The contemporary church (mostly irrespective of denomination) has seen a legitimate need to minister to individuals outside of the usual Sunday Service and Sunday School. This comes from a realization that a mass gathering does not often reflect the mentoring requirements for individual Christian growth and accountability. This is a valid realization. The Bible is clear that we are to study the scripture and be accountable in community, yet a large group generally stifles more intimate sharing and questioning.
In our time, however, this justification for mentoring and smaller group fellowship has often been combined with the theories and assumptions of both secular and New Age psychology surrounding personal growth, self esteem, group dynamics and the individual entitlement of man over the assembly. Not that these areas of study do not yield results for society, but they are frequently not based upon biblical principles and operate under very different assumptions about the status of man. They are at their root completely at odds with Biblical values.
Secular values are predominantly post-modern, with a relativistic value structure. They assume that all truth is relative either within society or individually, and that every individual is entitled to self-driven actualization. Most congregants operate unconsciously from a mindset which combines both these underlying values, with each given almost equal weight or the post-modern predominating.
This is completely at odds with the Biblical truth of divine sovereignty, absolute universal laws, and individual responsibility superseding individual entitlement.
Put more practically (and to use the biblical analogy of Isaiah 29:16 very loosely), society see the clay as entitled to a hearing and compliance from the potter, while the biblical truth of creation is precisely the opposite. The potter is completely independent and sovereign over the clay, owing it nothing whatsoever (Isaiah 64:8, Jeremiah 18:4).
Why does this matter? It matters because the view point that current small group ministry grows from determines whether it can fill the need that the formal church does not, that of the smaller integrated fellowship described in the early church.
So, we have something of a quandary. Does the present small group structure in most churches address the Biblical proscription modeled in the early church gatherings – one based on wholly biblical precepts?
Let me also close this post by pointing out that this discussion does not discount the many wonderful benefits of fellowship in current groups. The question is whether they address the biblical model and any regulative principle that is implies, since all biblical principles are by definition important.