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  • 20 Feb 2021 8:25 AM | Josh Hunt (Administrator)

    What is a disciple? What does he look like? What attitudes does she portray? What skills does he possess? How does she spend her time? What are his priorities? Without a clear answer to these questions, we work in a fog. We are painting a picture without a clear image in our mind as to what the picture should look like. We may win with the numbers, but we lose where it really counts. Unless I can point to men and women, boys and girls whose lives have been radically changed by the Gospel, I have not done what my Lord told me to do. I have not made disciples.

    Those who have a firm grasp of God’s word and make it their home are on their way to being Christ’s disciples.

    Juan Carlos Ortiz asks the pointed question, “If I have 300 baby Christians this year and a year later I have 600 baby Christians, do we call this progress?” He warns against the doctrine of the “Eternal Childhood of the Believer”.5

    If the members of your group are characterized by love for each other, you are doing your job of making disciples.

    What is a disciple? Jesus gives us a glimpse into the answer to this question in three passages from the book of John. The first is John 8:31, “If you hold to my teachings you are really my disciples”. It is interesting that He says this to those who had already believed in Him. The Word for hold is used in other contexts to mean, “abide, live, dwell, to be at home.”6 Those who have a firm grasp of God’s word and make it their home are on their way to being Christ’s disciples. This is the first mark of a disciple: abiding in Christ. The second mark has to do with the body.

    John 13:35 says, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” This is such a direct statement, it needs no explanation. If the members of your group are characterized by love for each other, you are doing your job of making disciples.

    In many cases, the world perceives us as being more judgmental, critical and condemning. No wonder we are not taking a nation for God.

    I have asked a number of groups if they thought outsiders perceived believers to be more loving or less loving than the world in general. The resounding answer I have received is that there is little difference, that we are no more loving than the world. In many cases, the world perceives us as being more judgmental, critical and condemning. No wonder we are not taking our nation for God. The world would beat our doors down if they thought they could find love here. You could not build buildings fast enough; you would not be able to start services often enough; the nets would be bursting if you could create a church that truly loved. I am not talking about some ethereal, high sounding out-there love. I am talking about the love that has someone over for dinner. I am talking about the love that gives a cup of cold water. . . or iced tea.

    The first characteristic of a disciple is abiding in Christ. The second is love. The third is fruit bearing.

    The world would beat our doors down if they thought they could find love here.

    John 15:8 says, “. . . that you bear much fruit, showing yourself to be my disciples.” Eugene Petterson paraphrases this verse in a beautiful way, “When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing.”7

    Implicit in the idea of fruit bearing is reproduction. The seed is always in the fruit. One of the marks of maturity is the ability to reproduce. People reproduce after like kind. Teachers reproduce teachers according to 2 Timothy 2:2. (“And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.”) More on this in the section on reproduction.

    A disciple is one who is:

    ☞ At home in the Word.

    ☞ Functioning in loving relationships

    ☞ Bearing fruit.

    Josh Hunt, You Can Double Your Class in Two Years or Less, 1995.

  • 19 Feb 2021 7:33 AM | Josh Hunt (Administrator)

    I can summarize my life message in one sentence: you can double a group in two years or less by inviting every member and every prospect to every fellowship every month.

    A longer, one-paragraph version goes like this: A group of ten that doubles every eighteen months can reach a thousand people for God in ten years. One of the best ways of growing a group is through relationships. The gospel spreads best on the bridges of existing relationships. Donald McGavran called these The Bridges of God. Hospitality makes relational evangelism intentional evangelism. If we love them they will come and they will come to love our Lord. It is not enough to tell them about a God who loves them, we must love them. It is not enough to tell them the words about grace, we must be gracious to them.

    Do the top 100 have anything to say about hospitality? Once again, let me quote the pastor of the nation’s largest church:

    When I got out of Seminary I started working with High School students I learned two things real quick, number one. I learned it was possible to create environments where unchurched, unbelieving kids could come and even though they didn’t believe what we believe they would come back the next week to hear more. And I also learned a more important thing. I learned that if you can get unchurched, unbelieving people in a community of believers that are loving each other and caring for each other and being real Christians, that being in that community breaks down the barriers to unbelief. It strips away big objections—good God and bad things happening to good people and all those legitimate questions. You get somebody in the community where the church is being the church and somehow the edges get softer and people’s hearts open up and life change happens. And so, we started creating environments where kids started coming and lives started being changed and do you know where we got the resistance? From the church people! And so one night I am sitting in this meeting. It had been going an hour and a half because we had a band and video and stuff and there are all these wonderful church people … I know many of them, knew many of them for many years, some of them come here now. And the meeting was, “Andy, if you keep doing this, creating these environments, here is what is going to happen, and all the potential horrible stuff and sex drugs and rock and roll and whoa! It’s going to be terrible.

    And I just kept thinking, “Where is this coming from?” Toward the end of the meeting a lady stood up toward my right. She is still a friend of mine. She stood up, tears in her eyes, her voice quivering, and she said, “I am amazed at what I have heard. For an hour I have listened to everyone talk about how afraid they are about what might happen. Can I tell you what has happened? My two sons, who have never been involved in a church look forward to every Wednesday night and never miss. And, it you shut down this program, I am afraid they will never step foot inside a church again.” She sat down.

    And I made up my mind. I am going to spend the rest of my life finding people who understand that you can create environments in a local church that allow us to partner with people who are fishing. And I want to create environments for people and as they come and as they get involved in a community of believers their belief system begins to change, not because we have confronted, not because we give them specific answers to specific questions, although there is a time and a place of that. But, because they are in the presence, as much as they’ll ever be in the presence of the living savior.

    The nation’s largest church is only nineteen years old. It was able to grow so rapidly (in part) because the pastor, Andy Stanley regularly stands before the people and says, “I am in a group that is doubling; I want you to be in a group that is doubling.”

    They grow by creating environments where unchurched people can kick tires in an atmosphere of grace and acceptance. They have discovered that if they will love people, people’s hearts will warm up to a message about a God who loves them. They have discovered that if they are gracious to people, people’s hearts warm up to a message about grace. If they will befriend people, people will warm up to a message about, “What a friend we have in Jesus.”

    North Point has grown by loving people in common, ordinary, pedestrian ways. But, they are not the only church that does.

    Willow Creek and Matthew Parties

    North Point is not the only top-100 churches that uses hospitality to reach people. Willow Creek uses hospitality as well. Bill Hybels calls them Matthew Parties. They are based on Jesus’ encounter with Matthew (also known as Levi). Here is the story from Luke 5.

    After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. “Follow me,” Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything and followed him. Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Luke 5:27–32 (NIV)

    Based on this example Bill Hybels and the people of Willow Creek use Matthew parties to build bridges to people who are far from God.

    Willow Creek wrote a drama that I have used many times to communicate the value of hospitality. (If you would like to teach on the value of hospitality in your church, I strongly recommend you use this video. Available on Willow Creek’s website.) It features a character named Evan Powell who is the quintessential “Unchurched Harry.” He meets a woman he is interested in and she invites him to church. Not interested.

    She invites him to a home group Bible Study. Not interested.

    People from the Bible study invite him to go bowling. Not interested.

    They invite him to dinner. Not interested.

    They invite him to a music festival. Not interested.

    They invite him to a vintage car show. Bingo. Evan can’t resist. He loves vintage cars. He goes to the vintage car show and discovers one of the guys in the group has two vintage cars. This guy invites him over to see the cars and a friendship develops. The friendship opens the door for Evan to become a friend of Jesus. Everything changes when we love people rather than just telling them about Christ’s love.

    Josh Hunt, Doubling Groups 2.0 (Josh Hunt, 2015).

  • 11 Feb 2021 7:23 AM | Josh Hunt (Administrator)

    Two couples received the same small group leader training. Chris and Susan began a new group with the dream of ministering to single adults in a healthy, growing, multiplying group. Mark and Kathy took over an existing group because one of their pastors asked them to, but they did not have their own dream for the group. For the first six months, both couples worked hard at inviting and contacting people but both groups stayed small.

    Mark and Kathy got discouraged. They soon lost what little dream they had for the group and began to go through the motions of group leadership. They stopped praying for their people or contacting them regularly. They quit invit-ing new people. They did not take much time to prepare for the group. They stopped having fellowship activities. The dream was gone. As a result, their small group kept shrinking. Within a year it died, and they left the church.

    Chris and Susan did not lose sight of their dream. They worked hard to apply other habits that would help their dream. Eventually their efforts started to pay off. Within a year, their group had taken off. It continued to grow and eventually it multiplied. The dream made the difference. The first habit of the highly effective small group leader is to dream of leading a healthy, growing, multiplying group.

    The first habit of the highly effective small group leader:

    Dream of leading a healthy, growing, multiplying group.

    The Value of Having a Dream

    Having a Dream Increases Potential

    Most small groups and small group leaders are sleeping giants. Satan wants to keep them that way, so he constantly whispers lies to small group leaders about what they can't do. Satan is defeated when small group leaders get a dream of what they and their group can become. Their ability to make a difference for God's kingdom immediately rises.

    Effective small groups have staggering potential. Our church began as a single small group meeting in my basement; it now has over one hundred small groups. The Methodist church traces its beginning to a small group that met at Oxford University, and today it has over 11 million members.

    If a small group leader multiplies his group into just one other multi-plying group every year for ten years, the results are incredible. After the first year, 1 has become 2. At the end of the second year, 2 has become 4. After the third year, 4 has become 8. Then 8 groups become 16, 16 become 32 groups, and 32 become 64 groups after the sixth year! Then if multipli-cation continues annually, 64 groups give birth to 128, 128 groups to 256, 256 groups to 512, and 512 groups become 1028 groups by the end of the tenth year. Over 1,000 groups in ten years! Such is the possible result of a single small group!

    Effective small groups are the untapped potential of the local church. Not only can they multiply to reach large numbers of people, but they can be spiritual hospitals for the hurting and hothouses for spiritual growth. They can be the breeding ground for leaders and the launching pad for spiritual warfare. They can give people a feeling of belonging. Effective small groups can create evangelism teams. Yet this potential often goes unrealized without a dream.

    Someone observed that the potential of a man is measured by the goals he pursues. Few people realize even a small fraction of their potential. Having a dream helps a small group leader begin to realize his awesome potential to make a difference for God.

    Dream the dream of leading a healthy, growing, multiplying group. Dream of leading your group to multiply every year. Believe that God can use your small group to make a big difference.

    Having a Dream Aids Accomplishment

    I started a group several years ago. I never had a dream for that group. I started it because a man asked me to, and I felt obligated. It was simply a weekly meeting of a few men to study the Bible. The group never jelled and never grew; within a year, it died a quiet death.

    ? Failure to maintain contact with the members. Group members will miss group meetings. People get sick. They get tied up late at work. They go out of town for a week or two. They stay home to help the kids with a science project. And if no one contacts them in between small group meetings, one week's absence turns into two. Two weeks turn into three and soon they are no longer a part of the group.

    Growing groups regularly contact all members and always make the effort to contact absentees. (See chapter four, Contact.)

    ? No social activities to bond the group and attract new people. "All work and no play make Jack a dull boy." And all meetings and no social activities can make the group a dull place. Humans are social creatures and enjoy occasional social outlets. (See chapter seven, Fellowship.)

    ? Failure of the leader to share responsibilities with apprentices. The solo leader will reach a limit of what he can do. When his limit is reached, the group stops growing, unless he shares responsibilities with others. (See chapter six, Mentor.)

    Group Multiplication.

    The highly effective group leader will help develop new leaders and new groups. Healthy cells will not only grow; they will multiply.

    Multiplication Barriers:

    ? Failure to have and mentor apprentices. New groups must have new leaders. Groups fail to multiply when they have no apprentices to become leaders of the new groups. Try not to start any new groups unless they are already pregnant. A pregnant group is one with an apprentice or apprentices already in place being prepared to eventually lead new groups.

    But it is not enough to have an apprentice. The group leader needs to mentor the apprentice to develop as a group leader. (See chapter six, Mentor.)

    ? Failure to plan to multiply. Some groups have apprentices but never seem to have enough momentum to multiply. Many groups have found that the momentum needed to multiply comes after a plan to multiply is in place. This simple plan primarily involves the date and method of multiplication.

    The Small Group Leader's Personal Dream of Group Health, Growth, and Multiplication

    Pray right now about your dream as a small group leader.

    Write out your dream in your own words and/or use the statements below.

    - I have the dream of leading a healthy, growing, multiplying small group.

    - I will learn the habits needed to make this dream come true.

    - By Gods grace, I will live the habits needed to make this dream come true.

    Dave Earley, 8 Habits of Effective Small Group Leaders (Touch Outreach Ministries, 2001).

  • 05 Feb 2021 4:18 PM | Josh Hunt (Administrator)

    In writing a book about Jesus, one impression struck me more forcefully than any other: we have tamed him. The Jesus I learned about as a child was sweet and inoffensive, the kind of person whose lap you want to climb onto: someone like television’s cuddly Mister Rogers, only with a beard. Indeed Jesus did have qualities of gentleness and compassion that attracted little children. Mister Rogers, however, he assuredly was not.

    I realized this fact when I studied the Sermon on the Mount. “Blessed are the poor. Blessed are the persecuted. Blessed are those who mourn.” These sayings have a soft, proverbial ring to them—unless you happen to know someone poor, persecuted, or mourning. The homeless huddling over heating grates in our major cities, the tortured prisoners whose pictures are distributed by Amnesty International, the families of terrorists’ victims—who would think of calling them blessed, or “lucky”?

    In all the movies made about Jesus’ life, surely the most provocative—and perhaps the most accurate—portrayal of the Sermon on the Mount appears in a low-budget BBC production entitled Son of Man. Roman soldiers have just invaded a Galilean village to exact vengeance for some trespass against the empire. They have strung up Jewish men of fighting age, shoved their hysterical wives to the ground, even speared babies. Into that tumultuous scene of blood and tears and keening for the dead strides Jesus with eyes ablaze. “I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those that persecute you,” he shouts above the groans.

    You can imagine the villagers’ response to such unwelcome advice. The Sermon on the Mount did not soothe them; it infuriated them.

    I came away from my study of Jesus both comforted and terrified. Jesus came to earth “full of grace and truth,” said John: his truth comforts my intellectual doubts even as his grace comforts my emotional doubts. And yet I also encountered a terrifying aspect of Jesus, one that I had never learned about in Sunday school. Did anyone go away from Jesus’ presence feeling satisfied about his or her life?

    Few people felt comfortable around Jesus; those who did were the type no one else felt comfortable around. The Jesus I met in the Gospels was anything but tame.

    “Unwrapping Jesus,” Christianity Today,

    June 17, 1996 (31 – 32)

    Philip Yancey, Grace Notes: Daily Readings with Philip Yancey (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009).

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