A long post on small groups and spiritual transformation by John Ortberg, an evangelical Presbyterian that still speaks directly to our situation, I think:
"Small groups are the place for people to get on the scale and reveal how intentional they have been to pursue transformation into the image of Christ. William Paulson writes, "It is unlikely that we will deepen our relationship with God in a casual or haphazard manner." I think he understates it. People do not drift into full devotion to Christ. People do not drift into becoming loving, joy-filled, patient, winsome, world changers. It requires intention and effort.
But the default mode of the human heart is to drift. If a person has experienced real transformation, it's typically because someone else has cared enough to say, "I want you to live God's way, and I want to help you know if you are serious about it."
We need to make some key decisions on our journey of transformation: what are my commitments about prayer, about Scripture, about my use of money, about evangelism, about servanthood, about truth? Keeping these commitments requires a community of accountability to serve as a scale revealing how we're achieving our goals or missing them.
During the spiritual revolutions of 18th century England, the Wesleyan movement thrived on small groups. When those groups originally formed, they existed to hold people accountable to their commitments as followers of Christ. They gathered in little bands to ask one another how their obedience to Christ was going. History notes, however, that over the decades the focus of the groups shifted from accountability to vague "sharing," in the process the power of the revival was lost, and eventually the groups died out."
In our experience, there is a big difference between small formation groups and faith-sharing groups. Any readers been part of a small formation group? What was your experience?