From: Focusing on winning individuals.
To: Focusing on groups — to bring the gospel into existing families, groups and communities.
90% of salvations described in the book of Acts describe either large or small groups. Only 10% are individuals who experience salvation by themselves. We also see Jesus focusing on sending out his disciples to look for households, and we see Jesus often reaching households. Note examples such as Zacchaeus and his entire household experiencing salvation (Luke 19:9-10), and the Samaritan woman coming to faith along with a great many from her entire town (John 4:39-42).
Reaching groups has many advantages over reaching and gathering individuals. For example:
- Instead of transferring “Christian culture” to a single new believer, local culture begins to be redeemed by the group.
- Persecution isn’t isolated and focused on the individual but is normalized across the group. They can support each other in persecution.
- Joy is shared as a family or community discovers Christ together.
- Unbelievers have a visible example of “here’s what it looks like for a group of people like me to follow Christ.”
This is one of the primary ways Christians in the Global North unintentionally undermine multiplication strategies. When we first encounter a spiritual seeker is a crucial juncture. If we view this person as only an individual, we will most likely work to disconnect her/him from the groups in order to connect them to ourselves and/or other groups. Likely we will invite them to other groups where we already have meaningful relationships. While this is not wrong, it is unwise. It is addition at its best/worst.
Before you start a one on one Bible study with an individual ask, “Who do you know who also has these spiritual thoughts?” Or maybe, “Which of your friends might be asking the same kinds of spiritual questions?” The goal is to remember that most people have family or friends and Persons of Peace will want their closest relationships to go on this spiritual journey with them, if at all possible.
As the copied material above indicates, this effort to see a whole family and/or group of friends come to faith together is absolutely essential when working in “closed” people groups. While we assume that is not so important here in the U.S., we may need to reconsider, especially if we are reaching out to refugees or immigrants. Just this morning I heard about a teenager who came to faith as an individual and his immediate family sent him back to their homeland (they are refugees from a nation which is overwhelmingly unreached) so he can be peer pressured into renouncing his faith. What if he had been encouraged to invite family members to participate from the beginning?
While the people you are contacting may not be like that teenager, what if their disciples are? Why not start a process which can be used anywhere in this world? Let’s use practices which honor the family and friendship structures which are already in place? Yes, some relationships will become oppositional, but let’s make sure it is not because of our failure to try to reach people in their existing groups.