When you invite a not-yet-Christian to church, what do they hear? Do they know the same church you know, the one where all are welcome and Jesus is the priority, or do they know cold buildings, covering their shoulders or even being judged?
For many, the church means a building and it’s a building they’re not ready to enter into. If the church existed just between those four walls then that would present an issue in reaching our friends with Jesus, but it doesn’t. The church lives in every human that follows Jesus, and that means that the church can be anywhere.
The church can exist around the dinner table just as it can sat in pews. Jesus’ forgiveness, mercy and grace can be extended over a meal just as it can from a Sunday preach. The gospel can be shared in a small group, just as it can in a congregation. So what would it look like to be a part of a small group that is missional at the heart? One that friends are excited to come to? One that challenges their perceptions of church?
I think it looks a lot like Jesus and Peter in John 21.
I imagine them sitting on the beach having a catch up. There’s no big crowd, the only distraction is the waves. It’s just friends having breakfast. It was a small group setting, where there was space to talk, that Peter’s restoration happened.
It was over a meal and conversation that Peter, after all this time, could tell Jesus he loved him. Sitting with friends who all bore witness to Jesus’ restoration plan for the world and for Peter, it is here that Jesus gives Peter the second chance to follow him.
What if all students are a little like Peter? Full of potential, somewhat flawed, but ready for the adventure?
What if small groups weren’t just for Christian friends to gather in the week, but a space where restoration can happen, church-goers or not?
When we look at university campuses and the students walking the streets, we need to ask the question, what space can we create for restoration to happen? For some, it’ll be a church service on a Sunday, but for others, it’ll be in a friend’s living room or around a dinner table. This will be the space where not-yet-Christians can know they’re welcome, hear the word of God and ask their questions.
What do you think would happen in your church if students led small groups like that? Ones where people like Peter could try praying for healing, invite others in and experience restoration?