic movement, Moravians, Methodists, and many more. In my book 2000 Years of Small Groups, I highlight these numerous and varied movements.

We are also blessed with our rich current history, which includes David Cho and Yoido Full Gospel Church, Ralph Neighbour, and the Elim Church.

The past might lead us to the present, but the reality is that God wants us to be history makers now. From this current moment onward, we are all making history. We can learn from history, but we are also history makers. In the future, people will be learning from us.

2021 is a time to become a history maker. Yes, please do stand on the shoulders of those who made history before us, but then ask the Holy Spirit to help you make disciples who make disciples those house to house ministry.