Eyes on the prize or the previous disaster? (the answer’s neither…)

So, here’s that evening, re-lived in all its gory glory!

We rock up at Bob and Beth’s. To their credit they’ve prepped. Oh they’ve prepped. The door opens and we’re hit, hard, by a powerful – close to crippling – stench of incense. They see us recoil and apologise:

“We thought we’d make the first one a bit different. We used to be in a small group which dried up – became a bit of a drain on us all. So we’re aiming high for this new group. We want to stay well away from mediocre.”

What they perhaps hadn’t stumbled onto was that in running away from a previous bad experience (in this case a dull, mediocre, small group) they were running towards something else.

See, there’s no neutral ground. The further you run from something, the more you – inadvertently – run into a different territory. Run far enough away from one thing and you’ll end up at the extreme end of its opposite.

And that’s exactly where Bob and Beth had got to. But were so busy looking over their shoulder at the small group they didn’t want to be, they hadn’t clocked it.

The lesson (apart from that 13 incense sticks is way too many) is this:

Jesus asked Peter to get out of the boat – to do something he’d never done by keeping his eyes on Jesus. Taking his off Jesus and onto what he didn’t want to get engulfed by (the water under him) ironically caused Peter to sink into it.

Looking at what we think is wrong, or at what we felt sunk any past small group, is only going to create a reactive small group – not a proactive one.

And, perhaps as frighteningly, focusing not on that previous disaster but on the prize is equally risky. Neither extreme is better than the other. The answer, or perfect small group, lies in doing what Jesus invited Peter to do: fix your eyes first on him. And keep them there.

Selwyn Hughes once said, “A shepherd needs to keep his eyes on the sheep, not on the other shepherds”. If that’s you, take your eyes off the prize (be that growing the biggest small group in church, planting more small groups, building a worship community – whatever) or off the previous disaster.

Because there’s only one way to stop your small group withering – remain with your eyes on Jesus:

“If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers.” (John 15:6)


About Steve Adams

Steve is married to Ruth and they have 4 children. They’ve run small groups in churches and written several books resourcing small groups in creative ways of engaging with God, the Bible and current issues.