by Austin Maxheimer
What if leaders in every small group in America were not allowed to get out a Bible during their group time for an entire year? What would we do with ourselves? What if our groups became safe environments for followers of Jesus to genuinely share the hope they have within them through Jesus? What if the focus shifted from only Bible knowledge and included opportunities to start creatively communicating the Gospel?
Here’s a preview of what might happen…
Benefits for Christians to creatively communicating the Gospel…
It forces us (small group leaders) to know the Story.
Not all of us can have seminary degrees. There’s a good chance the majority of the people in our churches will never become completely comfortable with the book of Habakkuk. But it’s important for people in our groups to know the big story of God’s redemptive acts, and communicate it with ease. If week in and week out we are creatively communicating the Gospel, members will soak in the narrative of God’s love for them and see how it’s transforming their lives.
It returns each group time back to Jesus.
How many of our group times go by without a mention of the Gospel or even of Jesus Christ? I’ll admit that I’m guilty of this as a group leader sometimes. It’s crazy! Jesus is the sum and total of all things through whom all things hold together, move, and have their being! How can we not tap into this during our group times? If we are creatively communicating the Gospel in our groups, then we will be returning to Jesus as the source.
It creates ownership in the group.
There is an unhealthy expectation for group leaders in small groups. Leaders are important, but the actual group time itself has to be owned by the group. All group members need to be invested in making the group time happen. For the whole group to consistently and creatively communicate the Gospel, everyone will need to contribute to the creative process. It starts with questions like ‘How did Jesus show up in your week’ or ‘How are you relying on the Holy Spirit right now’.
It necessarily turns the focus outward.
Even if you never actually deliver the message as a group (which would be a shame), mentally you are forced to think outside the group. We have to break our Christian huddle and get outside of our living rooms. A catalyst for this happening can be to envision and create opportunities where your group creatively communicates the Gospel, naturally transitioning the focus from internal to external.
Benefits for people far from God to creatively communicating the Gospel…
It removes “Bibles Says” and infuses “Scripture Is.”
To an audience who does not hold the Bible as the authoritative Word of God, living out the good news of Jesus Christ may be the only possible chance for us to show them what Scripture actually is. Creatively communicating the Gospel allows us to stand astride the cultural gap, never having to proclaim what the Bible says to those outside the faith community, yet leaving no doubt whatsoever about how God’s word brings life.
It compels us to tell the Greatest Story.
The cultural mood says, “Whatever works for you.” This can seem defeating at times because it relativizes truth. However, it does allow us to share what works for us. We have a culture that has deconstructed itself into meaninglessness. Creatively communicating the Gospel can fill the void by telling the “big story” of Scripture in small ways. The Gospel has proven to transcend time, culture, and geography. As believers in God’s Word, we know it to be a true reflection of all reality, but the compelling truth is that it is nonetheless true for each individual experience.
It’s communicated by real people—who are hard to hate.
Anyone can hate a caricature. There is the atheist caricature of Christians as Bible-toting dullards who blindly accept truths from a “higher power” that ends up looking a lot like the God in the mirror. There is the Christian caricature of atheists as having devil horns, who are creating this vast conspiracy to purposefully undermine God and the church. Then there is the vast majority of “everyday people” who love to point at both extremes and say, “At least I’m not one of those crazies,” so that they can continue living a comfortable, unexamined life. One of the necessities of creatively communicating the Gospel is proximity. Caricatures break down through relationships. While someone might be vehemently opposed to the Bible, they might be open to a conversation with their Bible-believing friend at a pub over some things the Bible has to say.
It makes use of all available resources.
When Paul went to plant a church he had the Old Testament, the historical event of Jesus Christ, and his life experiences. He also had a team and the people he was trying to reach. When we creatively communicate the Gospel in our small groups, we are utilizing an important aspect—our team (groups)—but we are also utilizing the most important resource that largely gets overlooked, and that is the people far from God themselves! Paul said to the Athenians, “I am not here to tell you about a strange foreign deity, but about this One whom you already worship, though without full knowledge.” God’s existence is not contingent on our ability to explain or prove him; he is already manifest in all facets of our culture. God is a reality to all people’s experience, because God is reality. All we have to do is help to reveal what is already present!