I’m currently working with Ed Stetzer on a new book, Transformational Groups. In the book we will share some significant lessons learned from a massive research project conducted on small groups. Ed and I recently sat down with Micah Fries, the Director of Ministry Development at LifeWay, to discuss some of the insights we’re gleaning from the research. You can catch the videos as they air on Ed’s weekly webshow The Exchange every Tuesday at 3PM Eastern (2PM Central). Over the next few days, I will share a few takeaways from the research.
Church leaders have rightly believed that it’s critical to move people to a group (class, adult Bible fellowship, etc) so that the person receives nurture and care through a community of Christ followers. The research validated this belief and also revealed that those believers who are plugged into a small group are much more active in sharing their faith with non-believers. From a research vantage point we can say, “there is a significant relationship between a believer engaged in personal evangelism and a believer engaged in a small group.” The people in your church who are plugged into a group are much more likely to be articulating the gospel this week.
Why is this? There are several likely reasons:
- Those in a small group learn to discuss spiritual truth.
Those believers in a church who only attend a weekend worship service or large gatherings where they listen to a primary teacher are never in environments where they speak. They only listen. Thus they don’t grow more and more comfortable discussing their faith. Those connected to a small group are in an environment where they share, they verbalize, and they speak about spiritual matters. Thus they are much more comfortable telling the guy in the next cubicle about Jesus and His gracious work.
- Those in a small group understand growth happens in relationships.
Those who are plugged into a group have likely seen the Lord supernaturally mature people over time in the context of community. They have learned that the Lord uses relationships grounded in grace to transform people. Thus they are likely to see their relationships at work, school, and in their neighborhoods as holy opportunities to invest in people who don’t yet know the Lord.
- Those in a small group have moved beyond “Sunday only” Christianity.
Those believers plugged into a small group are not merely showing up for a worship service each week. Thus they are more likely to see how their faith impacts the totality of their lives, including the regular encounters with unbelievers.
What other reasons do you think exist for such a strong relationship between group life and personal evangelism?