Saturday, March 25, 2017

Leaders Set the Example: Be Vulnerable, Don't Be Super-Christians and Builld Trust

You can set the example by sharing your own personal needs and problems with those in your group. The Bible tells us in 2 Corinthians 12:9 that we should boast in our weaknesses so that the power of Christ may rest upon us (not the negative or fake humility kind). When we are open about areas of struggle we have had and share how the Lord has given us grace and strength to conquer by His Word, it causes us to be transparent. By making ourselves ‘perfect’ Christian, we open ourselves to the enemy in the area of pride. People we are serving feel as though they are with super-Christian and they will be close.

I asked the small group Bible Study members one day if anyone had any difficulties they were facing that the group could pray with them about. Everyone said they were fine. Then I took a few minutes and shared some difficulties in my own lives and asked for prayer. Amazingly, everyone in the group had a personal prayer requests! By being vulnerable, the others in the group then felt free to be open with their lives.

We can minister much effectively by showing the people in our group what the Word of God says rather than by giving then our own opinions. If you don’t have the answer, don’t fake it. Tell them honestly that you don’t know but that you will help them find the answer. Leaders should not give strong advice or correction to a person they do not know very well (unless they are clearly led by the Holy Spirit). Much patience is needed before attempting to correct someone’s faults. Simply continue to love and care from them, and many times they will come to you for advice and help. They will see in you an example of how they themselves want to be.

True leaders will take time – all the time that is necessary – to build good, trusting relationships with people. We must build relationships not only within the setting of the group meeting, but also outside the meeting as well. Through informal time spent in social interaction outside of the meeting context, the time will eventually come when you will feel free to speak into the lives of the people in your group because of the trust that has been established. If you don’t have a relationship with the people in your group, it will be very difficult for them to receive advice or correction or teaching from you. Think about it.


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Small-Group Leader is to Encourage Others, Not to Bring People Down

Hebrews 3:13 tells us to encourage one another daily. This is one of the important qualifications for a small-group leader – a willingness to encourage others (besides humble, willing to pray for others, personable and easy to approach, enthusiastic, and filled with the Spirit). We can all encourage someone else; and when we sow encouragement, we will eventually reap what we sow! This happens often outside the actual small-group meeting. Even a text message of encouragement to someone in your small-group can make all the difference for them. Everyone gets discouraged at times. Everyone needs friend who truly cares, who will listen and understand him or her. Hey, relationships take time to build.

A true leader has a servant’s heart and is willing to take the time needed to be knit with the people in his/her small group. Just as it takes several weeks for a broken bone to heal and knit together, so too it takes time for relationships in the group to be knit together. The church is built together through relationships: “From whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:16).

New Christians especially need regular encouragement and nurturing because they are like soils that need good seeds. Maturity doesn’t happen overnight.

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Friday, March 24, 2017

Small-Group Leader as Servanthood Model

Jesus is our role model for leadership. He was and is the greatest leader who ever lived. He led by being a servant to all those around Him. He knew who He was because of His intimate relationship with His Father, and out of that relationship He ministered to the needs of individuals. He was secure and He was free to serve as a leader – a servant-leader. Two most important values of a servant leader: #1 Secure in God’s love, doesn’t demand for respect or approval from others; and #2 Freedom in Christ, free to serve without force or half-heartedness. In Matthew 20:25-28, Jesus warned His disciples not to be influenced (maybe they were) by the leadership patterns of the Gentiles. Jesus, however, explain to them that leadership in the kingdom of God is servanthood.

An attitude of serving is the key to servant leadership when leading a small group Bible Study. In Matthew 25:40, Jesus says that “whatever we do for one of the least” of His brothers and sisters – His disciples – we do for Him. In Matthew 9:36 too we see Jesus’ compassion for the people. His attitude was always to serve. Leadership must have the same heart attitude to serve.

A true Christian leader is a servant and has an intimate relationship with the Father, having a faith-action, humble and being totally dependent on the Lord Jesus. I often observes a true leader when he or she is not in the spotlight before and after Christian fellowship in campuses and outside. I also saw a true leader serve whenever he or she finds an opportunity. There are countless ways we can serve others in a small group. We are modelling servanthood by being willing to lead a small group or assist a small-group leader.

Don’t look at numbers – small-group is better. Here we all can learn to serve and to be served by others. 


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Monday, March 20, 2017

When the Church is Not a Building But People (Small-Group In the New Testament)

In Acts 20:20, the apostle Paul said to the Ephesus’ Christians, “I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house.” The early church followed Jesus’ pattern of discipleship and spiritual family life. They broke bread from “house to house” and had large corporate meetings:

All the believers devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper) and to prayer. A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshipped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity – all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved” (Acts 2:42-47).

God’s people gathered at the temple and met in small groups in homes. Hey, all of this happened in homes! Peter evangelized Cornelius by meeting him and his family and friends at home (see Acts 10:22-48). Some met in the house of Mary, John Mark’s mother, and experienced small-group life (see Acts 12:12). The believers in Philippi met in homes such Lydia’s (see Acts 16:30-34 and 16:15, 40). The believers in Rome met in Priscilla’s and Aquila’s home (see Romans 16:3-5). Apostle Paul sent his greetings to the household of Aristobulus and Narcissus (see Romans 16:10-11). Paul also once wrote to his friend Philemon and sent his greetings to “the church that meets in your house” (Philemon 1:2). All of these references are from my past studies, all give the evident that the early church met in small groups in homes.

Reading church history, I found out that in A.D. 323, almost 300 years after the birth of the early church, Christians first met in a church building. That was when many problem arises. We should probably ask ourselves this question: Has our focus on buildings and church programs caused us to lose the simplicity and the power experienced by the New Testament church?

Around A.D. 312, it was Constantine, the emperor of Rome that made Christianity an official religion by institutionalized and professionalized it (in my own words). Faith become cheap, forgiveness can be bought, leaderships for sale! The small-group lifestyle and all-serve-one-another ministry that was taking place in people’s homes was replaced by respectable groups that met weekly and led by ordained ministers only. Average believers sat passively while elite church leaders running the show, sometime solo.

In my observations, the church more or less lost this New Testament component of meeting in small groups and give more (or only) attention on the physical building churches. Sure, “temple” ministry is important when it comes to corporate worship, united witness and celebration. But perhaps more than ever the Lord wants us to see the Church as people – you and me – and not as a place where believers meet. Could it be, in the midst of shallow Christianity even in Malaysia today, the Spirit desires us to focus on small-group again? The church meet in smaller groups – at homes, schools, campuses and universities, offices – and led by everyone, average believers with each unique kind of spiritual gifts. As each small group love and obey our Lord Jesus and His Word, the entire church will have a powerful effect on our communities! Oh yes!

In the end of the day,
each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved

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Saturday, March 18, 2017

Jesus Set the Stage for Small-Group (Bible Study)

Jesus ministered to the multitudes, but He spent most of His time with the Twelves, His disciples. He set the stage for small-group ministry where everyone has the opportunity to get involved and begin to use his or her spiritual gifts. And even though He called the Twelves, He gave priority to a small group of three: Peter, James and John. The small group Bible Study is the place where God’s people can receive training, instruction and encouragement as they reach out to their friends and neighbours with the Good News of Jesus Christ.

The Lord commands us to follow His example. Whatever He has taught us, we are to give away and teach to others. This can be quite effective through small-group ministry. For example, as a small-group leader, the most helpful way for you to teach students to read and live out the Good News is for you yourself to have the passion for the Word of God. They see your example. The best way to teach another Christian how to forgive others is for you to share God’s forgiveness and how you forgive others that hurt you. If, like my friend, you believe the Lord has called you to teach the new Christian to pray, take time to pray with him or her. As we study the Bible, we learn together, grow together, and teach one another. We teach others by modelling biblical truths with our own lives.

True Christianity in its simplistic form includes three focuses: #1 Knowing Jesus intimately, #2 Making disciples, and #3 Reaching out in compassion to those who do not yet know Christ. Jesus told us to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength and to love our neighbours as ourselves (see Matthew 22:37-39). This must be the motivation of our hearts in order to effectively fulfil the Lord’s purposes for us as believers in Jesus Christ. Small groups are an ideal setting for fulfilling these purposes of God. Do you agree with me?


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Friday, March 17, 2017

Small-Group Bible Study Based on Relationship ("Who", Not "What", We Know)

Today’s church has tried to reach people for Christ in our communities with extravagant church programs and 21st century methodology. While such methods have their place, they can never be a substitute for personal relationships formed in the context of genuine Christian community like the early church demonstrated when they met in small groups.

God said, “Let Us make man in Our image” (Genesis 1:26). The Father, Son and Holy Spirit have always experienced relationship. They are one. Shouldn’t we experience the same in the church? God created Adam with the need for relationship; He said it was not good for him to be alone (see Genesis 2:18). Adam saw his need for relationship. Relationship is an established life pattern. In the church, leadership is a function put in place to help us flow together as God’s people.

Even from the earliest of biblical times, God worked through spiritual family relationships. In Exodus 18:13-26, Moses receives wise advice from Jethro, his father-in-law, to release God’s people into accountability groups to empower people to minister. He indicated there should be groups of thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. From the very beginning, God had a plan to ease the load for leaders and keep them from burning out.

When God established His own people on the earth, He established them in tribes, clans and families. This was to ensure that every human being had a connection – an identity and relationship. The Hebrews’ thought patterns were relational in nature. They thought along the lines of realizing they were in relationship because of who they knew. Malaysians’ thought is almost the same as the Hebrews’, but because of the influence of Greek thought or Western thought worldview today, our thought became more information-based. We thought that we are brought into relationship with others because of what we know. In Christianity, our model of relationship with one another is based upon who [Jesus Christ] we know, not so much about what we know about Him (though it is also important to know what). 

Thus, small group Bible Study should be based on who we know – Jesus Christ, the Word of God.


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The Kind of People God Calls to Lead Small-Group Bible Study

Are you thinking of leading a small group Bible Study? Small is better than large group. Please don’t worry if you cannot see yourself as a super Christian or a great leader. Let’s take a look at the kind of people God calls into leadership. This may surprise you!

Moses. When God called Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, Moses felt inadequate. Most leaders feel this way when the Lord calls them to any type of leadership. The first time I was ever asked to pray publicly, I just recited the Lord’s Prayer (being an Anglican-boy). I was scared to death because I had not prayed in public before! The first small group I led seemed like a monumental task because I did not see myself as a born leader. But I took a step of faith.

Joshua, Gideon, and Jeremiah. The Lord had to encourage Joshua continually in his new role as a leader. We do not depend on our ability but upon God’s ability in us! Gideon also struggled with the Lord’s call to leadership in his life. Jeremiah felt the way a younger leader often feels when he or she begins to lead a small group. He thought he didn’t have anything to say because he was too young. But the Lord told him not to say he was too young and not to be afraid of people. God would give him the words to say (see Jeremiah 1:6-8).

Esther. She was an unlikely leader. She was born into poverty and was an orphan as well. But she rose from obscurity to the courts of the king and became queen over one of the most powerful empires in history. She faced difficult choices there, but she never lost her faith in God. Esther realized that everything that happened in her life prepared her for the moment she would stand before the king and plead to save her people. Hers is a story of courage and a willingness to follow God, no matter what.

These men and women felt a profound sense of inadequacy when the Lord called them to leadership, but this is the type of individual the Lord uses – someone who is completely dependent on Him! According to the Bible, God delights in manifesting His strength through our weakness (see 2 Corinthians 12:9). I believe there is such a thing as a healthy sense of inadequacy.

We must be convinced that if God doesn’t show up, it’s all over! So, if you feel like you may be called to small-group leadership, but you don’t think you have all the natural gifts you need, or you feel that you have made too many mistakes, be encouraged – you are in good company!


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Saturday, March 4, 2017

Sarah, Why You Gotta Be so Rude? Don't You Know its God's Word? (Genesis 18:10-15)

One of them said, ‘I’m coming back about this time next year. When I arrive, your wife Sarah will have a son.’ Sarah was listening at the tent opening, just behind the man. Abraham and Sarah were only by this time, very old. Sarah was far past the age for having babies. Sarah laughed within herself, ‘An old woman like me? Get pregnant? With this old man of a husband?’ God said to Abraham, ‘Why did Sarah laugh saying, ‘Me? Have a baby? An old woman like me?’ Is anything too hard for God? I’ll be back about this time next year and Sarah will have a baby.’ Sarah lied. She said, ‘I didn’t laugh,’ because she was afraid. But he said, ‘Yes, you did; you laughed.’”
(Genesis 18:10-15, The Message)

It was the hottest part of the day, nobody travel at that time. But three strangers showed up at the tent of Abraham and Sarah beneath the oaks of Mamre (Genesis 1:1). Abraham must have recognized them as angels – the manifestation of God, “God appeared to Abraham” – for he run out to meet them and bowed down before them. Abraham insisted that they stop awhile and rest in the cooler shade of the oak trees and wash their feet. He called Sarah to prepare bread for the visitors while he selected the best calf to slaughter and cook for his honorary guests. This is MEH… Middle-East hospitality!

When they had eaten, the visitors made an astonishing announcement: within a year, Sarah would give birth to “a son.” So specific. Male. One year. A son. But behind the visitors, someone was laughing. Sarcastic laugh? Laugh of unbelief? Laugh with a touch of mockery? Maybe all of it. It was an old woman’s laugh – Sarah’s. That was rude.

As if the visitors were pissed off, one of them asked, “Why did you laugh?” Surely they understood why she laughed. The thought of a 90-year-old woman giving birth was ridiculous. Rude, yes; but understandable (I wonder if Abraham ever smile when he heard this news too, or might learned his lesson in chapter 18?). But the visitors, the angels, the messengers were serious. God was serious. God thinks higher than us… He always uses the foolish and the weak things of the world to shame the wise and the strong. Sarah would soon see that nothing is too hard – or too ridiculous – for God. The question that the visitor asked Abraham and Sarah that day is the same question that the Holy Spirit is asking us now: Is anything too hard for God? Actually, it’s a statement: Nothing is impossible to God.


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