A Foundation of Small GroupsBy Dan Vis
August 13, 2017
During my recent trip to Brazil, I had wonderful opportunities to share about discipleship with pastors and various churches. But I also had time to learn as well. The church in Brazil is growing rapidly, and I was eager to learn everything I could from leaders there. This week's memo is part one in a three part series exploring some of those insights.
Just before going to the cross, Jesus left His disciples a wonderful promise: "This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations, and then shall the end come" (Matthew 24:14And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.). The story of His death, burial, and resurrection will go "to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people" and then immediately after, we will see the "son of man" coming on a cloud (Revelation 14:6,14And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, . . . And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle.). A great promise, but a great task as well. To reach an entire planet, it will take every available worker. In fact, that is our greatest need: "The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few." (Matthew 9:37-3837 Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; 38 Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.). We must find a way to rally believers to the cause.
Mobilizing workers, of course, is not easy. Various training programs exist in many churches, but they generally fail to produce effective, consistent soul-winners. These programs may help people learn how to study, grow in prayer, and manage their time, but unless we can find a way to also equip them to become actively engaged in evangelism--our training is incomplete. That is, we need a strategy every believer can implement. Fortunately, the Bible encourages just such an approach.
A careful study of the book of Acts reveals soul-winning in the early church happened largely in the homes of believers. Public meetings and personal Bible studies certainly took place, but small groups were the foundation.
Consider the day of Pentecost: 3000 souls were baptized and the Christian church was born. The apostles then faced the difficult question of how to care for the flood of new believers. Their solution was to organize them into small groups, meeting "from house to house" (Acts 2:46And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,, Acts 5:42And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.). These groups generously met one another's needs, and enjoyed sweet fellowship. In fact, they experienced such "gladness and singleness of heart" everyone around looked on them with "favour" and the Lord was able to add "to the church daily such as should be saved" (Acts 2:46-4746 And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, 47 Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.). And evangelism continued to take place in these homes. "In every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ" (Acts 5:42And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.).
Paul too, built his ministry on the foundation of small groups. Speaking to the elders at Ephesus, Paul reminded them how he had taught them "from house to house" (Acts 20:20And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publickly, and from house to house,). Elsewhere Paul refers to groups meeting in the homes of various people: Narcissus, Stephanus, Aquila and Priscilla, Jason, Philemon, Onesiphorus, Gaius, Lydia, Jason, Justus and Crispus, and Philip to name a few. This ministry of small groups continued from the beginning at Pentecost, down to Paul's day and beyond. It was central to the explosive growth of the New Testament church.
Actually, Jesus himself taught this plan. In His training of the twelve (Matthew 10:11And into whatsoever city or town ye shall enter, enquire who in it is worthy; and there abide till ye go thence.), and later of the seventy (Luke 10:7And in the same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give: for the labourer is worthy of his hire. Go not from house to house.), He clearly taught them to find one home, and focus their efforts there. Then He added specifically, "go not from house to house". Jesus also modeled it, frequently using homes for ministry--including the homes of Peter, Matthew, Simon, Zacchaeus, and Lazarus. Plus, there are references to homes He used in Capernaum, Jerusalem, and elsewhere. The apostles simply followed the method they had been taught by Jesus, and baked it right into the very DNA of the early church.
As I visited members and talked with pastors in Brazil, I was impressed with the priority they gave to small groups. They clearly saw small groups as foundational to evangelism. And it was not uncommon to have as many as 60-70% of the members of a church involved in this ministry. And even with that, the goal was still to increase the percentage.
And these small groups often developed into new churches. Just a few days before returning to America, I had a chance to meet a 95 year old woman who had a group of 40-50 people in her home every week for Bible study. At times, she said, as many as 100 people would come! It had been continuing non-stop for years.
In time, that small group had become the core of an exciting new church right in the heart of the downtown area. I'll tell you more about what makes this church special next time. But in just a year and a half the number of groups had grown to 5 or 6, and attendance had tripled from around 70 to 200. The members I spoke to attribute the growth of their church primarily to small groups.
I believe one of the key reasons for the strong growth of the Brazilian church is their widespread understanding that using homes for ministry is biblical. They teach it as something every believer can and should participate in. And it is producing consistent, significant results. I believe the church in Brazil will continue to grow as long as they maintain their focus on small groups.
Small groups are no magic bullet. There are important keys to leading a small group successfully, and we discuss some of those in the Team Tactics portion of our Journey program. There are certainly ways to sabotage success. But past failures do not invalidate the principle--only the specific methodology used. With just a few tweaks and changes, your next small group could end up a terrific success.
The New Testament model of evangelism through small groups is often overlooked or neglected today. But it is easy to implement—and has the potential for dramatic results. Just as it worked in biblical times, it is working in Brazil today. And small groups can work in your church too!
CommentsHow important is it to follow the New Testament method of doing evangelism through small groups? Why do you think small groups are so central to the strategy outlined of the Bible?
|Posted by Nicole Walker on 08/29/17|
|Small group are built on trust and a personal relationship. It emulates Christt|
|Posted by Barbara Davis on 08/18/17|
|Thank you for the link Qing. Many things are coming together on effective Biblical ministry-evangelism. The zones make good sense. Looking forward to getting started very soon!|
|Posted by Dan Vis on 08/18/17|
|Great Musa Sibisi. Consistency is always the hardest part! All the best...|
|Posted by Musa Sibisi on 08/18/17|
|Dan this is powerful. By God's grace I will start. My prayer is consistency|
|Posted by Dan Vis on 08/16/17|
|Thanks for the link Qing! The folks at rightly trained are doing a great job. :)|
|Posted by Qing Ling on 08/16/17|
|Clarris I fully support that Zone thing. I have read somewhere before that churches should focus on ministering to their local areas... it just makes sense, nevermind all the other reasons! Sometimes though, I have known people WILL travel a great distance (consistently for years) just to attend a group with people that they connect very closely with, even if there is another group that they could potentially join much closer to their home. I guess on the flipside that kind of shows how committed they are??
Dan - a msg above from Andrew
Andrew - your tag for Pr Dan should have been "@ fast4god" (without the space after the @). A sure way to get the tagging thing correct every time is to just click/tap on the picture of the person that you want to tag - try it, it works great! :)
about the food thing - that aspect may possibly be covered in this series of training videos that discuss the practical side of running Care Groups - check out this link - it's delivered by some people who have been running and training in Care Group ministries for many years - I was part of some of their care groups some years back, and it was one of the highlights of my walk as a Christian :)
|Posted by Dan Vis on 08/14/17|
|Christine, agreed the group there is a bit large, but it seems to be extremely popular, so it's working! But you are right--the reason small groups are so powerful is the fellowship. Jesus said the two greatest keys to evangelism are the love and unity believers have for and with each other (John 13:35By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another., John 17:21That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.). These become most visible in the community of a small group. And yes, these small groups are in addition to corporate worship at church. Thanks for emphasizing that!
Thank you Marcelo! It was a blessing to become friends, and I look forward to sharing about the amazing work you are doing in your church next week!
Glad you were encouraged Valerie! Small groups are important, but it is vital that the leaders be well trained and the members united in purpose. Our Team Tactics program may be a help to your leaders to build a shared vision for evangelism through small groups.
Carole, that's exactly what I like about small groups. How close you can become. Thank you so much for your prayers during my time in Brazil. It was one of the nicest trips I've taken.
|Posted by Marcelo A Coelho on 08/14/17|
|It was a great privilege for us to receive you in our church. Thanks for your wonderful work! We've learned a lot with you too. May God bless you and your family.|
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