This week, we launched a new small group aimed for people who don’t go to church.
For our small group, 13 people showed up for the first meeting, 7 of whom I had never met before.
This was the 1st of 6 meetings, and I was not leading the group.
From the conversations prior to the group starting and even during the discussion time, it became clear that 6 of those 7 are probably not followers of Christ.
As an evangelist, I’m excited when there are people are willing to engage their spiritual thirst in a small group, where hopefully they will
- have space to ask their questions,
- challenge the Christians to think, and
- earnestly seek out the truth that is being presented via the video, discussion, or readings.
Things go off track
But during the discussion time, I watched the Christians in the group begin
- to preach
- to not listen to the questions being asked
- to not even let the questions go unanswered at this time.
The leaders called me the next day, wondering if the invited guests will come back.
He too felt uncomfortable at the apparent pushiness of some of the other Christians in the group.
The Christians had become a verbal fire hydrant of truth, ready to convince someone that they have to follow Jesus.
While there were no arguments, the discussion did get loud and the pace of speech got rapid, as it normally does when there is some tension.
People began to talk over one another and verbally retreat into their corners of “rightness.”
In other words, where was the patience to trust the Holy Spirit?
In the rush to present the gospel, several potential bridges of trust were broken.
Waiting on the Holy Spirit’s work
Pre-Christian people making the first steps to come to a Christian small group are demonstrating a step of faith on their part.
To some extent, that is a reflection of their spiritual thirst. It tells me they are open to studying spiritual things and perhaps might actually seek a relationship with Christ.
Small groups can be a wonderful place to explore the truth, consider the claims of Jesus, and wrestle with those claims.
Small groups give people time. Small groups give the Holy Spirit time.
- Consider the new information being shared in the teaching
- Clear up misconceptions about God.
- Trust Christians (as many have likely encountered aggressive evangelists).
- Be willing to surrender to Christ.
This doesn’t happen in one 45 minute meeting unless the Holy Spirit has already brought a sinner to conviction. If that is the case, it is usually obvious a person is ready to surrender to faith.
Small groups provide that time and space, and I’ve seen many people become Christians within 4-6 weeks of joining a group where they finally trust the people in it and realize they can ask their questions without getting a sermon in response.
I know the urgency of the gospel, particularly since none of us are guaranteed our next breath.
But I’ve also seen that we need to give seekers space to discover and learn.
In a small group environment full of strangers, the seeker needs to know if the small group will be a safe place for them to search and ask questions.
Unfortunately, our first meeting did not live up to this.
I go back to the drawing board and seek God to draw the entire group back.
Let me ask you this?
What advice would you give this small group leader to better prepare for the next meeting? Feel free to share in the comments below.
Image Credit: MorgueFile