Reaching the “unchurched” must be the focus for those who follow the One who came to seek and save the lost. Small Groups are a community, where all are welcome unconditionally, and can connect easily with other small group members and with their God.
Sometimes we lose our sense of “being normal” when we are in any church setting. Our language changes, the way we relax and have fun changes, and we can become so detached from the world around us. To those who have no experience of church, kingdom language and “customs” can make them feel alienated from the people who care about them.
I was in the home of some very dear Muslim friends just last week. It was time for their “prayer.” They casually said to another lady and me, “Just keep chatting,” as they put their prayer mats in the middle of the living room and silently prayed. When finished, they simply carried on talking to me. It was all so natural and easy. This has occurred many times when I have been in their homes. I thought how wonderful it would be if we as Christians could be as natural and accommodating about the One True Living God.
I was in a small group where there were two new unbelievers. The small group leader suggested a time of prayer. The unbelievers looked at each other in horror. I quietly said, “Don’t worry, we are just chatting to Jesus.” They smiled, relaxed, and then one of them asked, “Can I chat, too?” He then proceeded to chat in normal language - quite a contrast to the small group members who had all adopted “Christianese” language and stance.
On another occasion, we had a 10-year old boy who had never been in a church setting come into the house. His family was into drugs, etc. We were praying when he came in. He looked around the room and asked what we were doing. After explaining that we were chatting to Jesus and listening to what He had to say to us, I said, “Ask Jesus how much he loves you.” This young lad stopped for about 2 seconds and then said, “I know! He told me He loves me more than I need water.” Amazing!
The first time I went into a public bar to ask directions, I looked around the room and was horrified. I had no idea where to go or who to ask. It was alien territory to me. At that moment I thought that this is what it must feel like when an unchurched person comes into our midst, no idea of the songs, how to pray, when to stand, when to sit, and how to find the verses in the Bible. Culture shock!
So remember that integration means that we make the initial bridges that bring outsiders into the community of God.