You are settled in a small group and have developed intimacy, loving accountability, and group identity. That’s a good thing. That’s what a small group is all about. But God doesn’t want it to remain “just you four and no more.”
In Israel, there are two bodies of water that make a great illustration of this principle. The first is the Salt Sea, also known as the Dead Sea. The Jordan River, which feeds into it, is the other one.
You’ve probably heard the comparison before, haven’t you? But you probably haven’t heard it all.
I prefer to call it the Salt Sea because it is an apt illustration for small groups, which should be life-giving, not dead ends. You’ve probably heard that there is no outlet for the water, so nothing lives there. Here are some things you probably didn’t know:
“They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven (Psalm 107:3).”
The Salt Sea actually does have some life. Microbial life. Extremely small and basic. That’s like a small group that never grows.
Although it is called a sea, it is actually a lake. In scripture, the sea represents death, chaos, evil, and destruction. But the Salt Sea is not even connected to the sea. Our small group isn’t part of all that bad stuff.
The weather tends to be pleasant nearly all the time. People love to sunbathe there just about year round. It’s comfortable and even relatively safe from UV rays that can burn your skin. Small groups can make members feel safe, too, and they should.
The Salt Sea is a haven for healing. With a higher atmospheric pressure, low allergen count, and higher oxygen content 1,400 feet below sea level, it is a literal breath of fresh air.
“He said to me, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah,[a] where it enters the Dead Sea. When it empties into the sea, the salty water there becomes fresh. 9 Swarms of living creatures will live wherever the river flows. There will be large numbers of fish, because this water flows there and makes the salt water fresh; so where the river flows everything will live (Ezekiel 47:8-9).”
So we’ve seen that small groups contain life and are places of healing. What about the Jordan River?
The Jordan River is a river of life. It represents the life of believers, flowing out of the Temple of God and making everything alive with its waters (the Word of God). The Bible makes reference to the Jordan River more than 200 times. When used in spiritual songs, it represents freedom and was a constant theme in Negro Spirituals. What makes it different than the Salt Sea is that it flows, a neverending stream that is constantly refreshing and giving life wherever it goes.
The River Jordan represents the living Word of God, flowing throughout the promised land and reviving those who partake of its waters. The Salt Sea represents small groups who contain the water of the Jordan but give it no place to revive those outside the small group.
That’s why it’s vitally important to open your small group and share your spiritual blessings with new members. In the small group setting, new leaders are trained to carry the Jordan’s waters to new places where more and more people can experience the life-giving experience of being part of the body of our Lord.
Yes, sometimes you might be uncomfortable. It might cost you a little bit. But, oh! The joy of sharing the true life of believers with others!