SCRIPTURE: Ephesians 5:1
Written by: Conrade Yap
Date: 3 Apr 2012
"Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." (Ephesians 5:1-2)[This is Part 3 of a series on Small Group Ministry]
This week, an opinion poll suggests that "Canadians want everything for nothing." The statement is based on half the number of people surveyed who will vote against any politician who hikes taxes. While they are quick to demand for all things, from social welfare to personal benefits, they are extremely reticent, even vocal against paying for them. Paul Kershaw, a professor at the University of British Columbia observes that there are more people with an "anti-tax" sentiment who "want something for nothing." (Source: News1130.com, May 2nd, 2012)
Scary. If the report is true, that we are seeing a new generation of people who want everything, but unwilling to give anything, we are in trouble. In economic theory, the:re is what is called a "multiplier effect," where a stimulus leads to a knock-on effect that will generate a life of its own. Governments often provide the initial investment. A simple example goes like this. The Government issues a billion dollar contract to a big corporation to build a highway. This big corporation goes on to engage hundreds of other subcontractors and workers, who in turn benefit other entities like restaurants, hotels, transportation, logistics, school, and other miscellaneous sectors. In other words, one giant stimulus gets multiplied many fold. While there are other practical limits to such a theory, the idea is basically this: Giving stimulates economic activity or giving, taking, and sharing.
What if in our small groups in church, we see more of such people who give nothing but expect everything? There will be no multiplier effect. Worse, it becomes a shrinking effect when everybody takes and nobody gives. Continuing our series on small groups, this week, I like to suggest that there are at least four kinds of people in any small group environment. On the healthy end of the spectrum is a group called "healthy lambs" and "skinny goats" that nourish the whole community. On the unhealthy end, the appearance of "lamp-poles" and "leeches" suck away the life of the group. My main point in this article is that we should all strive to become the healthy kind, the healthy lamb. Let me first begin with the worst kind of participant, what I call the LEECH. Eeek!
A) Type 1: The Leech (Take Everything, Give Nothing)
B) Type 2: The Skinny-Goat (Take Nothing, Give Everything)
C) Type 3: The Lamp-Pole (Take Nothing, Give Nothing)
"One of the most wonderful things about being a Christian is that I don’t ever get up in the morning and wonder if what I do matters. I live every day to the fullest because I can live it through Christ and I know no matter what I do today, I’m going to do something to advance the Kingdom of God." (Chuck Colson)
As I read it, I marvel at the life of conviction in the love of Christ. His conversion leads to a very powerful Prison Fellowship ministry, where his legacy is continued by people who have been touched by his witness. In contrast, there are those who live not by conviction but by convenience. If it works for them, they will consider coming for any small group meeting. If it does not work, they will skip the meeting. They feel that their absence will not make a difference in the group. Even when they attend the group, they prefer to contribute nothing, and receive nothing at all. Both actions are their own personal choices.
Lamp-poles are basically inorganic members of the group. They put nothing in, and take nothing out. By being closed-minded on any learning, and being small-hearted in any kinds of giving, they waste everybody's time, especially their own.
D) Type 4: The Healthy Lamb (Take Everything, Give Everything)
Like Ephesians 5, they are imitators of Christ as they take everything that the Spirit offers them. They are lovers of people as they reflect the person of Christ in their giving and their sharing. Like Christ, they are willing to give up everything, including their own self-needs for the sake of the group. Whenever they feed, they do not do so on a selfish basis, but do so on a constant focus on how they can use what they have to bless others. If there is a short phrase to describe healthy lambs, it will be this: "A Desire to be Blessed to Bless Others."
Blessed is the small group that is full of healthy lambs.
E) Summary of the Four Kinds of Small Group Participants
If you are honest with me, you will recognize a bit of yourself in every of the four categories at different stages of our lives. Sin pulls us toward leeches, skinny goats and lamp-poles. Grace leads us toward healthy lambs. Sin turns our heart from big to small, from generosity to miserly behaviour, and from humble learning to selfishness. May we all learn as a body to move to become big hearted contributors to our communities, depending on our giftings. Every one of us has at least one gift. There is no such thing as an ungifted person. Likewise, each of us can learn to receive one another openly. It does not mean that skinny-goats, fat leeches, and lamp-poles are unwelcome in any small group. My personal belief is this. It is ok to be a skinny-goat, a lamp-pole, or a leech once in a while, for whatever reasons best known to you. As long as one does not remain perpetually in that condition. The main thing is the DIRECTION of growth that one seeks. It needs to be toward becoming a healthy lamb, that will be big hearted, and open minded. That is the goal of all small group members.
|Four Kinds of Small Group Participants|
Let me close with an encouragement on what healthy lambs do. The 17th Century French Physicist, and Christian thinker, Blaise Pascal says, "Jesus is the God whom we can approach without pride and before whom we can humble ourselves without despair." Indeed, as we seek to imitate Christ, we become blessings to anyone, to our group members, and to ourselves.
THOUGHT: "The leaders who work most effectively, it seems to me, never say 'I.' And that's not because they have trained themselves not to say 'I.' They don't think 'I.' They think 'we'; they think 'team.' They understand their job to be to make the team function. They accept responsibility and don't sidestep it, but 'we' gets the credit.... This is what creates trust, what enables you to get the task done." (Peter Drucker)
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