July 26, 2001 was the fulfillment of a dream for Brett Noble. Testimonies. Covenant making. Prayer. And food—lots of food. Brett had overcome incredible odds to give birth to a small group. And now he was enjoying a well-deserved birthday party.
Brett's small group was one of the five that had started in an initial burst of excitement in 1999. But the excitement died when the pastor left, dividing the church in the process. Brett's group managed somehow to survive, while the others died slow deaths. And now Brett, the lone survivor, was celebrating the fulfillment of a dream.
As we gathered in Brett's home in Redlands, California to celebrate, we rejoiced in a mission accomplished, a dream fulfilled.
But I'm sure many, especially those with a long history at Brookside Chapel, were wondering, "Why Brett?" He seemed shy, even reserved. "What did Brett do different from the leaders that fell along the wayside?" As I talked with Brett, two things became crystal clear.
Brett persisted. Even when the pastor left, Brett knew that God wanted his group to give birth. Knowing this, he pressed ahead, seeking to honor God. "It was tiring," he confessed. "I really didn't know what I was doing. At times we would go for weeks and weeks, and the meetings seemed so unfruitful."
"But each time that I got to the point of quitting, I heard the Lord say, be patient, I will do it in my time." While the others dropped out, Brett kept his ear attentive to the voice of God, knowing that God had called him to lead the group. "It's amazing to me that my group is multiplying," he said. "God has truly done wonderful things."
Brett also asked for a commitment from the group. "For a long time," Brett said, "People would come and go. The group would grow larger, then smaller. This became very frustrating."
"Finally, I realized that I had to ask the core group for a commitment. I asked the group to come each week and to commit themselves to each other." "Now," Brett said, "If someone is absent they'll call and tell me that they can't make it."
Brett developed a strong core. Yet, he didn't stop there. He persisted to point the group toward the goal of multiplication. Eventually, Timothy, a computer programmer, committed himself to lead the new group.
I saw in Timothy, many of the same qualities that Brett possessed: Dependence on God, persistence, and commitment. "I don't really know what I'm doing," Timothy said to me, "But I believe that God wants me to lead this new group."
Back to the Basics
Giving birth is a difficult, daunting goal for most small group leaders. And it should be. It's a God sized goal.
Like Brett, you'll have to depend on Him, guiding the group to new levels of commitment, and even pointing them toward the path of leadership development. Brett learned insights in the trenches. In the dark valleys, his leadership was refined. Brett persisted while the other four leaders fell by the wayside. But wasn't this true with the disciples of Jesus? Many followed Him in good times but only a few went the whole way.
When it boils down to it, to multiply a group you must count the cost of discipleship. It requires persistence, commitment, and dependence on God that many in the church have lost.
The path to multiplication is the way of the cross. Ask Brett. But just remember. There's hope on the other side of the grave. Ask Jesus. Don't give up. You'll discover the fulfillment of your hopes and dreams, if you persist to the end.