Jesus was serious about relationships. He spent all night talking to his Father. He hung out with his disciples, listened to their questions, and taught them patiently. He challenged the misguided. He had compassion on those with deep spiritual voids in their lives, and he encouraged even the smallest hint of faith. He loved deeply.
He wants us to do the same. When he called his first disciples, Peter and Andrew, Jesus' first words were, "Come follow me and I will send you out to fish for people" (Mt 4: 19). His final words as he ascended into heaven were "go and make disciples of all nations… (Mt 28:19). His challenge to all believers is, "you will be my witnesses" (Acts 1:8).
One of the best arenas for outreach is in a small group. In fact, small groups may be the new "front door" of the church. Small groups for outreach can be very effective, especially if we follow the underlying principles below and use Jesus' approach as our model.
Start With Where People Are, Not Where We Want Them to Be
Jesus met people at their point of need, embracing them just as they were. He wants us to do the same. When we start a small group with a goal of outreach, we should not start with where we are on our spiritual journey and ask unbelievers to join us. Why would they? Some might come just because they have a relationship with us and feel an obligation. The Holy Spirit's working might make someone open to join. In all likelihood, though, the people most interested would be those like us, people at a similar point on their spiritual journey. However, when outreach is our priority, we start with where others are on their spiritual walk, respecting where God is at work in them. Like Jesus did, we bridge the gap to meet them, rather ...