It is my pleasure to welcome my friend and mentor, Michael Mack as today’s guest blogger. Mike is the author of  I’m a Leader . . . Now What? How to Guide an Effective Small Group and editor of the Help! Guide series, of which Why Didn’t You Warn Me? How to Deal with Challenging Group Members is a part. He blogs at


You are the Heart of Your Group

You are the Heart of Your Group


Jesus’ small group was a mess. It was often dysfunctional. Except for its leader, this leadership training group seemed quite often to lack any observable spiritual leadership potential.

Within two pages in my Bible, Jesus had to:

  • Rebuke his apprentice leader (Mark 8:33). Actually, this verse says he looked at all the disciples as he addressed Peter: “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”
  • Deal with Peter, who was missing the bigger vision during their mountaintop experience (9:5-6).
  • Stop an argument between some of his group members and the religious leaders (9:14-16).
  • Rescue his group members when they couldn’t do what he had told them to do (9:18, 25-28).
  • Correct his disciples, who were arguing about which of them was the greatest (9:33-34; also see 10:35-45).

The next time you feel like the tensions and problems in your group are overwhelming, look again at Jesus’ group!

A heart for God, a servant’s heart, humility, compassion—Jesus certainly had those traits, but from all discernible measures, the people in Jesus’ group did not have those qualities. And the worst culprits seem to be the men in Jesus’ core team: Peter, John, and James. We need to remember a vital biblical principle: “The Lord does not look at the things people look at” (1 Samuel 16:7).

Yes, Jesus’ group was a mess and often dysfunctional, but Jesus’ group was healthy. That might seem like an oxymoron, but I don’t believe it is. Jesus understood the principle of process. He did not see only what they were; he saw what they were becoming. And often this process of becoming looks very messy. By the way, this ability to see beyond what other people see in your friends, family, group members, etc., is another key characteristic of a leader after God’s heart. Like Jesus, seek to recognize not only who they are, but what, with God’s power, they can become.

I’ve written a lot about what makes a man or woman a leader after God’s heart. The most vital thing a leader does is spend time with Jesus, staying connected to the Vine (John 15). When you do, all that he is pouring into you will overflow into others. You can lead with Jesus’ love, humility, power, compassion, and commitment—even (or perhaps especially) when you are leading a dysfunctional group or challenging group members—when you abide in him each day. Without him you can do nothing.

Never lead your group alone. Especially when you are leading challenging people, you must have help! First, remember that Christ is with you. Depend on his presence with you, utilize his power in you, and seek his purposes for you. Acknowledge that he is the real leader of this group, and then fulfill your role as a steward leader. Also, share leadership with a core team of 2-3 others who bear with you the responsibility of shepherding, discipleship, caring, and prayer.

One quick word about leading challenging people. Every leader leads imperfect, challenging, sometimes dysfunctional people! As John Ortberg put it, Everyone’s Normal till You Get to Know Them! No leader has the capability on their own to effectively lead such people, which is why we need our all-powerful Savior to strengthen us and the Holy Spirit to lead us. Come to Jesus and he will give you rest.

If your group is a mess—if your group includes a bunch of dysfunctional, sinful, pride-laden, argumentative men and women—don’t give up! Ask God to help you see the process of what your group members are becoming. At the proper time—God’s time—you will reap a harvest if you do not give up!

© Michael C. Mack 2015.

Photo Credit: Glenn Lascuña  (edited)



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2 Comments so far

  1. Mike Mack on August 6, 2016 1:52 pm

    Thanks, Pat! Looking forward to dialoging about this with your readers! Any questions or thoughts?

  2. Mike Mack on August 6, 2016 2:12 pm

    Oh, and by the way, I still have a few copies of I’m a Leader … Now What available in my online bookstore at I’ve revised it and will be re-releasing it with a new cover, new (better) title, and an additional chapter, probably this fall. Watch for it!

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