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The Three Habits of Highly Contagious ChristiansA Discussion Guide for Small Groups
By Garry Poole
ZondervanCopyright © 2003 Willow Creek Association
All right reserved.
Chapter OneSESSION 1
HANG OUT TOGETHER
Building Relationships with Seekers
Jeff and I are next-door neighbors. When he and his family moved in about a year ago, my wife and I went over to welcome them to the neighborhood.
At first, that was the extent of our interaction since my time was limited and I really didn't want to add any more people to my already full life. I was very involved with the guys in my small group Bible study, I played in a church basketball league every Monday night with my four closest friends, and my wife and I socialized on a regular basis with the Christian couple across the street. Besides, it was obvious from the start that Jeff and I had different sets of values and morals. So I was reluctant to complicate my life with someone who was the polar opposite of everything I was or wanted to be and assumed our differences would make things awkward.
Unbelievably, that has all changed. One day, I decided to start praying for Jeff on a regular basis, and to my surprise, I found myself viewing him as someone who really matters to God-and to me. I began looking for ways to reach out and to get to know him better, and eventually got to the point where I started to genuinely care about the guy.
To top it off, I discovered that we had lots of things in common after all. We both follow sports pretty closely, so it was natural for us to get tickets to the Bears games at Soldier Field. When one of us needed help with a project around the house, the other was right there to pitch in. Now, whether it's a neighborhood block party, the Fourth of July, or just a picnic in the backyard, somehow we wind up together. We sincerely enjoy hanging out with each other, and I feel we have a pretty solid friendship. I can't get over how helpful Jeff has been to my family and me. When we're away on vacation or a business trip, he mows the lawn, grabs the mail, and checks on the house for us. And I can't count how many times this past winter I've come home late to find Jeff shoveling my driveway.
Early on in our friendship, Jeff confided in me that he was struggling in his job and was looking to make a change. Without hesitation, I gave Jeff a small clue about my relationship with God by letting him know I'd pray for him and his situation. When he ended up landing the job he'd been hoping for, he made a joke about my "special connection upstairs." That's when I gently inquired about any "connections" he had with God and confirmed that, although Jeff and his wife attend church from time to time, they probably were not Christians. We would, however, talk about spiritual issues occasionally, and I looked forward to those opportunities.
One such discussion went on late into the night after dinner at his house. Jeff's wife, Amy, concluded our dialogue with an amazing challenge. She said she'd recently wanted to get a Bible study started in our neighborhood, but hadn't felt that she or anyone she knew could lead it. She wondered out loud if my wife and I would consider doing such a thing. "Maybe," I calmly replied as my heart pounded. I couldn't believe my own ears!
Yesterday, I was cutting the grass in my backyard when Jeff suddenly appeared out of nowhere and signaled me to cut the engine. He had just gotten off the phone with a cousin who had been hounding him to no end about Christianity. After declining an invitation to attend church for the umpteenth time, Jeff had received some "inside information" about me, his friendly neighbor! I wondered where in the world he was going with this. "My cousin told me you go to the same church he does," Jeff explained, "and since we're neighbors, he's hoping that maybe you'll be the one to finally convert me." Thud. I felt like crawling into a hole.
Jeff just stood there with eyebrows raised, waiting for my reaction. I frantically tried to smooth things over by explaining that I wasn't really trying to "convert" Jeff, but was simply open to talking with him about something that has come to mean so much to me. He turned to walk away, and I feared the worst. But then Jeff stopped and slowly turned with a smile.
"So, man ... am I your church project or your friend?"
But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children. Having thus a fond affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us. 1 Thessalonians 2:7-8
Open for Discussion
1. Share the first name of a spiritual seeker (nonbeliever) you know fairly well. What is your relationship like? If you are unable to identify someone in your world who's seeking, what's something you could do to change that? 2. What motivates you to initiate and build friendships with seekers?
What are the greatest obstacles that hinder the development of these friendships?
3. What fears and concerns do you suppose seekers might have about being friends with Christians? (Come up with as many of these fears and concerns as you can.)
4. Keeping the fears and concerns you just identified in mind, what might a seeker need from you to ensure that the relationship is going to be a safe one?
How would you rate your ability to create a safe context for such a relationship?
5. Read 1 Corinthians 9:19, 22-23. A basic ingredient to building meaningful relationships with seekers is a growing level of trust within those friendships. What can you do to build bridges of trust within the context of growing friendships with your seeking friends?
What could dismantle the bridges of trust between you and seekers?
Excerpted from The Three Habits of Highly Contagious Christians by Garry Poole Copyright © 2003 by Willow Creek Association . Excerpted by permission.
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