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FIRST-PERSON: How small groups can impact others for Christ

“Some men arrived carrying a paraplegic on a stretcher. They were looking for a way to get into the house and set him before Jesus. When they couldn’t find a way in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof, removed some tiles, and let him down in the middle of everyone, right in front of Jesus. Impressed by their bold belief, he said, ‘Friend, I forgive your sins’” (Luke 5:18-20, Msg).

LAKE FOREST, Calif. (BP)–Do you remember the story of the paralytic in Luke 5 when 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.

Consider these seven pointers:

1. Your small group can 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, your life mission has 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 you become aware of them, start praying for them. 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 your heart.

2. Your small group 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 your faith is going to have to bring them to Jesus.

3. Your small group 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. Without a plan to bring people to Jesus, your small group will never bring anyone to the Savior.

4. Your small group 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 small group needs 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 small group 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 small group 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 friends will come to Jesus, they need to see us get out of our comfort zones.
Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., and author of the New York Times best-seller “The Purpose-Driven Life” and of “The Purpose-Driven Church.” He is also founder of Pastors.com, a global Internet community for ministers. ©Copyright 2004 Pastors.com, Inc. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

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  • Rick Warren