Search and Rescue, by Neil Cole

Review by Josh Hunt

"Glories await those who are willing to follow God into dangerous places to rescue the lost and shipwrecked." -Neil Cole (Page 20)

In Neil Cole's latest book, he casts a vision for Christians to become heros, going into the hard places to rescue souls that are going down. He offers a challenge and follows up with a practical means, prayerfully dependant upon God the whole way.

Don't you love a good metaphor? Don't you love a great story? This book is full of great stories of daring rescues-first hand stories of the years that Neil spent as a lifeguard with the Los Angeles County Lifeguards. Nearly every chapter starts with an engaging story-often first hand accounts of hair-raising rescues. Neil skillfully weaves these stories into the bigger story of how to rescue people who are far from God.

The book is, by Neil's own admission something of a rework of some of his previous works, Organic Church and Cultivating a Life for God. Where Organic Church was geared to pastors, Search and Rescue is targeted toward laymen. The last half of the book is a refashioning of some chapters of Cultivating a Life for God. The purpose of the book is to equip the reader to make a difference in the lives of the people around them. It is a basic book on how to make disciples.

What to look for in a potential disciple

Cole lists two qualities to look for in making disciples. First, look for people who are desperate-like a man gasping for air. People who don't want to be rescued can't be. Cole says, "There is a temptation to think that good people make good soil for the seed of the gospel. In our church, however, we have a saying, 'Bad people make good soil. There is a lot of fertilizer in their lives.'" (Page 58)

The second quality to look for is people who stay faithful-people who will receive the help that is offered. If they want to get better but don't want to do it God's ways, we can't make disciples out of them.

How to make disciples

The basic means by which Neil Cole recommends we can make a difference in the people around us is through the Life Transformation Group (LTG). A Life Transformation Group is a multiplying group of two or three that meet weekly to do three things:

  1. Hold each other accountable for, and discuss the reading of Scripture. Neil Cole recommends groups read about 30 chapters of the Bible each week. In this sense, it is fairly hard-core discipleship. It is not for the faint of heart. Group members can take turns deciding what to read. If it is a book like Matthew or Proverbs, it works well to just read the whole book. If it is a shorter book, it might be read multiple times. If it is a longer book, it would be broken up.

The group does not go on to another book until everyone in the group has read the agreed upon book. If everyone did not complete Proverbs, we all read Proverbs again.

There are no books or curriculum, no blanks to fill in. Just the Bible.

  1. Confession of sin. The sound of it brings chills to your bones, doesn't it? When was the last time you sat down with a brother and said, "Let's confess our sins, shall we?"

Neil provides a list of questions that a Life Transformation Group could use for accountability. A card is provided with the book with these questions, and alternate lists are provided.

  1. Prayer for the lost. The back of the card mentioned above provides specific prayers based on specific passages of the Bible that can be used in praying for the lost.

The group is to be a multiplying group. When the group reaches four the group is to divide and start over.

The power of multiplication

Of particular interest to me was this concept of multiplying and the chapter called More Powerful than a Locomotive. Neil did a masterful job of communicating the power of multiplication. It is of interest to me, in part, because I teach conferences on my book, You Can Double Your Class in Two Years or Less (Group: 1997) which is all about multiplying groups. (I liked this chapter so much, I asked for and received permission from Neil to reprint it on my web page, see Here is an excerpt:

In his book Disciples Are Made--Not Born, Walter Henrichsen described a display at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago that featured a checkerboard with 1 grain of wheat on the first square, 2 on the second, 4 on the third, then 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, and so on. Somewhere down the board, there was so much grain of wheat that it was spilling over into neighboring squares¾so the display ended there. Above the demonstration was a question: At this rate of doubling each square, how much grain would you have on the checkerboard by the time you reached the sixty-fourth square? To find the answer to this riddle, you punched a button on the console in front of you, and the answer flashed on a screen above the board: Enough to cover the entire subcontinent of India, fifty feet deep! There would be 153 billion tons of rice¾more than the world rice harvest for the next one thousand years. Henrichsen concludes: "The reason that the church of Jesus Christ finds it so hard to stay on top of the Great Commission is that the population of the world is multiplying while the church is merely adding. Addition can never keep pace with multiplication."

Multiplication begins slower than addition, but like a car rolling down a steep hill, it builds up momentum as it goes. A penny can become millions, and then billions, and within a short time, trillions.

Take away

Here are two take-away concepts you can lift from Search and Rescue for your small group ministry:

  1. Consider starting Life Transformation Groups-groups of two or three that meet for accountability during the week within your small groups. I would lead by example. Start a group yourself. I have just gotten started at this. Carl Simmons, the editor of this site, has been it doing for years and can testify it is a great concept.
  2. Cast a vision for your groups to grow and divide. A group of ten that doubles every eighteen months can reach a thousand people in ten years. (You do the math!) You will never get that many in your small group, nor should you try. Eventually growth will kill a small group, as it is not small any more. Cast a vision for doubling groups.

If you would like to read some more, Neil has an excerpt from Search and Rescue on his web page at





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