"Now some men brought in a bed a man who was paralyzed. They searched for ways to bring him in and lay him before Him. When they could not find a way to bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down through the tiles with his bed into their midst before Jesus. When He saw their faith, He said to him, "Man, your sins are forgiven you'" (Luke 5:18-20, MEV).
Do you remember the story of the paralytic in Luke 5—where four men broke through the roof of a synagogue to lower their friend to Jesus? Sometimes it takes something that radical to lead someone to Jesus!
And sometimes it just takes the caring, consistent love of a small group of Christians. How can the small groups in your church become the effective evangelism tools that God wants them to become?
1. Your church's small groups must care about people who don't know Jesus. The reason God used the four friends in Luke 5 is because they cared for the paralytic. Just like those four, the evangelistic mission of your small groups need to start with love. The number one reason Christians don't share Christ with others is that they are too preoccupied with themselves.
Before you can care about others, you must become aware of them. Once a small group becomes aware of those who don't have a relationship with Christ, they should start praying for them.
Your church's small groups should pray for three things:
- An opportunity to share your faith in a non-threatening way
- For God to soften their hearts
- For God to soften the hearts of those in the small group
2. Your church's small groups must believe God can reach the person. No one is hopeless. When the four friends looked at the paralytic's condition, they could have responded in doubt: What could Jesus do? Instead, they believed God could heal him—they had faith. The Bible said the paralytic's sins were forgiven when Jesus saw the faith of the four friends.
There are people paralyzed in our world who aren't necessarily physically paralyzed but who have a paralyzed faith. Whether they're paralyzed by doubts, loneliness, fear or anything else, the result is the same—they need the faith of others.
In a sense, they don't have enough faith to believe, so the faith of your small groups is going to have to bring them to Jesus.
3. Your church's small groups must make a plan. Although faith and prayer are important ingredients to bringing others to Jesus, you need to do something too. You need a plan. When the four friends saw the way to Jesus was blocked, they came up with a plan to get the paraplegic to Jesus. Your small groups need a plan to bring people to Jesus. Without it, they won't bring anyone to Christ.
4. Your church's small groups must overcome difficulties. When the four friends saw the path to Jesus blocked, they had every reason to feel discouraged, but they didn't give up. They looked for another way to bring the man to Jesus.
Everybody gets discouraged at times. But in order to share Jesus with our friends, we must persist through those difficulties. I remember a small group at Saddleback Church who prayed for a lost friend for two years before that person made a commitment to Jesus. I'm sure that guy is glad they didn't give up after a year and a half.
5. Your church's small groups need the courage to do something different. When faced with a discouraging situation, these four friends decided to do something different to get their friend to Jesus, they went through the roof! Sometimes we have to do something different to get people to Jesus as well.
Although you might not crawl through a roof to get someone to Jesus, you might host a party. For a small group in a San Diego church that meant buying season tickets to see professional football games. Besides buying their own tickets, the couples bought one extra ticket—for someone who didn't know Jesus. That group brought 13 couples to Christ through that experience.
6. Your church's small groups must work together to get the job done. Have you ever tried to carry someone on a stretcher with only three people? It doesn't work. If all four of the friends hadn't helped, the paralytic would have fallen off the stretcher.
Some people will only come to Jesus through a group effort. Studies have shown that people come to Christ faster when they come through a supportive environment.
That's why small groups are so essential in bringing people to Christ.
When you talk to someone at work, and it's just you and that person, you're the only witness. If you're able to bring them to a group event—particularly one that is fun—they'll go, "Wow, these people aren't goofy. They aren't religious nuts. They're normal people."
7. Your church's small groups must be willing to pay the cost to bring someone to Jesus. These four men wouldn't have made a hole in the roof unless they were willing to fix it. They had to pay the cost of bringing their friend to Jesus.
Bringing a friend to Jesus always requires sacrifice. For many small groups that means sacrificing their own comfort within the group. Many people have become so comfortable within their small groups that they are afraid of adding new people and messing up the group dynamics.
Before our community will come to Jesus, they need to see those in our congregations get out of their comfort zones.
Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, one of America's largest and most influential churches. Rick is author of the New York Times best-seller The Purpose Driven Life. His book, The Purpose Driven Church, was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. He is also founder of Pastors.com, a global Internet community for pastors.
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