Excerpt from Make Your Group Grow

My “day job” is writing lessons for small groups. In fact, I’d argue that I’ve written more small-group lessons than anyone else, living or dead. I write four lessons a week and have done so for years.

My favorite kind of question is what I call a “jump-ball” question. A jump-ball question can legitimately be answered in one of two opposite ways. And if you ask it just right, you’ll get half the group on one side and the other half of the group on the other side.

Suppose you have a group that’s half Calvinist and half non-Calvinist. Here’s your jump-ball question: “Can a person who’s truly saved ever lose their salvation under any circumstances? Defend your position biblically, giving chapter and verse.”

We’re about to have a conversation—and very possibly, a rather heated one. But if everyone listens and speaks thoughtfully, we’ll all walk out having learned something about God and each other. We may still disagree, but we’ll disagree on a higher level. That’s the beauty of a jump-ball question.

Here’s one of my all-time-favorite jump-ball questions: “Should a Christian try to be popular?”

Immediately, someone will say “no.” He or she will quote verses like, “Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant” (Galatians 1:10). Someone else may point out the futility and counter-productiveness of trying to be popular by saying: “I don’t even like people who try too hard to be popular.”

On the other hand, I’ve known people—and you probably have too—who were very dedicated, very committed, very knowledgeable about the Bible, and lived a holy life in many ways. And yet they were almost useless to the work of God. Why? Because no one liked them. They were grumpy and moody, and when you saw these dedicated saints, you just wanted to walk the other way.

And let’s not forget some other words from Paul: “I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved” (1 Corinthians 10:33).

So there’s a tension in a question like this. How might we answer it in a way that satisfies both sides?

Jesus is our example. He never compromised. He stood for the truth, no matter how others responded. But was Jesus popular? Absolutely. He had a charisma and a love for people that drew them like a magnet. We would all do well to be like Jesus.

Living a holy, openly joyful life in Jesus should attract people to Jesus, not drive them away. And, it helps groups grow. The statistics prove it.