A visit to just about any small group or class seems to indicate that they are a little schizophrenic. Group conversation often swings back and forth between two extreme topics. One topic is the role of the class in fulfilling the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20. The other topic centers around the phrase "not being in the world". The first topic addresses the need to take the gospel of Jesus to the remotest parts of the world. The second topic is about keeping one's heart unstained by the world.
Both of these views are biblical and both are right and are actually compatible. As the teacher or leader of your group however, you must understand that the latter view will become the dominant view of your group – if you do not intervene.
There is a separatist movement in the American church today. It is promoted by well-meaning followers of Christ and it is based in fear, fear of that big bad world out there beyond the walls of the church and the confines of the home. For a follower of Christ to live in fear of the world is to live as if the gospel has been stripped of its power to free the souls of men from captivity to sin. Fear of the world is an outright denial of the power of cross.
I believe that this fear of the world is expressed in our churches and groups by the word "come". "Come to our church" and "come to our class" are two examples. I often hear people in our groups talk of evangelizing their neighborhood with this phrase, "If we could just get them to come to our church…" The word "come" is the antithesis of being a missional small community. Missional terminology uses the phrase "attractional evangelism" to describe this attitude. It is kryptonite to our message. The world is not going to come to your class! Instead, your group is going to have to adopt a new word… "sent".
This is why we send missionaries to other cultures, because it is not likely that other cultures are going to come to us. Your small group must begin to think in terms of "sent". Every believer in your group is a missionary and their mission field is that big bad world out there. In fact, your group should look at itself as a gathering of missionaries who are sent into the neighborhoods in which they live.
Here are some suggestions to help you lead your group out of the separatist movement:
- Each week, ask your group what they did to be "salt and light" in their work or neighborhood.
- Share as often as possible from your personal experiences of being a missionary at work, school, etc.
- Be a student of your community. The BGCO has recently done a study called Oklahoma Life, which is available at: http://www.bgco.org/5034
- Lovingly address moments when your class is functioning more like a separatist group than a missional group.
- God's Word is full of missional verses. Focus your group on these passages as you study the Bible.
- At least annually, lead your class to do a class mission project, which is tomorrow's topic.