A Change in Citizenship

When you became a Christian, you took on a new citizenship. You no longer belong to this world. Your citizenship in now in the kingdom of heaven. Comparing non-Christians and Christians of his day, the apostle Paul commented, “Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:19-20). Being a citizen of heaven means a change in values and priorities—a change from the world’s systems and standards to those of your new king. It means a change in rules. You now live by God’s Word, not by the principles of the world.

No one sneaks across the border or bribes their way into citizenship in heaven. It is a free gift with many privileges and opportunities, and yet, once you’re in, important responsibilities come with being a citizen of heaven. Make sure you count the cost!

Jesus is a perfect example of someone who lived as a citizen of heaven while in this world. He was not of this world (John 8:23; 17:14, 16), and he reminded his disciples that neither were they (15:19). Neither the religious leaders, the disciples, nor Pilate understood Jesus’ true citizenship even though the kingdom of heaven was one of his favorite subjects to talk about. He told Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world. … My kingdom is from another place” (John 18:36).

You are called to live in this world and yet not be a citizen of it. Pastor, speaker, and writer Warren Wiersbe said, “Our sphere of life is not this earth, but heaven; and the things that attract us and excite us belong to heaven, not to earth.”8 You are called to live like Abraham, who “made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country. … For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:9-10).

Take a moment now to consider these tough questions, and perhaps discuss them with your small group:

  • Do you live in this world like a foreigner or a native?
  • Are you living your life in “tents,” not putting down roots because you know this is not your home, or are you settled in?
  • Are you living in comfort here or in hope for your future home?

Part of living as a citizen of heaven is surrendering your own desires so you can carry out the will of the King. But how do you know his will? The answer is clear, even if it is not easy: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is” (Romans 12:2). When you surrender the things the world offers, no longer conforming to its ways, and when you allow your mind to be changed into a new way of thinking—a kingdom mindset—then God shows you his will for your life.

Try this today. Use Romans 12:2 as an acid test for every decision you make, everything you do, whatever enters your mind, every emotion that you feel. Does your decision, thought, emotion or action cause you to conform to the world’s ways or be transformed to God’s ways? This will take full attention and strict discipline, but it will help you know and understand God’s will.

What specific changes do you need to make to live as a citizen of heaven? Take time to reflect on each of the Bible passages in the table on the next page. What do you still need to surrender, and what are your new responsibilities?

One more thing in regard to your new citizenship. The King—the one who has made you a citizen of his kingdom—has given you a significant role. While you are here in this world, he wants you to represent him as his ambassador. He has given you the message about this kingdom, and he wants you to tell everyone you know about it (see 2 Corinthians 5:16-21). And—take note—this is not optional if you are a citizen of heaven. I’ll discuss this more in Chapter 4.

If you are surrendering your will, you’re off to a good start! That decision inexplicably leads to the next one, to surrender your assignment.

-Michael C. Mack, World’s Greatest Small Group

Click here to purchase copies of World’s Greatest Small Group

The Ministry of a Bike Ride

What makes church ministry ministry? In fact, what makes the church the church?

I ride my bike each year in a couple charity events. In two weeks, on September 9, I’m riding with some of my cycling friends and a couple thousand others in the Bike to Beat Cancer here in Louisville. I’m planning to ride 100 miles to raise money for the Norton Cancer Institute. (GO HERE to my personal page to donate to this great cause and see more about my ride.)

Would you consider this ministry? I do. It’s a way for me to serve and demonstrate love for others in need. God has given me a passion for this cause, mostly because many people in my life—including my mom, brother, cousin and best friend, and the co-leader of my small group—have been or are affected by it. God has also given me a passion for cycling and an ability to ride. The event makes a difference in our community and the lives of many individuals.

This morning I was pleasantly surprised when I opened an email from our church’s small groups minister, CJ Stephens, asking small groups to join with others to support riders in the Bike to Beat Cancer! (The event starts and finishes very close to our church campus.) They are asking people to volunteer to cheer on riders and assist at the finish line. I’m telling you; if I make it 100 miles, I’ll be overjoyed to see my fellow church members cheering me on to the finish line! I’m proud of my church, Northeast Christian Church or, what we’re now known as, the #LovetheVille church.

This is the church, seeking to reach out to and serve outsiders, not just coddle insiders. This is the church, the body of Christ in action, still making a difference in the world. This is the church, a community of people in communion with God, carrying out his mission in our larger community. This is the church, staying true to declaring the Good News about Jesus and demonstrating his love to the world through our actions.

I’d love if more people from Louisville would also volunteer for the event. You can do that HERE.

I’d also love it if you’d consider donating to this cause and supporting me on my ride. Go to my page to read more and donate HERE.

The Small Group Mannequin Challenge

Small groups are taking the mannequin challenge. Many have been doing it for years.

I admit, I don’t get the current #mannequinchallenge fad. I also admit that some of the videos are fun and creative. Here’s a short one as an example:

This may be the latest cultural fad, but it’s nothing new for many small groups, and the church as a whole.

Several years ago I wrote about the difference between dead and fully alive small groups. (Read it here.) I also wrote a post about “Mannequin Small Groups, which I decided to revise and repost; it’s more apropos now than ever!

The problem is that some small groups were never alive in the first place! My friend Carl Douthit once described these groups as mannequins. They were not created with the intention of being alive, growing organisms. They study the Word only for knowledge, not to put it into practice. They are “all dressed up with no place to go”!

Mannequin small groups are all dressed up with no place to go. Click To Tweet

Mannequin group leaders and members say they cannot understand why they need to invite new people into their groups or share leadership with a core team or do anything outside of their normal agenda. These groups were not founded with the expectation of being more than “Bible studies,” so they are, as Carl would put it, mannequins, which look good on the outside, but with no life inside.

Mannequin small groups are great at standing still, but Jesus gave us a mission to “GO”!

Mannequin small groups are posers. They pretend to follow Christ, but they are unmoved by what and whom Jesus loves. They stand still in the middle of the great needs of lost, hurting people around them.

Mannequin small groups look good on the outside but have no life inside. Click To Tweet

Mannequin small groups are great at standing still, but our mission is to GO! Click To Tweet

Mannequin SGs are posers. They are unmoved by what or whom Jesus loves. Click To Tweet

Mannequin small groups are at best lukewarm about their faith. Actually they are frozen in time, either afraid to move, stuck in a rut of “we’ve always done it this way,” or, frankly, too focused on themselves to care. (Here’s my mannequin challenge with a very sad face.)

What do you do if your small group is a mannequin rather than missional?

First, you need an infusion of life that can only come from Jesus. The first Vital Sign of a Healthy Small Group is that it is Christ-Centered. When Christ is really at the center of your group, you meet together in his presence, for his purposes and under his power, and that makes ALL the difference! Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life, so he can bring life to your mannequin-like existence. He is the Way your group should go. He is the Truth your group needs in order to be real and authentic. He is the Life your group needs to animate and invigorate and motivate and activate your group!

Second, you need to recovenant with your group. The fourth Vital Sign of a Healthy Group is that it has goals and plans. It’s time for you to confront the brutal facts of your current existence, as Jim Collins puts it, and then decide as a group about what God is calling you to be (your vision) and do (your mission). Note: A Christ-centered group focuses on what God, not individual members, want the group to be. This is the difference between Christ-centeredness and self-centeredness.

I could discuss more things your group could do to move from mannequin to missional, but this is probably all you can do for now. Each of the seven healthy indicators I discuss in Small Group Vital Signs will help you move toward missional.

A healthy group is a missional group!

What score would you give your group?

Mannequin  1     2     3     4     5   Missional

Please respond by scrolling down and commenting or asking more about moving from mannequin to missional.

The Secret to Open AND Authentic Groups

I recently read a tweet and blog post that assumes an either-or viewpoint toward small groups. You must choose, the author says, between being an open, outward-focused, welcoming, numerically growing group (or class) and living in authentic, accountable, abiding community. You can’t have it both ways.

This often-repeated reasoning emerges from the idea that if a group desires to grow in radically real community—the kind in which people open up and share their whole stories, confess readily, love sacrificially, and hold each other accountable—it cannot regularly invite and welcome new people. And of course, the opposite is true, they say: If you desire to reach the lost, invite new people, and grow in numbers, you can’t dive into the deep end of community life; instead you must offer a lighter version of community.

This line of reasoning overlooks two vital points, a biblical one and a practical one:

Biblical View

The Bible is abounding in both-and examples. The Godhead, our foundational model of radically real community, is, of course, both authentic/accountable/loving and missional in nature. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are both inward- and outward-focused.

I’ve heard the argument that Jesus’ discipleship group was an intentionally closed small group, and for about three years it certainly appears to have been so. Yet Jesus constantly sent these men in his group outward on mission. While the 12 apostles stayed constant, many other followers traveled in and out of this grouping. The group was a great example of both-and.

Perhaps the clearest example is the early church, as described in the familiar Acts 2:42-47. Look at this passage verse-by-verse. Which of these verses are inward-focused (building authentic, accountable community) and which are outward-focused (reaching out, serving, growing numerically)?

42: They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. [inward]

43: Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. [outward]

44: All the believers were together and had everything in common. [inward]

45: They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. [outward]

46: Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, [inward]

47: praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.[outward]

This pattern of focusing inward on developing community and then outward on mission is repeated throughout the New Testament. It’s simply who they were. In fact, the addition of new people came out of the overflow of their deep community life with one another.

Practical View

One of the reasons people often believe in the either-or lie is that they mistakenly view small group community only as a meeting. They think in terms of everything, inward- and outward-focused, occurring within an hour-and-a-half gathering once a week. With that mindset, the either-or dilemma makes natural sense. But true small group community is more than a meeting! It’s a way of doing life together. It’s the context, or environment, in which we carry out the mission of making disciples.

While small groups do have weekly gatherings, much of what makes a small group great happens outside of meeting times, and that takes both intentionality as well as spontaneity as group members do life together. Phone calls, texts, visits, lunches together, serving together, praying for one another, recreating together—all these occur between meetings in a healthy, life-changing group.

Small Group Overtime

One secret to making this happen is what I call “Small Group Overtime” or “the Meeting After the Meeting.” Every group meeting is open to new people, and members regularly invite friends and neighbors to come along with them. But let’s say group members want to discuss matters of a deeper, more personal, more confessional or accountable nature. What do they do? After the end of the “official meeting,” several group members can slip into the next room to huddle up and talk and pray for one another while several other members stay with visitors to talk and eat. This can happen naturally and without much fanfare, but sometimes the members who stay in the room can casually mention that the other members want to discuss more personal issues and support one another. That communicates to the new person that this is a safe place as well as a very caring place.

But remember, Small Group Overtime is not the only time group members can or should care for and support each other. Loving one another is a 24-7 value, not a once-a-week program.

What other ideas do you have for transitioning your group’s mindset from a once-a-week meeting to a group of friends who are doing life together 24-7?

MORE on this Topic

10 Tips for Making Your Group Less Scary and More Welcoming to New People

10 Tips for Making Your Group Less Scary and More Welcoming to New People

You may not realize it, but visiting a small group for the first time can be intimidating. Here’s are 10 ways to make it easier for a new person to fit in.

The first time I attended a small group meeting, I drove around the block several times before finally getting up the nerve to walk up to the door of the host home. This was one of the scariest experiences of my life! I didn’t know what to expect and wondered if I’d fit in. Over the years, I’ve loosened up and I’ve also learned how to make groups more inviting and accepting for new people. Here are ten ideas:

  1. Pay attention to inherent inviting rhythms. When is the best time to invite a friend to your group? If your group is in the middle of a six-week study, will it be awkward for new person to join you? Instead, perhaps you could wait for the beginning of a new study. Is there “stuff” going on in your group that needs to be worked out before inviting a new person? For instance, if you’re in the midst of a group conflict, it may not be a good time to ask someone new to join you! Or if you’re working through a tender issue, such as a couple’s serious marriage problems, deal with that first.
  2. Make it natural. People balk to invitations that feel forced or unnatural. Instead, try these steps:
    • Pray for your friends you’d like to invite. Ask God to open their hearts and to give you opportunities to grow your friendship.
    • Invite your friends into your life before you invite them into your group. Spend time together.
    • Introduce them to a couple other people in your group. Find common ground between your friend and another member of your group. Go to a ballgame, movie, or out to lunch together.
    • Before you invite them to an official group meeting, extend an invitation to a fun group event. This is a great way to break the relational ice in a more natural social setting.
    • Talk about your group, why you like it, and how it’s helped you grow. Share this in the natural rhythms of conversation. Don’t force it!
    • When you sense the time is right, simply ask your friend to join you the next time you meet. The best time to do this is at the beginning of a new study topic that would be of interest to your friend. By this time, your friend may be waiting for an invitation!
    • When they agree to come, tell them what to expect. Think about what you would want to know before coming to your first meeting, such as what to wear, what to bring, what you’ll be doing, how long the meeting will be, and so forth. If they have kids, be sure to tell them what arrangements the group has for them. If the group does not provide child care, perhaps offer to help arrange something with them.
  3. Pick them up. It will reduce their anxiety (and assure they don’t back out) if you offer to drive them and walk into the host home together.
  4. Have a plan for when new people show up. Be prepared to do something fun and non-threatening when a new person joins you the first time. Your group may be at a good-friend or even family level in your relationships, but the new person is probably at best an acquaintance with most of the other members. So plan some entry-level activities. Don’t expect them to jump right in to the existing group dynamic. Watch out for things like insider jokes.
  5. Be authentic. A tension exists between having a plan for when new people show up and being authentic. Just walk this tightrope the best you can. I’ve found the best way to break this tension is to talk about it. Say something like, “Ellen, we’re really glad you’ve joined us tonight. This group started two years ago with Bob and Donna and Heidi and me. Jim and Jenny joined us a couple months ago . . .” (This shows Ellen that new people joining the group is normal.). “We’ve become pretty good friends and well, we have our idiosyncrasies, too. You know, everybody’s normal till you get to know them!” (Laughter is a great icebreaker.) Then explain what you’ve been up to as a group and where you’re going. But don’t make a long speech detailing every aspect of your group. Your guest will figure stuff out as you go. Encourage members of your group to be themselves. Your guests will find out soon enough who you really are.
  6. Be normal. You’re a Christian small group, so your guest will expect you to talk about spiritual things. But it’s also fine to talk about sports, work, kids, movies, and so forth. Talk about what each of you is passionate about. If you have been praying for this person, it’s OK to let them know that (without getting overly serious about it).
  7. Introduce everyone. When a group starts, we usually introduce ourselves and tell our stories. When new people show up, it’s like a new group to them. The rest of the group may have moved past history-sharing icebreakers, but these are very helpful when a guest joins you. “Where did you grow up?” “Who was your best friend growing up?” These and other such questions can help get everyone on the same page faster.
  8. Explain (almost) everything. If you had never been to a small group, what would you like to have explained? Of course, don’t overdo this, but take a moment during the meeting to clarify what you are doing and why. By the way, what seems normal to you may seem odd or confusing to a non-Christian. Be careful not to be condescending!
  9. Don’t assume that a guest will or will not read, pray out loud or not, or engage in conversation. Just ask.
  10. Have fun! Almost everyone likes to be part of something fun and as Christians we should be known by having a sense of joy. People will come back to a group that is learning and growing together from God’s Word and is fun, too! (See +Ben Reed‘s article, “5 Easy Ways to Make Your Small Group Fun.”)

Most institutions exist for the people who are already in them. But not the church, and not your small group! You exist for the people who God has put in each of your circles of influence so that you can make an impact on their lives. Be like Jesus, who came “to invite outsiders, not coddle insiders” (Matthew 9:13).

Talk with your group now for how you can make your group less scary and more welcoming, because, as John Wooden said, “When opportunity comes, it’s too late to prepare.”

MORE POSTS ON INVITING PEOPLE TO YOUR GROUP

 

 

5 Vital Secrets for Getting Your Group to Invite Others

How do you get small group members to invite people to their groups?

I spoke at +Greenwood Christian Church this past Saturday, particularly on the topic of moving small groups from good (comfortable, focused mostly internally) to great (costly, missional). We spent time talking about the importance of members inviting people into their groups as part of carrying out Christ’s mission of going and making disciples.

I’m following up with leaders from that workshop (and addressing any other small group leaders who want to make a difference) with 5 specific principles you can use to help your group members, even the shyest ones, invite people to your group. I’ll follow up this post with other posts to provide more ideas and to discuss the ramifications of this.

  1. The Leader Must Go First! Don’t go to your group with the ideas below until you have done these things yourself. As a leader, you must first be an example, a model, for those entrusted to you (1 Pet. 5:3).
  2. Don’t Do Anything Else Until You’ve Spent Time with God. Every strategy you use, every word you say, everything you do must flow out of your relationship with God. Be like Jesus who often withdrew to out of the way places to spend time with his heavenly Father (Lk. 5:16) and did nothing on his own but only what the Father showed him to do (John 5:19; 7:16; 8:28). Remember that God is already working in people’s lives and hearts, so partner with him (John 6:44). When you spend time with God, he will pour into you everything you need and overflow out of you into the lives of others (John 15:1-17).
  3. Lead with the Same Love, Tenderness, and Compassion as Jesus (Phil. 2:1-2). How do you see other people as you go through your day? How do you respond to people who attend church services or other events? When Jesus saw crowds of people he responded with compassion. He saw them as harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd (Matt. 9:36). “Be like-minded, having the same love” (Phil. 2:2).

    NOTE: IF YOU’VE TAKEN THESE LAST 2 STEPS, THE NEXT 2 WILL COME NATURALLY.

  4. Change the Way You Think About Weekend Services and Other Church Events. You attend worship services to praise God, receive vision, and be equipped for your mission as a Christ follower. Those are all great things. But add one more vital element. Instead of sitting with your usual friends in your usual seats, make yourself available for God to use you to reach out to people who are like sheep without a shepherd. Prayerfully look for new people or people sitting by themselves and ask if you can sit next to them. Look for opportunities to talk and get to know one another and possibly invite them to your group. Trust that God will lead you to the right people and that he is already working in their lives. You may be amazed at how he works in and through you as his ambassador.
  5. Change the Way You Think About “Ordinary” Days. When you are regularly abiding in Christ, he will overflow out of you into the people who are around you during your “ordinary” days. He’ll make your days extraordinary in ways you can’t even imagine, if you let him. Ask God whom he wants to love and care for through you. Ask him to give you opportunities to invite people you interact with (people he has put on your path) to your small group. Keep your eyes open for how God is working and your heart compassionate for those harassed and helpless people who surround you each day. God will do abundantly more than you can ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within you (Eph. 3:20)!

 

“We proclaim to you what we ourselves have actually seen and heard so that you may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.  We are writing these things so that you may fully share our joy.” -1 John 1:3-4, NLT 

MORE POSTS ON INVITING PEOPLE TO YOUR GROUP

 

Rock ‘n Roll Advice to Get Your Small Group Back Where You Belong

Maybe you’ve never considered this, but Rock n’ Roll has provided small group leaders with quite a bit of wisdom. Over the last week, I’ve been posting #rocknrollwisdom as my Small Group Leadership TIPS of the week on Twitter, my Small Group Leadership Facebook page, and LinkedIn. The genesis of all real wisdom comes from the Creator, who uses all kinds of means to get our attention.

How many R&R titles can you find?

Many groups have forgotten The Heart of the Matter. They Come Together for fellowship and to Read the Book, and that’s Fine as Fine Can Be, yet God is simply a Spirit in the Sky, and Jesus is Just Alright. They may say I’m a Believer, but the Lost? Dream On! Love your neighbor? “What’s Love Got to Do with It?” they ask. When a visitor happens to show up, their attitudes are, “Hey You, Don’t Stand So Close to Me!” Ain’t It a Shame? Yes, It’s a Plain Shame!

God Only Knows what he can do in and through your group, so Don’t Stop Believin’ in him. Say a Little Prayer and tell God, “I’ll lead this group Anyway You Want It.” In fact, instead of leading under your own Authority and Power, lead as if you’re Livin’ on a Prayer.

Small Group Leaders, it’s time to Shake It Up! Yes, continue to Faithfully Shower the People You Love with Love. But Let Your Love Flow to people outside your little group as well. Invite new people to your group. Tell them, “You can Come as You Are, yes Just the Way You Are,” and then Let ‘Em In and welcome them with Open Arms.

Now here’s a little Caution when you tell your group there’s Gonna Be Some Changes Made … Changes in Latitudes (because you’ll need to Get Off your comfy couches to actually do what the Bible says) and mostly Changes in Attitudes. Be the Leader of the Band, the Leader of the Pack, and tell your group members to Walk This Way. It may not be Easy, but Keep on Rollin’ with the Changes and Don’t Look Back. It may Feel Like the First Time you’ve actually lived as a group on God’s mission!

Make Christ’s mission to Go Now and reach lost and Lonely People Urgent for your group. It’s really A Matter of Trust for the people in your group, so Don’t Fear the Reaper. Remind your group that with God, Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now. No Way. Ain’t No Stopping Us Now! So until you’re climbing that Stairway to Heaven and Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door, Keep the Fire. Yes. Keep the Fire Burnin’ over the Long Run!

As Always, Always and Forever, Love is the Answer. When Times Gettin’ Tougher than Tough, remember, you gotta have Faith. It may be true that You Can’t Always Get What You Want, but if you try sometimes well you might find you get what you need.

Keep on Rockin’!

I’m sure I’ve missed a few pieces of #RocknRollWisdom. Add yours in the comments!

More Posts on Getting on God’s Mission as a Group

Lyman Coleman: Small Groups Are Much More Than an Assimilation Strategy

I spent a day with Lyman Colemen recently and talked about small groups ministry over the last 60-some years. Lyman founded Serendipity House and for more than 30 years, he spoke at church conferences across America. At that time, he was the voice of the American small group movement.

Mike and Lyman Coleman, August 2013
Lyman Coleman leading a Small Groups Conference in Columbus, Ohio, February, 1992

Lyman commented that the term “small groups” means nothing anymore. The term was hijacked by a number of church movements, especially the church growth movement, that had other objectives in mind than how the term was originally used by Lyman and some of the other early pioneers in the small group movement of the 50s-70s.

“In the early days,” Lyman says, “the small group movement was primarily an underground movement. The established church didn’t want anything to do with it.” Later, churches began to recognize small groups as “the best way of reaching out beyond the doors of the church to the broken people in our society.” Coleman has always wanted small groups to be places for caring and deep relationships, where people can belong and feel wanted, and he believes that healthy groups can have the effect of helping to close the back door of a church, but he bristles at small groups being purely an assimilation strategy. His feelings are deep and very personal. “Every time in my life,” he said in 1992, “at times of my deepest needs, my needs were not on the church’s agenda.” His sentiment should continue to convict us as leaders today.
In an article I wrote about him 20 years ago, I shared the line Coleman used to close out his seminars: “The church is full of beautiful people. We must not forget the people beyond the doors of the church.”

OTHER RELATED POSTS

Healthy Groups Are a Community for the Community
Healthy small group leaders are friends with non-Christ-followers
Mannequin Small Groups

What Keeps Us from the Mission

Last week Andy asked me an interesting question: “How far should we go in getting involved with non-Christians?” Andy and I are in a men’s group together and we were sitting in a coffee shop talking about people we meet in coffee shops, among other places, co-workers, and others we come in contact with.

My response sprung from my lips: “Exactly as far as Jesus would go.” Andy seemed satisfied with that answer.

Jesus came onto our turf. Take a moment and think about this: A holy, perfect God took on human flesh and entered a very corrupt, sin-full, unholy environment. He came onto our turf to save us. Then, once here, he never backed down from an opportunity to get involved with messy people–people he wasn’t “supposed to” associate with: a Samaritan woman, a tax collector, an adulterous woman, a government ruler, just to name a few. In fact, he became known to many as a “glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and ‘sinners'” (Matthew 11:19).

I can think of two main reasons Christians shy away from getting too close with non-Christians: (1) fear that we’ll ruin our reputations and (2) fear that the ungodly will persuade us to compromise our faith in some way.

As I read the gospels, I don’t see Jesus ever worried about his reputation; that is, what others thought of him. The Pharisees certainly were concerned about this, so much so that Jesus often called them out on this. Jesus ate and drank with the people whom the religious leaders detested and rejected. After calling the tax-collector Matthew to be one of his followers, Jesus had dinner with his new ministry partner and a bunch of his “sinner” friends. The Pharisees were beside themselves: “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?” they asked.

Jesus’ response is classic. It sums up what he was and is all about: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. … For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matthew 9:12-13).

But what about compromise? This is the one we are often warned to be very careful about.

Jesus never changed his way of ministering to the downcast because he was afraid of his position being compromised. (As God himself, it seems his reputation was much more at stake than ours!)
The Bible doesn’t say Jesus merely ministered to messed-up people or talked to them once in a while – he was their friend! Yet he did not enter into their sinful ways. You and I need to follow the model of Christ and be a friend to the very same kind of people – regardless of what people might think.

Don’t forget that we have the power of the Holy Spirit within us. We are called to be an influence on the world around us. We can choose to be an influence, to be influenced, or to hide out in our comfy, safe living rooms and do nothing. The latter option would be to purposely disobey the commission Jesus gave us to go and, like him, to enter the turf of those who God loves so much.

Jesus compromised nothing. In fact, it is we who compromise the gospel when we hide in our churches and homes afraid to reach out to the “sinners” in our world. We compromise when we won’t go onto their turf. We cannot expect them to come to us at first – we must go where they are, just as Jesus did.
OTHER POSTS OF INTEREST

Healthy Groups Are a Community for the Community

Some churches call their small groups that meet in homes “Community Groups.” I like that name for two important reasons: (1) the name reveals where authentic Christian community takes place and (2) it indicates that these groups are a primary vehicle for the church reaching into its community.

Small groups are (or at least should be) places where friends are made and grown, where the New Testament one anothers are lived out. They are environments where intimacy and trust and accountability grow. They are the body of Christ in action.

They are also an essential way for the church to reach into the community, as each person and group reached its oikos – the Greek term meaning household with an applied meaning of a person’s or group’s web of relationships or sphere of influence. 

In fact, I believe these kinds of groups are far more than just a “vehicle” for “First Church of Anywhere” to use to carry out its mission. These missional groups are the church, as the Bible defines it. Like the New Testament churches that met in homes (see Acts 8:3; Romans 16:5; 1 Corinthians 16:19; Colossians 4:15; Philemon 2), these churches work together within the larger church (1 Corinthians 1:2; 2 Corinthians 1:1; Revelation 1:11, for example) to build God’s Kingdom.

Healthy, missional, Christ-centered small groups carry out Christ’s commission for his church: to go into the world around us and make disciples, baptizing them, assimilating them into Christ’s body – both spiritually and relationally – and teaching them to obey everything Christ has commanded us. 

MORE ON THIS SUBJECT:

How Your Small Group Can (Must) Partner with God
Reconciliation: the Heart of Small Groups
Healthy small group leaders are friends with non-Christ-followers
Leading from the Heart, Chapter 7: “A Heart of Reconciliation”

Small Group Vital Signs, Vital Sign #6: “A Healthy Group Ministers to Others”