December 2008


In my opinion, small groups are the most effective way to introduce people to Jesus. In this post-modern culture people are more apt to join a dialogue about spiritual matters than they are to get up early (It’s early to many people.) on their day off and drop by a church building to hear a monologue declared by someone they don’t know or trust. Great dialogues can be had in a small group. Not only that, pre-Christians are much more willing to allow their hearts to be penetrated by kind acts done for them and the people they know than they are by representatives of Christianity on television demanding our country return to Judeo-Christian values. Small groups allow a non-believer to make their needs and the needs of their friends known so the small group can react. But the most potent proclamation of all to many of our friends, co-workers, neighbors, and family members is authenticity and sincerity. The video that you find in this blog is Penn of Penn and Teller. He is a self-proclaimed atheist. But listen to his words as he speaks of his encounter with a fan after one of his gigs. It’s obvious, he was completely overwhelmed by this man’s sincerity and authenticity.

Many of us will be going to be with family members and friends who have not yet considered Jesus. Many of them may be like this very gifted performer. Be yourself. Look them in the eye and honor Christ by simply being authentic and sincere. You may be shocked at the amount of respect you gain for yourself and all Christians.

Check out this video from Sarah McLachlan. She gives a great example of how one person can really make a difference. If we begin to live missionally, we really can make a difference in people’s lives globally…AND when you factor in the spiritual component, we can make an eternal difference!

Here’s the link in case the embedding doesn’t work in your browser: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hzoNInZ2ClQ

Many small group leaders and apprentices are recruiting group members for new groups that will kick off in January or early February. Oftentimes we’re turned down because we are unable to answer the questions future group members have. Below you’ll find the top ten questions most people need answers to before they’ll commit to group life.  If you’re ready to answer these questions, you may have the easiest time getting people to join you than you ever have before.:

1. How much of my time is this going to take?

2. What are we going to do with our children during meetings?

3. Will there be homework? If so, how much?

4. Am I going to have to talk or can I just sit and listen during meetings?

5. Will I have to pray out loud?

6. Who else is going to be in the group?

7. How much do I have to know about the Bible?

8. How many weeks or months is this group going to last?

9. If I don’t like it can I leave without people being angry with me?

10. What are we going to be doing during meetings?

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In his book, Destination Community, Rick Howerton describes authenticity in small groups as

…the willingness to openly share our pasts as well as what is continually unfolding in our present spiritual journeys. Small-group members will know they are living lives of authenticity when they are ready for their personal stories to be revealed…the good and the bad, the successes, struggles, and embarrassments.

It occurred to me recently that it wasn’t until I was ready to get real with God that I began to get real with my small groups. When I became desperate enough, through my brokenness, all inhibitions crumbled, and I dared to shake my fist at God and accuse him of abandoning me–when I allowed myself to name what I was feeling–that’s when I finally got real with God. And His response floored me…He spoke tenderly. As I allowed my heart to be heard at last, God initiated me into a healing journey and in the most amazing way, when I got real with God, God became real to me.

How many of our small groups encourage a posture of getting real with God and with each other? Would you feel comfortable with a group member accusing God of being a liar? Would you call that person sacreligious…a heretic? Yet Jeremiah did just that in Jer. 20:7.

O Lord, you deceived me, and I was deceived; you overpowered me and prevailed. I am ridiculed all day long; everyone mocks me.

The level to which group members are able to be authentic or to get real with God, is the level of redemptive community the group will experience. What are some ways you have been able to invite group members into deep authenticity? How have you seen a person be transformed by getting real with God after finally giving up of trying to “defend” Him?

Below is a poll to gauge the level of authenticity in your small group. Answer the question honestly (there’s that idea of being real again) then check back in a week or so and I’ll post the results along with some thoughts on how to invite groups into a deeper level of authenticity.

The celebration of Jesus’ birth is almost here. Your small group may have decided to take a break beginning a few weeks from now or you may be spending Christmas day together. If you’re like me, you may want to take a one week break from the study your group is involved in so that you can focus on some part of the birth of Jesus. Also… If you’re like me you don’t want to purchase an entire study for just one small group experience. Below you’ll find questions for a small group experience taken from the Serendipity Bible for Groups produced by Lyman Coleman.  I think you’ll find it will create healthy, life tranforming conversation.

Ice-Breaker: When does your Christmas tree go up? Who trims it? How? What other traditions do you observe from your childhood? 

Read Luke 2:8 – 20 

Bible Discussion: 1. Of all the people the angels could have visited, why do you suppose God sent them to the shepherds? How does that relate to Mary’s song (Luke 1: 46 – 55)? 2. What three titles are given to Jesus in verse 11? What is significant about them? 3. What do you treasure the most about Jesus?

 Going Deeper: 1. God appeared to Zechariah, Mary, and the shepherds when they were just being themselves. What does that imply about what it means to be “spiritual”? How has God spoken to you in the ordinary flow of life? 2. What precious event has God done that you “treasure in your heart”?

 In case you haven’t heard of the Serendipity Bible for Groups… The Serendipity Bible for groups has a Bible study like the one above for every passage of Scripture in the Bible.

8x032One of the really cool ministry times of the year from my international days was Christmas. Small groups would come together to rent hotel space (though it was illegal to worship together) and invite their friends and neighbors to evangelistic Christmas parties. Homemade tracts were crafted and could often be blended in with the commercial Christmas items that were becoming more popular. Perhaps most effective of all were the special acts of service performed in the name of Jesus during the Christmas season. It was indeed a special time of year, even in a place where Christmas didn’t show up on the calendar officially.

When we consider how our small groups can take advantage of the Christmas season, often we think in terms of parties and presents, candy and caroling. The holidays call out for family and fellowship. How can we be evangelistically intentional though during the Christmas season? Beyond the slogans like “Jesus is the Reason for the season,” how do we really communicate the truths of Christmas to those who are outside the family of God? Small groups have the potential for relating what incarnation is all about in a very real way. Rather than looking inward during the Christmas season as we are tempted to do by the cold weather and the family atmosphere, let’s remember what God did. That first Christmas for Jesus was about leaving family and much of what He knew of life in Heaven. He left the community of Heaven in search of us and to relate to us. What are some ways that we can live out His model? I wonder, what are some things that your small group is doing during the holiday season to be intentionally incarnational among a people who really need to know what Christmas is all about?

selfimageAwareness of yourself and your relationship with God are both important. Ephesians 4 assures us that the new self we have in Christ is “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”

“How can you draw close to God when you are far from your own self? Grant, Lord, that I may know myself that I may know thee.” Augustine, Confessions

“Almost all problems in the spiritual life stem from a lack of self-knowledge.” St. Teresa of Avila, The Way of Perfection

“Our wisdom … consists almost entirely of two parts: knowledge of God and of ourselves. But as these are connected together by many ties, it is not easy to determine which of the two precedes and gives birth to the other.” John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion