A Easter cartoon I shared on my Facebook Page and Pinterest has gone haywire. It’s not my cartoon, but it certainly generated likes, tweets, and repins and reshares. I laughed a little too hard when I saw this cartoon from Tim Davis (leadershipJournal.net/cartoons). If you like it, share it. [Read more…] about Friday Finds April 18 2014 Reading for Inspiration
Outflow, written by Steve Sjogren and David Ping, is a group study book aimed at small groups that want to try their hand at servant evangelism, a methodology of evangelism that emphasizes random acts of kindness.
The main metaphor in Outflow is the concentric circles of a multi-tiered fountain, that parallels the concentric circles of influence seen in Acts (Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, ends of the earth).
Outflow’s target audience seems to be those who have a fear of any kind of conversational evangelism, which in my experience includes a large number of people.
Even more so, Outflow seems aimed at those who have many negative images of evangelism. Servant evangelism gives the reader a way to express their faith.
Outflow isn’t so much about sharing the faith in words as it is demonstrating the faith in love, and maybe talking about your faith when asked.
The Layout of Outflow
- reflection questions
- an exercise for homework
Each week’s reading ends with a group project and includes some debriefing questions.
These practical suggestions are what caught my eye.
Instead of simply leaving it to the group to brainstorm all the time, these practical exercises suggested one particular action step that would be easy to implement. Groups that implement the action steps will make a big impact in the community around them.
Two Ends of the Evangelism Spectrum
At one end of the spectrum, you have word based evangelism styles, like the way of the master stuff, tract distribution and other forms of gospel presentations.
At the other end of the spectrum, you have the deed based evangelism style, like servant evangelism.
The former focuses on communicating the truth through a scripted monologue to lead to a decision to accept or reject Christ.
Demonstrate truth first.
The later focuses on demonstrating acts of love, answering the occasional question, and planting the seeds for future conversation.
Demonstrate love first.
For many believers who find the former model of evangelism too negative and intimidating, the later model gives them plenty of room to express their faith.
However, for those that believe that the former model is high priority, Outflow will frustrate them as it doesn’t talk at all about how to actually talk about your personal faith. The one chapter that comes close is about planting seeds for future conversation.
A Broader Appeal
Outflow will have a much broader appeal to small groups that want to express their faith in tangible ways, rather than memorize a scripted monologue to present to strangers.
For small groups that want to add some kind of missional component to their purpose, a study through Outflow could help provide that expression (though I don’t recall the word “missional” being used).
The practical exercises in Outflow can help a group find some practical ways to express God’s love in the community in which they were planted.
One missing ingredient
If I were leading an Outflow group, I would add a practical part in how to actually talk about what your faith means to you.
Servant evangelism as presented in Outflow is an awesome tool to express God’s love and plant seeds for future conversation.
However, Outflow to miss helping a person grow comfortable talking about your own faith in the process and what is the gospel.
Outflow is all about seed planting, and not really about how to water or harvest a seed that’s been planted.
I would add sections about
- how to recognize spiritual thirst,
- how to cooperate with the Holy Spirit,
- how to talk about your own faith in Jesus, and
- how to listen for receptivity to the call to surrender your life to Jesus.
These additional pieces are beyond the scope of the book, but I think they remain vital core training to anyone doing a servant evangelism project.
You might very well encounter someone who has been prepared by God for that moment, like the Ethiopian eunuch was in Acts 8. Your Outflow Group members would need some idea of what to do.
As a leader of the group, I would use these ideas in the exercise debriefings each week to help group members grow comfortable not only in random acts of kindness, but talking about their faith more frequently while doing random acts of kindness.
Order Outflow from Amazon (affiliate link)
Do your small groups make a difference in the world?
Or have they existed so long they are very inward focused?
Do they give themselves away, or simply demand more spiritual food from the gifted leader?
What can you do to move a small group from self-feeding to selfless service?
A Missional Small Group
A pastor sent me this story:
The way it goes is a couple in our church noticed that there were homeless people living in the woods in Marietta.
They took their discovery to their small group, and began talking and praying about what to do.
I went out with them and discovered for myself that there were men and women living in tents and under tarps in one of the richest counties in Georgia.
That small group started feeding the homeless breakfast every Sunday.
And the cool thing is that they invited them to church.
This act slowly started changing our church.
These men and women would also come be with us on Wednesday nights. And they were invited to go with the church family on a church family retreat we would take every spring.
It was at one of these retreats that one of the homeless mean experienced a life-change in Christ.
He is now in his own apartment and works at the church. He is also ministering to the homeless in the woods. He’s become part of that small group and is a big part of the mission of that church.
As I heard this story, I got excited about some of the missional elements in it.
1. Small group looking for a mission.
Most churches have small groups of some kind, even if it’s not a formal structure.
I consulted with a church this week that has had small groups, some of which have lasted 20 years and are pretty fixed in their studies.
A few weeks ago, I consulted with a church that didn’t have small groups, but they had Wednesday night suppers with the same people who sat at the same table.
What if that table groups in that church looked for a mission to accomplish and then were empowered to do something about it?
What if those small groups were required to take on a mission to accomplish instead of simply feeding the sheep?
In that latter church, the pastor imposed such a requirement upon the leaders of the small groups. Sure, some protested, but they were so inward focused that they needed to be challenged.
2. Finding the need
What is the need that motivates your group to action?
Every community has needs. I live in a city of 1.5 million people. There is a lot of need. You might live in a city of 63,000 or a community of 8,000, or a subdivision of 5 homes.
How do you know when you found the need?
Here is what I think:
Read this verse from Nehemiah 1:4 which comes after he hears about the situation in Jerusalem:
When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.
The situation broke his heart. It drove him to prayer.
What is the need that makes you “sit down and weep?” What then drives you to prayer?
What is the need that makes your small group
- feel the frustration that nothing is happening?
- feel distressed in heart?
- feel the injustice?
Vision to act is born out of such frustration.
This small group in this pastor’s story felt the need and that motivated them to fix it.
What is the need that breaks your heart?
What is the need the breaks the heart of your small group?
What is the need that breaks the heart of your church?
3. A pastor who empowered them.
They took their pastor out to the homeless city. He saw it. He felt the need.
Then he turned them loose.
He empowered them to do something about it.
He equipped them to make a difference.
4. A church that welcomed new church visitors.
This was a key for the impact of this small group — a church that exhibited effective hospitality and the enjoyed the presence of “those” people.
We all know “those” people.
- The illegal aliens who are taking over the apartment complex.
- The dwellers in “that” housing project
- The drug addict, hooker, or pole dancer
- The registered sex offender trying to start over
- Or whomever is not like us. . . . .
Some churches are not healthy enough to welcome the stranger, the broken, the poor.
Yet this missional small group had a healthy church that supported their work and collectively ministered to these new people in their midst. It took the church family to make the impact.
5. Adoption into the family.
Relational connections were built. They were adopted into this church family over time.
These new friends were not only welcomed into the services, but then onto the family retreats.
And read the impact.
It was at one of these retreats that one of the homeless mean experienced a life-change in Christ.
He is now in his own apartment and works at the church.
He is also ministering to the homeless in the woods.
He’s become part of that small group and is a big part of the mission of that church.
This small group saw the need.
This small group felt the pain.
This small group made an impact.
This small group has made a new disciple in Christ is who is now living in obedient service in the world.
Let me ask you this?
What difference in the world do your small groups make?
How can you help your small group make a difference in the world?
Today’s webinar had people from several different nations joining us in our virtual classroom today.
That’s part of the advantage of the internet, which enables travel free distant learning.
You Can Double Your Groups Webinar
Most all churches have small group ministry or Sunday school program. Yet many of these groups are closed to newcomers, or haven’t grown in size.
We all know the power of exponential multiplication.
- 1 group grows to 2
- 2 groups grow to 4
- 4 groups grow to 8
- 8 to 16 and so on.
Yet we also haven’t really seen that happen in our lifetime. The multiplication system often breaks down after the first split. [Read more…] about Webinar Resource and Podcast Page with Josh Hunt