Recently, Craig Groeschel wrote a brief, helpful article on "Why I Still Believe in Small Groups." It's a worthwhile read. I respect Craig Groeschel and value many things I've learned from him. I believe in small groups, too, and have been a part of some sort of small group for the last 15 years or so.
As much as I value and promote small groups, though, most would agree these shouldn't be PRIMARILY equipping environments. I agree with this myself, and so figured an equally-brief post on "Why I Still Believe in Adult Equipping Environments" may be in order:
1. They uphold the consistent biblical priority of teaching.
Teaching is a priority for the people of God in both Old and New Testaments. This can happen informally, but should happen formally as well. Adult equipping environments are a great way to uphold this biblical priority.
2. The fledging church was an early adopter of equipping and training. We can learn from that.
From the earliest days after the apostles, the Christian church started to write, catechize, support libraries, and value education. Adult equipping environments aren't a 19th or 20th century innovation; rather, equipping and catechesis in the local church can be traced to the very beginnings of the Christian church.
3. They help lay the foundation for a lifetime of growth.
Setting the table. Laying the foundation. Setting the trajectory. Pick your image - adult equipping environments help in all of these ways, taking people who may not have any background in Christianity or any framework for thinking about discipleship and pointing them in a right direction.
4. Discipleship involves (and values) the mind.
Let's not forget that Jesus talked about loving God "with all our mind" (Matthew 22:37), and Paul acknowledges the reality that there are worldview that "set themselves up against the knowledge of God" (2 Corinthians 10:5). Discipleship involves and values the mind.
5. They build leaders.
6. There are people in local churches who love to learn and ask questions.
I talk with people at church all the time who want to dig more deeply into certain areas of Christianity - to either ask "the tough questions" or dig into the riches of the Christian faith. The Sunday morning worship service isn't really conducive to this, and small groups aren't always the best places to wade into this sort of thing either. Rather than simply sending people into the depths of the internet for resources and answers, it's beneficial to have equipping environments in the local church that can help people think issues through clearly.
7. The needs for biblical literacy and theological formation haven't gone away.
Recent survey results among evangelicals confirm that biblical literacy is on the decline, and people are often more formed theologically by media & culture than God's Word and historic Christian orthodoxy. Adult equipping environments are a key way to respond to this.
8. They can help us think through things clearly and comprehensively, under the guidance of someone who has probably studied this area more than we have.
Pretty much every career and lifestyle I know values "continuing education" - so professionals can stay up with current learning and maintain a healthy trajectory. Aren't equipping environments in the local church a way to apply this common-sense practice among Christians?
9. They have changed my life.
Full disclosure: I love to learn and I enjoy teaching in classroom environments. My personality and gifts gravitate towards this stuff. Nevertheless, the interactions I've had in these sorts of environments have been valuable at shaping me, and the ways teachers have opened up Scripture in fresh ways have left lasting imprints on my life. Adult equipping environments are still doing this.
What would you add to (or reinforce about) this list of why adult equipping environments are still important?
Christian. Husband. Father. Pastor. Learner. Contributor. Reader.