By Joel Comiskey, Groups that Thrive
Paul, the apostle, summarizes evangelism when writing to a house church in the first century, “I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ” (Philemon verse 6). As this house church in Colossae shared their faith, they grew in their relationship with Jesus Christ and became strong disciples.
Developing relationships with non-Christians is not easy. It stretches our faith and stirs us to depend on God. We grow in the process. Often, relationships with non-Christians are developed in the context of something else. Coaching softball, going to one particular hairdresser, joining the volunteer board at the home association, or getting involved in a specific interest group are among the many ways to build relationships. Developing business colleagues, sports associates, special interests, and hobby associates are other ways to broaden your friendship base.
In our Los Angeles church, we’ve asked each cell group to take .10 minutes at the end of the group to focus on needs in the community and then plan outreach. My small group decided to meet on a Saturday to pray, gather food and clothing, and then minister to the homeless living next to a freeway. Will the homeless benefit? Yes, but we will probably benefit more! As we reach out, we will grow as disciples of Jesus Christ. We are soldiers of Jesus Christ on a mission and must not allow ourselves to stagnate.
What about your group? Living Word Community Church in Philadelphia dug into savings and stocks to provide interest-free loans for two families who purchased house trailers for homes.
One small group cared for shut-ins from the church. They send cards on birthdays and special occasions, visit at least monthly, bring a meal and eat with them, and bring families (children included) when appropriate.
Communities are eager for volunteers to serve in social action programs, whether a daycare, counseling, outreach to the homeless, or some other program. Every community has an opportunity to share love and Christian values in a positive way. You can join a parent/teacher association, neighborhood watch, or one of the many other committees and organizations that make up the local community.
Other ideas: a particular cell group might reach out to the community by visiting a retirement home, ministering to street kids, or helping out in an orphanage. The cell group offers a unique, effective way to reach deeply into the heart of non-Christians.
Meeting practical needs demonstrates God’s love practically rather than only propositional truth. The New Testament church was born, grew, and prospered through small-group evangelism. God is calling His Church back again to this exciting outreach method.