We can succeed only by concert. It is not, ‘Can any of us imagine better,’ but, ‘Can we all do better?’ Abraham Lincoln
Last week, Americans across this country celebrated Independence Day (4th of July). It is a great time to remember the rugged individualism that helped us grow and thrive as a country through each era of our history. But one fact often overlooked is that it wasn’t an individual that paid for our freedom from the tyranny of King George. Instead, it was individuals standing together that overcame armies and a mighty nation arrayed against us. You see, we need each other to reach our goals, to attain to that liberty so dearly bought by patriots’ blood.
In Acts 2, we see the seed bed of the early church of the first, second, and third centuries. They had an amazing encounter with the power of the Holy Spirit that rocked a city and multiplied their numbers. We see a people committed to unity and the mutual meeting of community and individual needs (both spiritual and physical). We also see the beginnings of a bedrock foundation where believers meet in public celebration and intimate small groups—they meet daily in the temple and their homes (Acts 2:46).
The Lord says: Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool. So where could you build a house for me, and where could my resting place be? Isaiah 66:1
God poses to all believers a question in Isaiah 66:1 that illuminates these key foundations of unity and meeting together. He asks where we can build a house for Him. The Master and Creator of the universe, who is crowned with galaxies, challenges mere humanity with an insurmountable question. Who are we to make His home?
You yourselves are being built like living stones into a spiritual temple. You are being made into a holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices that are acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:5
The ever gracious Father answers His own question for us. He has made us, imperfect humanity, to be His habitation! We were intended to carry His presence on us, in us, and all around us. We fit together as living stones to make a glorious temple for His presence.
We see later in Acts 5:42 that the early church continued to meet daily in public celebration and intimate small groups. They made these practices habitual and never wavered in their commitment to these principles. They knew the truth that it is key that we come together to disciple and encourage one another through worship, prayer, the study of God’s Word, and ministry in the Holy Spirit. We know that this is still key today!
Connecting with God and Others
In Natural Church Development, Christian Schwarz conducted a study of 1000 churches in 32 countries. He reports that the multiplication of small groups was an important key principle in thriving churches that develop disciples. Small groups provide a place for us to connect with God and others on an intimate level. This is where we can learn and grow as disciples of Jesus and be equipped and empowered to change the world around us!
THIS IS OUR OPPORTUNITY TO REACH BEYOND THE EVERYDAY MUNDANE INTO THE EXPECTATION FOR THE MANIFESTATION OF GOD’S WONDROUS GRACE IN AMAZING AND LIFE CHANGING WAYS FOR OURSELVES AND OTHERS!
Small groups help us walk out the Great Commission in Matthew 28 through relational evangelism. As a habitation for God’s presence, a temple of living stones, we carry Him into every chance encounter and developing relationship in our lives. We really can go and make disciples!
Small groups help us pursue God in intimate community. We were made to journey together, and we are transformed from glory to glory as we seek God and His Kingdom together. As we form close bonds and sink down deep roots, we grow stronger, faster, and better together.
Small groups are a safe place to give and receive ministry. It is in these safe relationships that we have the freedom to fail, the freedom to succeed, and the freedom to become more like Jesus. Proverbs 27:17 says that we sharpen each other. It is in this safe place that we develop character qualities like humility, service, forgiveness, and mercy. Even Abraham Lincoln recognized the truth that together we are better.
Acts 2:44 says that the believers were united. Small groups foster an environment of unity, affirmation, and encouragement. It is a more intimate setting where we can build close relationships, encourage one another, and be encouraged. Small groups provide opportunities for deeper relationship with God and others.
Small groups also open the doors for mentoring relationships. As we grow closer together in our pursuit of God, we can find others who have wisdom and experience to share with us and others we can share with. This is not the kind of “get ahead” mentoring that we find in most workplaces. It is a mentoring that challenges us, holds us accountable, and grows us into more Christ-likeness.
It is through small groups that we receive ministry to meet our physical needs and our “heart” needs. We minister to each other as we support and love like Jesus did. As we find healing for our bodies, minds, and spirits, we become empowered to “step out” in our calling and giftings. We learn to move with the Holy Spirit in concert with God!
As we meet in both public meetings and small groups, we grow toward the fullness for which God intended each of His children—princes and princesses, co-rulers with Jesus, world changers, and water walkers! Step out together on a journey into destiny!
Why be normal? To walk on water, you must risk. It’s better to be a wet water walker than a dry boat sitter. Dr. Bob Sawvelle
View this article as a Sunday message given at Passion Church here.