By Joel Comiskey, check out coaching
One Intervarsity campus group was consumed with finding ways to attract non-believers. The social events weren’t working, in spite of all the invitations and planning. Finally, one of the exasperated workers said, “I’m going to bring my non-Christian friend to the prayer meeting tonight.” The campus leader was fearful of what might happen. Would the unbeliever be turned off by the reading of Scripture, Christian worship, and deep sharing?
The unbeliever came to the meeting and enjoyed every moment of it. He was thrilled to see people worshipping. He liked the deep sharing. He tasted authenticity, and it was good! As they pondered what happened, they came to see that their non-Christian friends were hungry for God and for authentic relationships. They didn’t want the high powered, impersonal programs. They wanted to experience people praying, reading Scripture, and worshipping God.
One of the surprising discoveries that Jim Egli and I discovered in our book Groups that Thrive is that worship is not a barrier to visitors, even though they might not be familiar with the songs. The presence of God experienced in worship can be felt by these new people and it helps draw them to the group and to Christ.
Groups that thrive focus on Jesus. When people experience Christ’s presence and love, they sit-up and take notice. The most effective evangelism is to lift up Jesus and allow Jesus to minister to people. In fact, we recommend including as much worship as possible. Bring God into the picture and you’ll welcome unbelievers.
People will join the group because they want to experience God; they have prayer requests and other needs; they are hungry for support from caring people and God. By not including worship, the newcomers might decide that the group is not worth their time. They get social interaction anywhere—a Starbucks, work, or hanging out with a friend. But where can they go to find God? Most likely that’s why they came to the group. Don’t hide Jesus. Let him be the focus of group activity.
Antioch Community Church, based out of Waco, Texas, began as a youth movement on the Baylor University campus and now plants churches worldwide, focusing on young people whose goal is to reach a lost world for Jesus. All their groups worship God and ask him to minister to those present. One youth group leader described one of her group meetings:
Each youth that walked through the door at the life group was in tears during worship as we prayed over them, spoke prophetic words over their lives, and listened to their hearts. One student’s head was healed, another girl decided to give her life to the Lord fully for the first time, and all were deeply touched by Jesus.
Granted, not all groups are as dynamic as this one, but we do need to proactively makes God the focus of group activity so that believers and unbelievers experience his presence.