The single biggest turning in my life came at the end of a Lay Witness Mission. I have heard rumor that Lay Witness Missions have taken on quite a wide variety of forms, and there have been some abuses, so allow me to tell you about my experience. Here is how a Lay Witness Mission worked for me.
On-fire-for-God laymen where invited in for the weekend to help us with the Lay Witness Mission. (They paid their own expenses.) The weekend consisted of a mixture of activities–large group times, small groups times, discussion and testimonies from the people who had been invited in. Lots of testimonies.
The testimonies went like this:
I was rocking along, attending church, living a decent life, but not really sold-out to God. Then, we had a Lay Witness Mission in our church. I heard testimonies of people like myself, except that they were actually living for God. It changed me. I dedicated my life to God and life has never been the same since. Dedicating myself to God 100% was the best thing that ever happened to me.
Person after person stood up to share a testimony like this. On Sunday night, the team all went home and our church had a sharing meeting. People from our church stood up and shared testimonies. They went like this:
During this weekend I head from people who totally dedicated their life to Christ. I have decided to totally dedicate my life to Christ. I am so happy. Please pray that I learn what all this means and I continue to live for Christ.
I didn’t stand up and share that night, but I would say that that night was the biggest single turning in my life. After the dust settled I prayed a simple prayer. I told God I wanted in. i wanted to live that life that I had seen lived by those kids that came to our church.
The next day I told my friends. I wasn’t going to cuss anymore. I was different. I was changed. Everything changed that night.
There have been lots of turnings in my life: my salvation at age six, another serious rededication at age 10, my calling to ministry in late high school, a dozen or so camps, revivals, hundreds of books and sermons. Lots and lots of turnings over 48 years of living, most of it trying to live for God. But the single biggest turning was that night after the Lay Witness Mission.
Recently, I have come to understand why. Ultimately, it is a God thing. That is, of course, the answer to everything. It is the reason there is grass in my back yard. God makes the grass grow. But, if I did not cooperate with God in watering and fertilizing, there is a good chance there would not be any grass in my back yard. (I live in the desert where it rains about 8 inches a year.)
Much of life is this way–an interplay between God working and people cooperating with Him. We need to be careful to hang onto both sides. It is said of Nehemiah that he “prayed to his God and posted a guard.” That is both sides. “Prayed to his God” is the spiritual side. Never forget that. “Posted a guard is the practical side.” Don’t forget that either.
The Lay Witness Mission was bathed in prayer and worked, in part because God worked.
How people change
But, there was another dynamic at work that I am only beginning to understand. Most people are influenced more from their peers than from experts. Most people are influenced more from their reference group than they are from preachers or speakers or salesmen or writers. Most of us bought a DVD when ten friends had. Most of us started using E-mail when ten friends had. Most of us started using a cell phone when ten friends had. Most of us came to faith in Christ and part of the reason was that a good number of people in our reference group had done so.
I have actually tested this at recent conferences where I asked people to hold up a number of fingers indicating how many people used email before they adopted, used a cell phone before the adopted, or were a Christian before they accepted Christ. Most of the people in the room hold up ten fingers on all three questions. Most people would find it almost impossible to start using email, buy a cell phone, or accept Jesus except that a bunch of people in their reference group had already done so.
How to start a doubling group movement in your church and beyond
I have been working for the past 8 years full time at encouraging teachers to embrace the vision of doubling groups, using hospitality as a means for growth. I am beginning to think I have been doing it all wrong. Most people will not be changed by “the expert.” (Me, in this case.) Most people will be changed by listening to the testimony of their peers.
Here is an idea that, after adapted a few times, might work.
What if you were to call a dozen or so Ministers of Education or Pastors in your area–within a four hour or so drive and ask for their help. Explain what you want to do. Send them this article. Get the names of some teachers who have doubled their classes. Every growing church will have some. Invite them in for a weekend. Ask them to pay their own expenses. Call them to mission. These are God-loving, love-the-cause kind of people. They will likely do it. You might consider having them stay in the homes of some of your Sunday School teachers. No doubt the added time of interaction would deepen the experience. The weekend might go some thing like this:
Supper at 6.00
Session 1 –6.45 – 7.45
Presenter presents a short vision of doubling groups
Large group testimony from one of the teachers about doubling
Small group discussion time & testimonies about doubling.
Break 7.45 – 8:00
Session 2 — 8:00 – 9:00
Similar content as above. You might consider going through the five points of TIGER in each of these five session. Alternatively, you might consider using the Double Your Class Videos as the presentation. There is built in time for discussion in these videos.
Session 3 — 9:00
Similar content as above. Your people will hear testimony after testimony about how “Our group used hospitality and we saw our class grow,” and, “We divided our class a year ago into three classes. It was hard. We hated it and really didn’t want to do it. But, today, each of those classes is running as much as the original class.” Here is the clincher testimony. Get some of these: “I visited your church some time back. It was fine and all that, but what really impressed me was when on Monday night we got a call, inviting us to Jim and Terry’s home on Friday night. We were really nervous but we came. . . great things happened.” Lives will be changed.
Session 4 — 10:00
Similar content as above
Session 5 — 11:00
Similar content as above
1.00 Outside teachers go home
Sharing time in Sunday School about what the teachers learned this weekend. You might consider combining some groups together, or, have everyone together in the auditorium.
Vision casting sermon by the pastor about doubling groups.
I know what you are thinking
You are thinking, “That sounds like it might have possibilities. If I ever hear from some of my friends that have actually done it, and it goes well, I think I might try it.” That is how ideas spread. The idea sounds interesting coming from me, but it only really sounds like something you would actually do if you heard it from your peers.
Of course, in every arena, someone has to go first. Someone had to do the first Lay Witness Mission. Someone had to do the first Bus Ministry. Someone had to do the first contemporary worship service. Someone has to go first.
There are a lot of things I love about my life, but one thing that frustrates me is this. I am not in a local church where I can try things. I wish I could try this one. I think it would work. I think it would go well and each of these teachers would go home to their home church and ask their Minister of Education if they could host a similar event.
But, God has me where he has me. And so, I would like to invite you to try this. Let me know how I can help. I am happy to brainstorm ideas about how to make this work. Email me at [email protected] (or, just hit reply to this email) or call me on my cell at 505 650 4564.