I recently returned from a great trip to South Korea (hence nothing posted last week) where my family and I shared in celebration of my brother's wedding to a young Korean woman. That's an experience not everyone gets to have. Of course we spent extra time there taking in some sites and enjoying the cultural pleasantries in our travels from Busan to Seoul and Shiwe. Let me tell you, when you stay with locals you really get to experience the true culture of a place. I loved the food, the people and their communal family mindset.
Something else that was prevalent among the Christians I met was their enthusiasm for their small groups. It seems like every Christian church there expects that as a Christian you naturally are a part of a small group because you need each other to grow as a disciple of Christ. While staying with our Korean friends in Shiwe (between Seoul and Incheon), they told us of the powerful way their small groups work by developing deep community and becoming inviting to their non-Christian friends. And although many within their communities are against Christianity -- thinking it is a Western religion -- there is an openness to sharing a meal together. So, many small groups regularly host dinners and casual gatherings intentionally to invite their anti-Christian friends and acquaintances. And let me tell you, they sure know how to put out a spread.
As it turns out many "anti-Christian" people end up in deeper relationships and often become Christians or at least more accepting. Our friend's church continues to grow exponentially through their small group efforts and the lives of their people. It's just how their church thinks about their mission to reach the lost and disciple the found.
When I asked about closed groups and not letting new-comers in, they looked at me quite odd and said, "Why would we do that? How can you bless the world if you only focus on yourself? We encourage each other to live the Christian life which means reaching people with the Gospel." They spend a lot of time in prayer, but shift their group focus every time there is a new Christian slowly bringing them up to speed as a disciple. I was told that often one or two members of the small group will mentor the new Christian outside of the group.
I was inspired and encouraged, but also challenged. Sometimes I think we in the West want to make our groups as palpable as possible to many people often removing or never including the important focus of reaching the lost and discipling the found. I think this is a great disservice to the gospel of Jesus Christ and the mission of God.
So, summer is coming and your group may be thinking about taking a break. But I want to encourage and even challenge you to consider, that while you may take some time off of study, you intentionally arrange time to gather as a group over meals, events, trips, service projects and invite your non-Christian friends, build relationships and see what God can do by the work of his Holy Spirit in and through you and your group.
'til next time,