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Small Groups: a Key to Evangelism.

In a previous post about Small Groups I mentioned that they can (and should) be evangelistic in nature, as it is often easier to invite someone to a small group of friends that are gathering than it is to church on Sunday.

Dr. Paul Yonggi Cho author of Successful Home Cell Groups writes “The human body needs to renew and replenish itself constantly or it will die. That requirement is just as true for the Church, the body of Christ. Therefore, one of the needs of a dynamic and growing church life is evangelism. If a church is not involved in serious evangelism, it will either remain stagnant or it will begin to die.

He came to recognise that each Home Cell Group (small group, life group, house church etc.) can become a nucleus of revival in it’s neighbourhood. Because the group is where real life is to be found.

Dave Mann in his book ‘Because We Care! A practical and motivational guide to evangelism in the new world‘ identifies that “we cannot rely on bringing people to a programme“, and I would add church service, ministry or event and hope that they may come to accept Christ as Lord and Saviour.

Oftentimes I’d imagine that this is because we don’t even “do the ask” in these settings. Admittedly when we invite people into a relationships with Christ it may still happen in these contexts, but the methods that we are familiar with are becoming increasingly insufficient.

I believe that we need to embrace the challenge of evangelism in a different way to what we have been accustomed to and be a lot more intentional around holistic small groups and inviting people to a longer journey of faith, through both one‐on‐one relationships and through reigniting the evangelistic essence of small groups.

Dr. Paul writes; “When a home cell meeting is full of life, and when the people are happy and sharing their faith and witnessing to what the Lord has done in their lives, other people are drawn to them.”

Much like the early community of believers found in Acts 2:42-47, “they shared meals together with joyful hearts and tender humility. They were continually filled with praises to God.” (The Passion Translation)

But to attract the unbelievers within their neighbourhoods Dr. Paul goes on to unpack that those members within the groups needed to be intentional about inviting others to become a part of what they are enjoying.

The members of the group identified fully with the words of the Apostle Paul when he writes to the church of Corinth;

But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?Romans 10:14 (New Living Translation)

Someone needs to tell them about Him – Will it be You?

Dave Mann identifies that in our post-Christian culture today we need to recognise that “there are various layers of belief and scepticism that hinder people from considering faith in Jesus – let alone doubt, hurt and confusion” especially when it comes to Christians and the church.

So we need to acknowledge that “sometimes it takes a person many years to journey in their beliefs to a place of readiness to follow Christ. We need to persevere not only in our prayers, but also in our efforts” especially when it comes to intentionally inviting people join us on a journey of life let alone faith.

Many people will need time and conversations to think through ideas and assumptions that they hold to before they are able to fully understand the message, let alone accept it. And they’ll need to be intentionally invited to discuss / share them on multiple occasions as they may not want to the first or second time around. So, what better way to do this than in small groups?

As people journey with us unpacking some of the faith questions and issues they will become like family, our brothers and sisters, who we care about and want to support and encourage in life.

One way to impact our community is by “speaking encouraging words to one another. Building up hope so that we’ll all be together in this.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11 (The Message)

That can be served best by journeying alongside people and inviting them to groups that you are a part of.

You see, Small Groups are a key to Evangelism and life change can happen within Small Groups in our communities. Be that the one’s and/or two’s, or even in slightly larger groups. And one of the greatest needs in the church is to evangelise our local communities, be that within a village, town or city.

To do that we need to invite people into our sphere and be open about who we are and who God is, sharing what He has and is doing in our lives and how they too can come to experience that for themselves. When the time is right we can then invite them into the larger church.

When we come together to worship and praise God in larger settings we need to celebrate what God is doing in our lives, the lives that He is influencing through us and the hearts and minds that are turning towards Him.

So in the first instance if you are not a part of a small group yourself – why not?

And if you are may you be used by Him to impact the hearts and minds of a neighbour, family member, friend or colleague and may you be intentional in reaching out to them just to build a kingdom focussed relationship.

Here are some resources that you may find helpful:

Today I want to share aspects of a devotion that I’ve been working through on the YouVersion Bible App, which sees me working my way through the Book of Psalms.  

It commences by asking the question; “Have you ever been on a long hike and gotten so tired you weren’t sure you would make it back to your car?

It then goes on to say that “If so, you’ll know that sometimes it’s good to pause, take a look back at how far you’ve walked, and regain the strength and motivation to keep on going.

As I paused here to reflect on that question I was reminded of a trek that some of cadets @ Booth College of Mission did while I was there a number of years ago and the importance of looking back to move forward.

We travelled to our drop off point in the dark of the morning and commenced our trek as the morning sun was just starting to rise over the very hills that we were about to traverse. About 2 fifths of the way across the bottom part of what we colloquially called the Southern Traverse one of our group twisted his ankle quite badly 😦

But we couldn’t turn back as the van that had dropped us off was now parked at the other end of the track. We couldn’t call for help, as in those days cellphone reception wasn’t what it is today.

So, we had no other option but to survey our surroundings, get our bearings, ensure that the guys ankle was strapped up as best as we could and muster the motivation to move forward. With me taking point, we started off at a much slower pace, stopping every so often just so that we could reassess how things were going (especially for the injured person) and regain the strength and motivation to keep on going.

When I look back at that journey there were a few things that needed to happen within the group to get the injured person to the other end of trek.

One person needed to be the points person, leading the way and occasionally clearing the path, but at all times ensuring that the group was together and getting everyone closer to the end goal.

Others needed to help support, encourage and occasionally prop up the injured person, lightening his load from time to time, so that he would make it to the end.

Others needed to take up the rear and assess where we were at by looking behind us and from time to time looking ahead of us, planning when to take a breather so that we could get our strength back for the ongoing journey, and occasionally picking up the pieces or taking on other roles within the group so that we could all make it home safe and sound.    

The journey obviously took us a lot longer than we’d imagined and made for a slow hard slog, but the sense of accomplishment when we got back to the van in the dark of night was one of quiet jubilation.

The following day we were all exhibiting signs of exhaustion, muscle cramps and fatigue to varying degrees, and I can vividly remember the speed wobbles in my legs as I grabbed hold of the podium mid-way through my preach the next morning talking about persevering.

For all of us I’m pretty sure it took a few days to fully recover and the sight of grown men struggling with severe chafing as we climbed the stairs to go to classes over the next few days caused a bit of comical ribbing from those that didn’t partake in our trek.

Pausing, looking back, and seeing just how far you’ve come can give you a boost to continue and not give up. But how often do we allow ourselves the time and space needed to reflect on the journey that we’ve been on? Let alone plotting a course or path for our next steps? 

The Covid Pandemic has over the past couple of years upset the status quo of church ministry and life in general, many have had to pivot, adapt and change multiple times as we react to the changes needed to help us get through these challenging times.

God has been with us as we have traversed these moments; sometimes walking alongside us and supporting us (much like the injured person on the trek with His arm under the other persons armpit providing much needed assistance to get to the end of the journey), sometimes ahead of us leading the way, clearing a path and providing much needed encouragement to keep going, sometimes behind us picking up the pieces and ensuring that the person in the middle who may need a push every now and again gets to the end of the journey! 

Through it all God has and continues to be with us!

I wonder instead of rushing back to what wasn’t necessarily working for us we need to spend some quality time looking back so that we can move forward.  

Ka mua, ka muri is a Māori proverb that expresses a great truth around a simple image. The image is of a person walking backwards into the future.

You see, in Psalm 30, David is remembering where he came from and just how much God has done for him. He was looking back so that he could move forward.

I will exalt you, Lord, for you lifted me out of the depths and did not let my enemies gloat over me. Lord my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me. You, Lord, brought me up from the realm of the dead; you spared me from going down to the pit.” Psalm 30:1-3 (New International Version)

God lifted David out of the depths, out of a mess, and He didn’t let his enemies gloat. He healed him and gave him another chance at life when he was at his lowest. Which took time – I’m sure it didn’t happen overnight as some would have us believe. 

Maybe we need to spend some concerted time looking back at what went before, so that we can move forward. 

As we continue reading the Psalm, we see how this reflection leads to pure praise! “You turned my wailing into dancing… clothed me with joy… I will praise you forever” 

I just love how the Passion Translation puts these two verses; “Then [God] broke through and transformed all my wailing into a whirling dance of ecstatic praise! He has torn the veil and lifted from me the sad heaviness of mourning. He wrapped me in the glory-garments of gladness.

How could I be silent when it’s time to praise you? Now my heart sings out, bursting with joy – a bliss inside that keeps me singing, ‘I can never thank you enough!’” Psalm 30:11-12 (The Passion Translation)

So today, consider all that God has done and is doing in your life. Where has he brought you from? Where is He taking you? Write it down on a piece of paper, in a prayer journal, or even a diary as a reminder for the future, for there will be times that you will want to look back so that you can move forward.

Remember all that He has done, and then spend some time praising Him!

Blessings ’til next time 🙂

Today’s word of encouragement comes from Joy Cowley’s book Psalms Down-Under.

A collection of contemporary ‘metaphysical’ prayer-poems that go straight to the heart and quicken the soul.

It draws its inspiration from the familiar verse found in John 14 where we see Jesus comforting His disciples and encouraging them for the journey that lies ahead. And I’m sure that many of us can relate to the question that the disciples Thomas asks; “Master, we have no idea where you’re going. How do you expect us to know the road?John 14:5 (The Message)

To which Jesus responds; “I am the way, the truth, and the life.John 14:6 (New Living Translation)

Jesus said: I am the Way, the Truth and the Life

You are the Way.
You are the bridge between earth and heaven,
between the smallness of self
and the greatness of God.
You are the path we follow
and can never lose
because it lies in our hearts.
You are the mountain, the valley,
the rough and the smooth.
You are all points of the compass.
Whoever or wherever we are,
you hold our journey in yours.

You are the Truth.
You have planted your truth within us,
the same truth for all people.
Each of us is a different container
and we wrap you in different ways
according to our culture
and our customs of worship,
but in our diversity
you are our common language
and when we meet you in each other
there is recognition and rejoicing,
for truth always knows truth.

You are the life
and there is no life without you
for you are the substance
and breath of all things.
Your life grows within and around us,
the movement of sap in our seasons,
the ebb and flow of our tides.
You are the living
and the knowing of living
which we carry with us
through the doorway of death.

You who are the way,
the Truth and the Life,
gift us with the vision
to always see you in all things.

Don’t be Afraid

Last week I shared a poem from John Roedel that I came across on facebook that resonated with me on a number of levels and this week I’d like to share another that I also found relevant to the journey that I am on.

Don’t Be Afraid!

I pressed my back against the wall in my bedroom and slid to the ground.

The weight of unfolding darkness
was too heavy for me to carry.

“I am surrounded by so many shadows,” I whispered to myself.

“Don’t be afraid of shadows,” the Voice of Love said through my chattering heartbeat.

“But I feel so lost inside of them,” I replied.

the Voice of Love sang

“the shadows are
proof
that that
light has
found you

a shadow cannot exist in utter darkness

a shadow only draws breath because of the light

otherwise, you would never see it
 
all of these shadows
you are surrounded by
are actually evidence that the
blaze of hope hasn’t gone
out yet.”
 
I spent the rest of the day watching
the darkness and
play twister across my bedroom floor.

After a while
I became friends
with the shadows
because their existence
didn’t mean that
I was lost in despair.
 
They exist because
I have been discovered
by the lamp of Love.
 
“It’s all miracle,” I offered.
 
“Every single little bit of it.” Love replied.

John Roedel is a comic, husband and father of three boys based in Wyoming who began talking with “God” in 2015 on Facebook about his ongoing faith crisis.

What began as a flippant way of making light of his doubts in the Divine turned into something he wasn’t at all prepared for:

God wrote back.

Since creating the popular “Hey God. Hey John.” blog on Facebook three years ago, John has tackled such topics as his journey to mental health wellness, his lack of faith, the joy and pain of raising a child with autism, and grief, all in the form of a simple conversation with God.

You can pick up a copy of John’s latest book ‘Upon Departure’, a collection of poetry that explores the concept that our grief is a natural wonder that terraforms the landscape of our world in increments, from Amazon (Australia) here.

Over the past couple of weeks we’ve been looking at the Importance of Small Groups, and this week I want to provide five practical tips on what it takes to lead one, which I hope you’ll find useful.

The below tips featured on The Church Revitalization Podcast, which is brought to us by The Malphurs Group.

The Malphurs Group aim to tackle important, actionable topics to help churches succeed in revitalization and leadership. They want to equip churches to break through barriers and maximize their Kingdom impact.

You can listen to the podcast here or watch the YouTube video below.

In the show notes Scott Ball (Vice President and a Lead Guide with The Malphurs Group) shares that as Small Group Leaders;

  1. We Don’t need to be an Expert
  2. We need to Prompt Lively Discussion
  3. We need to Reign in the Discussion When it Goes Off-Course
  4. We need to Spend Time on the Substance, not the Icebreaker
  5. We need to Shepherd the Small Group Pastorally

The thing is, so often we can tend to think and do the opposite of many of these points and it can have a detrimental impact on the group when we do.

I pray that as you watch / listen and reflect on each of these points and determine where you need to grow as a small group leader, that you’ll be encouraged to continue working towards having a healthy and vibrant ministry. As your role is integral to the shepherding, discipling, and caring of the congregation and ministry that He has placed you in.

 

 

Be Still

You know sometimes I find it extremely hard to ‘be still’! Even on those days when my mental fortitude is ebbing, my body aches and the energy it takes just to get out of bed is tough to muster. It is hard to be still.

The thing is, even on those days when the body longs to rest, the mind is a whir of thoughts – feelings crush in and for someone who rarely shows my emotional side, tears fall. And I’m left wondering what is wrong with me – this is not normal!

But what exactly is normal in the word that we live in today? Does anybody really know anymore? Even modern washing machines don’t have a normal setting 🙂

I know for me that normal, or at least what I figured as normal had a lot to do with routine – But with my illness even normal routine has been completely thrown out the window.

Yes there are days in which I could feel “normal” and start getting ready for what the day has in store for me, but in a moment I am exhausted! Physically, mentally, and emotionally stuffed, and yet the mind is still a whir. My mind races.

For the past few weeks as part of my daily devotionals I have been reading through the Psalms. Poetic songs and prayers that were written many many years ago sharing all sorts of feelings, thoughts, concerns & celebrations.

Oftentimes the words give me enough encouragement to push through and focus on what I need to get on with – but other times not so much.

This morning I was drawn to a prayer by Flora Larsson entitled ‘My Mind Races’, she writes;

I CAN’T BE STILL, LORD, AS YOU COMMAND.

My body is immobile,
but my mind races;
leaps from one subject to another;
flies off at a tangent.

In the distance I hear the soft chiming of a church clock.
Outside my window seagulls ride the wind,
the friendly sparrows enjoy a morning chat.
A neighbour waters her flowers.

And yet my mind races on though my body remains relaxed.

The past, the present, the future.
What I have done,
should have done,
still have to do.

Things press upon my mind from all directions.

I feel chased,
burdened,
overwhelmed.

How do I find Your peace, Lord?

Peace within me,
a quiet mind,
a tranquil heart.

These are what I need,
and these are what You have promised.

Make me receptive, Master.
Let me feel Your peace flowing into my mind,
stilling the inward storms,
calming and quieting,
soothing and strengthening.
Just now, Lord, now.

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