Choose Sides. Which Side Are You On?

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It happens every once in a while.  Disagreement and dialogue here in the comment section.  Most of the time the interaction is healthy.  Sometimes the conversation is so good it generates other posts.  And every once in a while I consider using my editorial privilege to delete a comment and block a reader.

I had one of those last week.  My post I Dreamed I Was at the Southern Baptist Convention, and specifically my urging that we make it possible for the least connected in our congregations (who are the most connected to the outside) to host a group and invite their seeking friends and neighbors to join, prompted a number of comments as well as a conversation of sorts.  Although the conversation ranged over several objections, it centered on what I would summarize as a debate about the importance of maintaining a very high bar of leader qualifications versus the relative lack of concern for the urgency of connecting anyone who is unconnected.

Upon further review…I’ve concluded that it is almost exactly the same debate found in Acts 15 where some, prioritizing the rules of the status quo, tried to put the kibosh on the grace oriented evangelism tactics of Paul and company:

“Certain people came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the believers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.”  Acts 15:1 NIV

I love Andy Stanley’s line from a message he gave on Acts 15 at LifeChurch.TV:

“I don’t know what the requirements in your church are for membership.  I don’t know what the requirements in your church are for involvement, but I doubt they involve a surgery of any type.” (here’s the message it came from).

I don’t know if you can see the connection, but when it comes right down to it, I find the priority of connecting unchurched people in Jesus’ reaction to the needs of people in Matthew 9:36:

“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”  See also, God’s Heart for Unconnected People.

What do you think Jesus’ priority is (in regards to unconnected people)?  Do you think Jesus would be content to insist on high entrance requirements for hosts/shepherds if it meant not caring for the harassed and helpless?  Or would Jesus recruit those who would take the first step and follow?

Should I insist that small group leaders meet the standards of an elder if it means that I can’t find enough or recruit enough to connect as many as possible?  Should I be looking for Jesus Jr. (and not accepting potential hosts who don’t meet those standards)…if it means that many will remain unconnected?

Should I insist on very high entrance requirements for leaders?  Or should I make it possible for the least connected on the inside (and the most connected on the outside) to take a first step toward hosting a group…and then make development steps an easy and natural process?

Hear me…I am not saying that we shouldn’t care about leader development.  I remain insistent that we can only expect the members to experience what their leader has already experienced.  At the same time, I am certain that insisting on high entrance requirements excludes many from  the care of a shepherd.  See also, Life Change at the Member Level.

What do you think?  Have a question? Want to argue?  You can click here to jump into the conversation.

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  1. hmarquiss on September 10, 2013 at 5:01 am

    Would you give money to a group where you knew there was financial corruption? Then you wouldn’t have given money to Jesus’ group. Jesus had a leader in His group who was stealing money. Jesus was pushing Judas to make a decision (look at His messages on money) and He gave him time to repent or come out against Jesus as a traitor. In that period where Judas was making up his mind Jesus did not pull the plug giving Judas every opportunity to make the right choice. In a different circumstance Jesus would have confronted and removed the treasure. A this point, however, Jesus was using a lower standard for leadership than we would.

  2. pkspratt on September 10, 2013 at 6:10 am

    Just be careful. James 3:1

  3. markchowell on September 10, 2013 at 6:40 am

    You make a good point! I had never thought about Jesus and his inclusion of Judas in that way, but it is very interesting. I believe Jesus modeled a pattern of selecting “unqualified” followers who would become qualified. The 12 were not chosen from the core. They were the b team.


  4. markchowell on September 10, 2013 at 6:56 am

    Although people often cite James 3:1 as a reason for maintaining a high bar of small group leadership, and I understand the concern, I’m not positioning or representing a small group host/leader as a teacher. I do think that caution rests squarely on the back of the small group pastor or director who has the responsibility to train and develop leaders as well as select suitable study material. I think of it like the instance in Acts 19 when Paul comes across a group of disciples who have never heard of the Holy Spirit. I’m sure that one instance is representative of many millions since. In addition, most of Paul’s letters were written at least in part to correct error.

    I’m not saying we can ignore the caution of James 3:1. Only that there are a number of factors in the equation.

    Thanks for jumping in!


  5. pkspratt on September 10, 2013 at 7:20 am

    I agree. Thanks for responding. Glad you brought this out. I too jump start groups and connect people with new leaders and then train. I began working with a church grounded in traditional Sunday School. The perceived requirements for a teacher were so great no one would step up to teach. When we began our small groups, off campus model we signed up 35 new leaders/hosts instantly using the strategy and logic you proposed. We do exercise a base level of screening but try to develop them as they go. The burden is on us a church leaders to see these hosts become developed. Thank you for your daily posts.

  6. Crissy Carroll on September 11, 2013 at 11:04 am

    God chooses the overlooked to do His work. 1 Corinthians 1:26-31.

  7. markchowell on September 11, 2013 at 11:06 am

    I like that one! Thanks Crissy!