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Spending Time with Unbelievers
by Joel Comiskey
I have the privilege of coaching various pastors, some of them being church planters. One of those church planters is Jeff French, who is planting jeffResurgent Church in Neunan, Georgia. Before starting the church, Jeff was a pastor in a denominational mega church. He felt a burden to leave the church to not only plant one church but a movement of churches.
I’ve been impressed with how much time Jeff spends with unbelievers. Jeff and Laura, his wife, frequent the local bar to hang out and play trivia. Most of the people Jeff is befriending won’t mention religious things and even fewer go to church. Jeff doesn’t force it. Yet, he’s also noticing a lot of receptivity to Jesus among those people.
From all the contacts with outsiders, Jeff started his first pilot group in May 2007, which meets on Sunday evening. I’ll be sharing more about Jeff and his church plant in my new book, Planting Churches that Reproduce: Starting a Network of Simple Churches (published in October 2008). The main point of this blog, however, is how Jeff is able to connect with those in his pilot group during the week. Here’s the scenario:
- On Monday after the pilot cell group, Jeff sends each person a set of preparation questions for the upcoming pilot cell group. The questions (and commentary) are based on a Bible passage and provide devotional study for the members during the week.
- Then on Thursday, he sends them an MP3 audio file about that particular lesson that he has prepared. The length of the audio is normally about 30 minutes. Since each person has already reflected on the Bible theme and the questions, the audio reinforces what they’ve already learned.
- On Sunday evening when they come together for the pilot group, each person is ready to share. Jeff combines lesson, worship, and break-out groups–it’s all participatory based on what each person has already been meditating upon during the week.
Here’s the good news. You can receive Jeff’s MP3 files and lessons for free! In my coaching session last week, I asked Jeff if I could share this resource with others, and he was fine with it. If you’d like to receive this weekly resource, simply write Jeff French at: email@example.com and he’ll put you on his list. I just listened to the lesson last week and reviewed the reflective questions. They are great!
Another church planter I’ve been coaching is Matt Anderson. Matt, a young Assembly of God pastor, is planting a cell church in Venus, TX– a town of about 8,000 people. Matt understands the needs of the area because he grew up in Tyler, TX, not far from Venus.
Matt fell in love with the cell church vision through attending seminars at Bethany World Prayer Center and by reading various cell church books by Ralph Neighbour, David Cho, Larry Kreider, and others. Matt decided to plant his church by starting a single cell (pilot group) in his home. He had a few core couples but the only way to grow was through reaching out. Matt knows the pain of pressing on through unresponsiveness. What I love about Matt is his persistence. Through the tough times, Matt has found his strengh in Jesus.
Matt and I have done a lot of brainstorming about ways to reach out. Matt kept on coming back to the theme of feeding the hungry and helping the needy. Matt grew up in the area, so he has seen the poverty first hand. He shared his vision with the pilot group, and they started a ministry of providing food for the hungry. Last week they served 41 needy families with free food! They testified about God to each family before giving out the food, and asked if they could pray for needs. The result was wour new visitors to their church.
All church planters face the dilemma of how to connect with new people. Let’s rejoice in the fact that Matt pressed on in spite of the obstacles and found a way to reach people for Jesus. Have you found that meeting people’s physical needs is an effective way to reach people for Jesus?