312-Year Old Call for Small Groups

On this day, in the year 1700, the Dutch Reformer Wilhelmus à Brakel penned a letter to his congregation that served as the Preface to the second edition of his magnum opus, The Christian’s Reasonable Service. Under the leadership of Dr. Joel Beeke, this massive work has been translated and published in four volumes by Reformation Heritage Books.

During a recent visit to Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, it was a great privilege to spend a few minutes in their Puritan Research Center (which could have been planned as half a day if I had used my head). This distinctive room in the seminary library contains one of the best collections of original Puritan writings in the world. While gazing into the glass display cabinets containing books from the personal libraries of C.H. Spurgeon and A.W. Pink, Paul Smalley, the guardian of the research center urged me to not leave campus without visiting the bookstore in order to secure a set of à Brakel’s work (a name I had never heard before and which took me a few hours to pronounce correctly). I cheerfully obeyed the librarian, thus making my sin of coveting books his problem.

Two evenings ago, reading à Brakel in an ice cream shop while waiting for my daughter’s driver’s education class to finish, I was struck by the following straightforward call for small group interaction within the edifying life of the local church.

May this book particularly be of service to the congregation which I am currently serving, the congregation which I previously served, as well as the congregation which called me twice by was not able to obtain me due to the condition of the congregation which I was serving at that time. Receive it with much affection and read it diligently and thoughtfully. Form small groups of acquaintances among yourselves for the purpose of reading a chapter or portion each time, and may that which is read present subject matter for edifying discussions (emphasis mine).

And we modern Christians think we are so clever and our approaches to ministry so new and innovative! Truth is, if we have not yet seen the value of small group ministry then we are a bit behind the times—specifically, a bit of about 312 years.

[Check out all of these biblical resources that work great in small groups.]

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