The Tug-of-War between Community and Evangelism

Your group doesn't have to choose between community and evangelism—you just have to be intentional about maintaining both.

Which better describes your conviction about the primary purpose of your small group?

  • The purpose of our group is to carry out the Great Commission by building relationships with people who do not know Christ and inviting them into relationship with God and the Christian community.

  • Our group exists to provide an environment of Christian community where people can love and be loved, know one another deeply, and be nurtured in their growth as disciples.

In practice, most Christian small groups prioritize community over evangelism. Carl George, in Nine Keys to Effective Small Group Leadership, reports that in a given year, one Christian small group in four will "win someone to faith in Christ" (p. 6). That means that three out of four will not.

The tension between community and evangelism is most sharply focused around the issue of multiplying small groups. As group members come to know and love one another deeply, they want to stay together. As more people join the group, the group becomes too large to maintain intimate community. The group then has to choose which takes priority—evangelism or community? Do we multiply so we have room to keep bringing in new people? Or, do we stay together so we can continue to enjoy and nurture the community that is so important to us?

While most groups tilt the scale toward community, others make evangelism their primary mission. Some groups make it a goal to multiply the group every 6, 9, or 12 months. When groups multiply this often, it can take a heavy toll on community life. To begin with, it often takes longer than 6 to 9 months to develop the level of trust that intimate community requires. An even greater hindrance to community is that once a person has gone through changing small ...

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