Home groups are designed to meet, be authentic, grow spiritually, intentionally disciple and then multiply. How do non-believers fit into home groups? Some might think that they do not. Yet, Jesus went to the homes where there were non-believing people,
10 Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” (Matt. 9:10-11 NKJ)
We should welcome non-believers into home groups, but the goals may need to be adjusted somewhat. In other words, you may not get into deep doctrines or controversial issues as much as if there were only believers. Our main concern with non-believers is – do they know Jesus as their Savior. Their sinful actions are not the issue; only their sin of unbelief in Jesus is the issue. That’s why Jesus went to homes where there were sinners. He wanted them to believe on Him, so they could start growing and be discipled to a new way of living.
Here are several principles to consider as you lead your home group. Home groups should be about discipleship, but also about reaching non-believers.
We should pray for unbelievers to invite.
Encourage the home group to pray for unbelievers to invite. One of our home group leaders developed a great book mark that encouraged prayer for a particular non-believing person. Each person wrote the person’s name on the bookmark. Every time you see the bookmark, at least once per day, we are instructed pray for that person and trust God to reach that person. You may not realize what kind of snare the person is in from Satan, so your prayer may be essential to break through to his heart, help break down his spiritual walls to the gospel and identify with your home group. Jesus said, “Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” (Matt. 9:38 NKJ) You may be one of the harvesters in his life!
We should adapt to helping unbelievers.
As mentioned above, the home group should be flexible enough that when there are known non-believers present, the home group should proceed as planned, but with several considerations. First, wouldn’t it be great if everyone was praying for the non-believer without him knowing it? The home group needs to be aware and alert to this, so they can be other-centered to want to reach his soul. His soul really is more important than a particular agenda or personal issue, isn’t it? Secondly, the home group should direct the questions back to Jesus regularly and even share personal examples of how He was the solution to dealing with their personal challenges. Thirdly, the home group should be open to questions the non-believer might ask, without getting too far off on a rabbit trail. Fourthly, the home group should be very tolerant of the person if he is rough on the edges in order to demonstrate Christ’s love and mercy, as long as sin is not glorified in any way. And fifthly, if he disagrees with biblical answers, the home group should accept that that his responses reflect where he is at the time, and not become argumentative. It’s a heart issue, not a brain issue. If he sees even basic theological questions, like eternal life, different than the group, then that’s just something the home group can anticipate God will one day change in the heart of the person! Mark wrote,
16 And when the scribes and Pharisees saw Him eating with the tax collectors and sinners, they said to His disciples, “How is it that He eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners?” 17 When Jesus heard it, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” (Mar. 2:16-17 NKJ)
Don’t change your agenda, when a non-believer comes.
As was stated previously, do not change the agenda. Make everything as close to the original format as possible. There may be weeks or months that pass of the person attending before his spiritual wall is broken down by the group’s love for him. A non-believer may not understand all the interpretations or applications, but after salvation, much of the information will make sense when he has God the Holy Spirit making sense for him! Do all things decently and in order (1 Cor. 14:40).
Be willing to meet afterwards for more discussion.
As a home group leader, the time after the home group when everyone is eating, is a great time to a build bridge for more discussion. That is the time to find out some of the things that may be hindering him from trusting Christ. It may be a lack of knowledge, or unbiblical teaching from his childhood, or negative experiences from church people or leaders in the past. That may be the time when you can use Scripture to clarify misconceptions and Biblical Truth to him. It may even mean that a separate time may be necessary away from the distractions of people that you would sacrifice your interests and time for him (John 10: 11). I remember at midnight talking to a guy at a men’s retreat. It was at 2 o’clock in the morning when he trusted Christ and he began a genuine upward growth from that point.
This is the back door to the church for some.
Home group is often the back door for bringing people into the church. While society in America is changing and many have never been to church, there are also many who have been to church and either rejected what was presented or they had a bad experience and view the church with cynical eyes. The Home group may be the opportunity to show genuine Christian love and mercy, so that the non-believer sees that the “church” (the assembly of people) is known by their love for one another, not condemnations and self-righteousness. Jesus said,
34 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35 NKJ)
Open your heart AND your home group to non-believers. That is why Jesus keeps His saints around. We need to grow the church by reaching non-believers!