Imagine this: You walk over to your next door neighbor’s home and you and your spouse are greeted warmly and invited inside. Within a little while, the doorbell rings several times and before you know it, a group of 11 or 12 have gathered in the living room for an hour-long, highly interactive and invigorating discussion — about spiritual matters! People are refreshingly open and honest about their own spiritual struggles and breakthroughs. They are eager to wrestle with comparing what they believe, both intellectually and emotionally, with what the Bible teaches and what others are sharing — and most of them are not even Christians!
Can you imagine such a scene? I hope so. I’ve been training Christians to launch and lead small groups for spiritual seekers now for the past 25 years and I’ve seen God use this tailored approach for outreach in incredible ways. I cannot get over the impact these kinds of group discussions can make in the lives of non-Christians and how God uses this approach to reach people for Himself. There are three distinct advantages to using this razor-sharp tool to reach friends and family members for Christ.
SAFE A seeker small group is a safe place for seekers to seek. Seekers are invited to investigate the claims of Christianity at their own pace no matter where they are in their spiritual journeys. If they have little or no knowledge of the Bible, that’s OK. If they are cynical or skeptical, they are welcome anyway.
There is definitely safety in numbers, and when the majority of participants are not yet Christians, they easily identify with each others’ spiritual issues and concerns which legitimizes their questions and objections — and there is no better way to create a secure environment.
EFFECTIVE A seeker small group is a highly effective tool for evangelism. Over the years here at Willow Creek, we have seen hundreds and hundreds of non-Christians cross the line of faith within the context of seeker small groups. These groups have become one of the most effective evangelistic tools we have at our disposal. A seeker small group provides a built-in “excuse” for ongoing dialogue about spiritual matters. It’s like having a set appointment every week with a group of spiritual seekers to talk about faith-related issues. It’s far easier — both for the leader and the seeker — to strike up spiritual conversations on an on-going basis when it’s already scheduled. In fact, I’ve had seekers tell me they were eagerly looking forward to bring their spiritual objections to the next meeting to discuss. For them, the group became their own special opportunity to fully engage in the seeking process — and they could hardly wait!
TRANSFERABLE The third distinct advantage about seeker small groups is that it’s a highly transferable concept. These groups are easily adaptable within a wide variety of church and ministry settings, styles, and formats. And whether the church utilizes a traditional worship format, a seeker-sensitive or seekertargeted approach, or anything in between, these small groups can flourish. No radical changes within a church or ministry structure are needed in order to launch these groups. The groups meet in the neighborhoods and in the marketplace, and as group participants make progress in their spiritual journeys, they inevitably become interested in getting connected to a church where they can grow in their understanding of spiritual things.
Now imagine yourself forming your own group specifically designed for non-Christians. Imagine identifying an ideal setting, maybe in your church, your workplace, or your neighborhood and inviting seekers to join you on a regular basis for a discussion about spiritual matters. Imagine exploring the gospel message together. When you gather a small group filled with seekers, it will only be a matter of time before you’ll give them a chance to discuss it, understand it, and embrace it. Who knows, you just might experience life-changing encounters that you’ll remember for the rest of your life! And when that happens — when you play a role in leading someone across the line of faith — two lives will be changed for all eternity. The one who received Christ and yours — because you were there!
Copyright © 2006 The Willow Creek Association, used with permission.
Garry Poole is Willow Creek’s Neighborhood Ministries outreach director and the author of Seeker Small Groups.