A few weeks ago, I invited some dear friends of mine, Matthew and Monica Green, to conduct some training for my small group leaders. They used 1 John 1 as their guiding text throughout the training. What I especially loved about what they shared is that they combined in such a seamless manner both a spiritual challenge to us as leaders, but also some very practical tools for us.
Their spiritual challenge to us, which preceded the practical, was that our first and biggest priority as leaders is to walk in the light ourselves. The apostle John writes, “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3 NIV).
I can know all the practicality of leading a small group. I can know the latest and greatest theories. I can read all the books. I can even know the Bible inside and out. But, and this is a big but, if I am not personally experiencing the fellowship of the Father through His Son, then what I know is worthless.
The only basis for my leadership is what the Apostle John writes in 1 John 1:1-3:
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.
The Apostle John had an intimate, front-row seat to all that Jesus did. After all, John was the beloved disciple who reclined on the chest of Jesus during the Last Supper. I think it is fair to say that you and I will never have this experience with Jesus. While we will not share in John’s experience of Jesus, this in no way negates the truth of what John is sharing with us and challenging us as leaders to do.
As we looked at this passage throughout the training, what jumped out to me from the text was the sensory and tactile-ness of these first three verses. Words like: heard, seen, touched. We also know from the Gospels that John’s senses of smell and taste were also involved. So for John and all the other disciples every sense was involved with Jesus. And do you notice which words are missing? Words associated with cognitive, rational knowledge.
Please do not misunderstand me, John is in no way minimizing the importance of this, but he is reminding us as leaders that our personal, intimate experience of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit is way more important than any information I may know.
And this is a huge challenge and vitally important reminder for me. I love to read. I love to learn. But if that learning is not backed up with a daily experience of the highly relational Triune God, then none of that matters to my people.