*Spoilers to Fairy Tail*
In modern day culture, Christians continuously fall to sinful temptation, time after time again, wondering what they ever did wrong. A strong personal relationship with God is present, good works are being done for His glory, and they stay connected to their Bibles everyday, so doesn’t that equal success? The answer to this difficult question is yes and no. Sure, we can experience the presence of God powerfully in our lives by ourselves, but I believe that our spirituality goes deeper than that. Mankind was created as a relational people, and this doesn’t just extend to Jesus Christ; we were made for other people too.
Small groups are an expression of this close intimacy with other believers that we were designed with. They are Christians that come together on a consistent basis, and dig deeper into their relationships with Christ. And although no small group is perfect, being that each member is an imperfect person, those involved discover their greater need for God, and find fellowship with each other. Jesus demonstrated this the best with his twelve disciples in the New Testament, pouring into them relentlessly and helping them grow closer to God.
Honestly, while I was thinking about this subject during the time I was preparing to write, the first anime that came to mind that so-closely followed the Biblical definition of a small group was Fairy Tail. And although I used to watch the show when I was lost for the loaded fan service, I still believe that there are many important qualities about Natsu and Lucy’s guild that contemporary Christians should model. So for the remainder of the article, I really want to hit on these points, and explain the success of small groups through my own personal experiences with them.
To give some brief background to anyone who has not seen the series, Fairy Tail is about a famous magical guild in the land of Fiore that triumphs above all others. They are bounded together by many powerful wizards and fighters that perform quests, which allow them to earn a living. This story focuses on a young sixteen year old Celestial Wizard named Lucy, and the new friends that she makes while joining the guild: Natsu Dragoneal, Erza Scarlett, Gray Fulbuster, and many more.
The amazing thing about the Fairy Tail guild that reminds me so much of Biblical small groups is how concerned each member is for another. Whenever she walks through her front door, Lucy almost always enters her home to find her friends Natsu and Happy using her shower, sleeping in her bed, exercising in her living room, etc. The typical anime overreaction cliché is always used for these type of situations, but the reason for these wasn’t entirely for comedy. With deeper analysis, I found that the boys were only trying to check up on their friend, making sure that she was doing alright. Knowing about her mother’s death and abusive father, they knew that these things could have easily left her depressed, and tried to keep her company.
One time in particular that this concern shone the brightest was when Lucy had left for a one day trip to confront her dad about settling family matters that had still hurt her present. She had every intention to return to the Fairy Tail guild at the end of the day, but had not told her friends about her motivation for taking off work. Out of nowhere, Natsu, Happy, Erza, and Gray come running onto Lucy’s property, saying that they thought that she had left the guild. They went the extra mile (no pun intended) for their friend, and made sure that she was alright, even when they didn’t have to.
As Christians, we need to have this same mentality with our brothers and sisters in our small group, always keeping them on the back of our minds, and we can do this through accountability. For my friends at Faith Promise Church, we use an application on our phones called GroupMe that allows us to conveniently send messages to each other that can be sent to everyone at once, giving excellent communication. We ask for prayer, tell each other about our struggles, check and see where our relationships with Christ are, etc. Now you may have another way of doing things in your small group, but make sure that that accountability is always placed as a priority.
Another great quality about the Fairy Tail guild that I believe Christians should imitate in small groups is relentlessly trying to save their friends when they stumble towards worldly pursuits. Starting at chapter 424 of the manga, Natsu and Lucy are searching for the previous Fairy Tail guild members, as the group had disbanded one year before from the battle with Tartarus . While investigating the Amefurashi Village for Juvia, they hear from her rumors that Gray had disappeared from her half a year ago, and had not returned yet. As it turns out, Natsu and his friends meet the Avatar guild, a group devoted to eradicate all those who stand in the way of Zeref, for the first time a little later in their travels and discovered Gray among their ranks. He has changed dramatically, and allowed the dark demon slaying magic from his father to take over himself, willingly accepting the cult’s symbol to be tattooed above his previous one from Fairy Tail.
Natsu had every right to give up on his best friend, and allow him to be destroyed along with the rest of the Avatar guild, but instead he relentlessly tried to save him. Although his actions brought the two together in fist-to-fist situations, Natsu loved his friend with everything that he had, and desired to rid the darkness that was inside of him. Similarly, Christians should have the same love for their brothers and sisters in their small group. We all know that it is very easy to fall under the control over the darkness that lives in our world, and leave the joy that God has for us. However, we won’t see the light again without our fellow believers to show us—Jesus actually talks about this in Matthew:
“You are the light of the world. A city located on a hill cannot be hidden. People do not light a lamp and put it under a basket but on a lamp stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before people, so that they can see your good deeds and give honor to your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16, NET)
Christians are called to show the amazing love of Christ to all people in the world, and we are to do the same for those who have stumbled away from God too. For me personally, I had a time of rebellion and “atheism” a few months ago where I was tired of fighting against pornography, and wanted to follow anything that would justify me indulging in it. I literally went into my small group one week and told my friends that I was probably not coming back because of my change in beliefs, and told my Christian friends to leave me alone about it because I knew that if they condemned me I would not be able to prove myself right. I was obviously guilty in my actions, and all of the believers around me knew it. And only through the true friends of mine who called me up to ask about why I was doing what I was doing did I realize how stupid I was being. Their light was enough for me to see the Jesus floodlight right in front of me that I had kept on averting my eyes from.