Blessed Are the Vanished

An Egpytian Muslim by birth, [Sharaf] el-Din converted to Christianity in 1983 after both he and his wife had visions of Jesus (a surprisingly frequent occurrence in Muslim countries). They left Egypt for Kenya in 1988 to search for employment and to avoid the increasing religious persecution they faced at home. Desperate for a job, Mr. el-Din legally returned to Egypt in 1994. But upon his return, his family did not hear from him for five months because he was immediately “detained.” A hearing was eventually held in which no charges were raised, yet he continued to be detained. After getting legal permission, his lawyer attempted to visit him in the prisons, but he couldn’t find him. The only reason given for his incarceration, informally, was that he converted to Christianity. He was suffering for his faith.
– Mark Dever, “1 Peter: When Things Get Tough,” in The Message of the New Testament (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2005), 445.
In a footnote, Dever writes, “At date of publication, no further information on Mr. el-Din could be found.”
The man simply vanished into the disappearing torture cabinet of martyrdom.
And yet, he did not. He is united with Christ, seated with Christ in the heavenly places (Eph. 2:6), hidden with Christ in God (Col. 3:3). Some day we will learn truly that obscurity, lack of recognition, being swallowed up into thin air and forgotten by all earthly powers, whether by persecution or simply by the circumstances of life, is but a light momentary affliction compared to the eternal weight of glory that is every believer’s in Christ Jesus. And I suspect the most glorious of us in the age to come will be those we’d never heard of in the age that is.

3 Myths About Small Groups

Small groups are an essential part of church life. It goes by a multitude of names – Life Groups, home groups, Sunday School, Bible fellowships, and the list goes on. When a ministry is so important, for some reason, myths begin to swirl around it. Here are three of the myths about small groups.

1. Small groups are just for fellowship. Small groups must be an environment where people grow closer but not just for the sake of friendship. As believers, our fellowship deepens when it is centred on the truth. Fellowship is one of the functions of the church but it is not the ultimate reason for small groups. Transformation is. Small groups draw people together with a higher purpose than just hanging out in the name of Jesus. We want to draw people around His Word so they can be fed and then transformed by it.

2. People in small groups should stay together indefinitely. In other words, breaking up a group is bad. The argument is made that “our healthy small group should not be separated.” But healthy group members will want to share with others what’s occurred in their lives. Conversely, it is also a myth that leaders just want to split every group for an underhanded reason; control, spitefulness, power-grabbing. In reality, we all know that healthy things grow and then multiply. As leaders, we also know that when things don’t grow, then they begin to drain energy from other parts of the body. Small groups are the same. Now, this is not to say that a small group that does not multiply is moldy, rotten, or cancerous. But it can be reveal an inward-facing spirit that runs counter to the mission of God. By engendering a spirit of multiplication, small groups will eventually reach more people for Christ and help more people mature in Christ.

3. Anyone can lead a small group. I want to tread carefully in this one because it is so close to true. If the statement read, “Anyone can learn to lead a small group,” then we’ve got it. But, as it stands, it is a bit na├»ve. It comes back to purpose. If you buy into myth #1, then anyone can lead a small group. Just be there to host everyone for a good time and a quasi-spiritual conversation. But, if you want to lead people toward transformation, then as leaders, we need to produce leaders.  Rather than just throw people into the situation of handling whatever comes up on their own, teach/train/prepare them to be a great small group leader.