Small Group Losers vs. Team-based Winners

 I found this picture online from a sports locker room and thought it was worth sharing.

Assembling Christians into small groups where they're encouraged to love one another and love God but not challenged to become a team who reaches their world for Christ and disciples them to do the same is futile.

If group members don't make the shift from small group to team, the group will always degrade into a complacent complaining group of entitled people who say they love God but make no sacrifice to show Him they really do.

Don't let your groups become losers, and whatever you do, don't launch groups that have no choice but to become losers because they have no missional reason to be together! Be a good coach and challenge them to be winners. Will they get mad and tell you you're being pushy? Probably. But people are dying without Jesus every single minute of the day and we can do something about it as pastors over small groups of believers meeting in homes.

Understanding God: The Importance of Old Testament Studies

In our newish house church experience, we've decided to make the Old Testament a focus of our Sunday mornings together. Most of the people in our group (including my wife and I) spent a lot of time applying NT scripture to our lives at the expense of the OT stories, so it's exciting for everyone to learn from the "left side of the Bible."

One of our greatest take-aways from reading through Genesis and Exodus (which took about 10 months) was God's perspective on man, his most important creation on earth. Because God has the ability to see a man's existence from before birth straight through to eternity after earthly death (referring to His omnipresence, omniscience, omnipotence)...

He is able to make very just decisions such as giving followers extra grace (ie., Abraham) or raining fire down upon them and killing every man, woman, child, and animal (as in Sodom and Gomorrah).

God hates sin, but it's a fruit issue and it's treated as such. What he seems to be even more concerned about in the heart and mind of His creation (man) is idolatry, the root of the sin problem. When man decides his idea of right and wrong is better than God's clearly articulated way of living for our best health and welfare, the aforementioned rain of fire is definitely in the weather forecast!

He views a lot of our earthly problems in the same way a loving parent comforts a child upset that they cannot eat candy before dinner because it will spoil their appetite for healthy food. The suffering I may experience here on earth will be but a sneeze in the big picture of my eternal life in Christ, and for that, He may choose not to heal someone on earth because it's but a sneeze no matter how big of a deal we think it might be.

The Trinity has always existed. Christ is seen throughout Genesis and Exodus!!! Lots of my house church peeps didn't fully grasp this until I showed them. Same with the Holy Spirit. All working as one to reconcile man to God.

He has created us all, but we are not all "God's Children." That would be automatic salvation and we must request to be adopted into His family through Christ. While this is a NT thing, we saw clearly that God's chosen people needed a Messiah in the worst way and still need to recognize that God provided one! No one can keep the basic ten commandments nor the thousands of Jewish laws.

When we start up our mid-week cell groups, it will be our New Testament focus. The Christ within me will minister to the Christ within you. This is happening ad-hoc now with time spent together, but it will be formalized in 2016.

This was an interesting thing to realize: Sunday mornings are OT and mid week groups are NT. Same God, different expression and experience!

I can see clearly now!

For 20 years I've served as the President of TOUCH Outreach Ministries. Through those years, some amazing people worked at and with TOUCH. Together we created resources to fill gaps in the knowledge base for cell groups and for all the discipleship needs for members and training needs for group leaders. Around 2010, I realized most everything the ministry needed to provide pastor and churches was in print from our ministry or other ministries or publishers.

This left me with a lot of time on my hands. With a lot of prayer, I decided to do some tent making and serve others in the financial services industry. I've been at it full time now for four years, and boy-howdy, do I have a better understanding of what we're asking of people when we encourage them to not only be a part of a cell group but lead one. I can see clearly now.

Just before I took on outside work, Etna and I started a house church. At this point it's not a high maintenance church plant. We're small enough to meet in our home on Sunday mornings and enjoy each other's company between meetings and minister to one another on an ad-hoc basis. When we grow a little more, we'll start gender-based cell groups that meet mid week. A group has already popped up spontaneously by a member who lives quite a ways away and has friends who aren't committed enough to make the drive in on Sundays to our place.

I visited his group this last week. After a long and somewhat frustrating day at the office, I zipped home for a quick bite to eat, played with the dogs for a few minutes and headed out the door. 45 minutes in traffic to arrive 5 minutes late. We had a great time together, applying a couple of chapters of the book of Acts and prayed for one another. Then I made the trip home and collapsed at 10 pm.

If I had kids in the house, I can only imagine how challenging it would be to attend a mid-week group, let alone lead one! If there was ever a reason to design your cell group leadership structure with multiple leadership (3-4 co-leaders in a group with one serving as the group's point person) this would be it.

Group-based ministry in major metropolitan areas like Houston is tough on the participants. Anything we can do to design holistic groups to keep the fatigue level down is going to be critical to success.

This week I'm blogging on a buddy's web site about our vision to create a cell-based house church network. Check it out!


Treat your cell groups like precious bodies of Christ... because they are!

This week I was visiting with a pastor who had a grand plan to use some excellent materials to "bring my congregation up to speed with cell groups (he calls them small groups, but they're really cell groups in my book!) so I can get them all in a group this spring."

If you've ever learned how to make gravy, you know that it's a process that requires some patience and a solid understanding of food science. Stick with me on this because it will make lots of sense concerning the topic at hand when I'm done...

First, you begin with some hot grease or warmed butter in a pan. Then you sprinkle flour across the surface of the protein-laden grease and cook the pasty taste out of the flour.

Then, you take just a little warm milk or warmed broth of some sort and add it to the pan. When this happens, there's a chemical reaction and the now protein-laden flour reacts to the liquid and it lumps up when you stir it.

If you put in all the liquid at once, you get watery gravy with lumps in it. The secret is to put just a little liquid in and let the greasy cooked flour absorb it. Then add more and add more and add more and voila! you have a nice gravy that just needs some salt and pepper.

{sauce making lesson is now over}

The same thing holds true for your fledgling cell groups. Let's say you've worked hard to start healthy cell groups and you have three groups up and going and the members of those groups are being the church, not attending it. They're sharing their faith with unchurched friends and you're even seeing conversion growth in the groups.

You want everyone in the church to be in one of these groups! I get that.

The problem is that if you multiply these groups to 6 or even 12 groups and then flood them with traditionally minded or consumer minded church members, the groups will fail. The healthy DNA of the original groups could only handle a few members being introduced to keep the strain healthy.

In conclusion, let me say this to you pastors who want a transition to happen quickly: stop that! You'll mess up your gravy, I mean cell groups! They're precious and quite sensitive and relationships need to be cultivated carefully so you don't lose momentum.

Advice: Just invite a handful of faithful congregational believers who are dissatisfied with church as usual to become part of a group being prepared for group life. Challenge the groups you have to reach friends for Christ and start discipling them in the midst of their group relationships. Put one or two couples from your preparation group in each group when you think everyone is ready and see if they're absorbed properly.

Oh yeah... you gotta keep stirring. That applies to group members and leaders and making gravy!