“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” Acts 2:42-47 (NIV)
The small groups described in Acts that met in homes were a strategic part of the greater church, and it is particularly significant that they took the Great Commission and Great Commandment and put it into action, which is the basis for Biblical spiritual health. As was true in biblical times, this action plan is vital to the health of small groups today.
Unfortunately, today many small groups focus on one action only. A group may be a missional group, an acts of service group, a discipleship group (Bible study), or some other kind of group. At Saddleback we found that if we wanted discipleship to happen, we had to instill this idea of action, balancing of the 5 biblical verbs, of the DNA of the church, into our weekend services, every small group of the church, and into every individual life in the church. The 5 action verbs are:
#1. They Fellowshipped (Acts 2:42, 46)
Membership in the body of Christ means we can identify with a family – God’s family. “They devoted themselves… to fellowship… and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.” It has always interested me that right after Jesus was baptized and then tempted in the desert, one of the first things he did was get twelve guys and form a small group. Even Jesus saw the value of relational discipleship in a group context and the need for fellowship and authenticity.
#2. They Were Discipled and Grew Spiritually (Acts 2:42)
The Bible says “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching.” That means they devoted themselves to growing in Christ and maturity. Evidently not only did they listen to what the apostles were teaching in the temple courts on the Sabbath and other days, but these people also gathered in their homes and studied and practiced what was being taught in the temple courts.
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#3. They Ministered to Each Other (Acts 2:45)
“They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.” That’s ministry – believer to believer. These groups became an outlet for support, ministry, benevolence, charity, and sharing meals.
#4. They Evangelized the Lost (Acts 2:47)
This was their mission: “The Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” If you only go fishing once a week – a fishing service – you are only going to catch fish then. If you go fishing throughout the week – through small groups – the number of fish will increase dramatically. When all 5 biblical purposes are happening within your groups and in the lives of each group member, the natural by-product is evangelism. People are attracted to the kind of changes they see in the lives of healthy Christians.
#5. They Worshipped (Acts 2:42, 47)
“They devoted themselves… to the breaking of bread and to prayer… [They were] praising God.” In other words, these early Christians worshipped in their homes. And what was the result? “Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles” (2:43). The bottom lines is that God shows up when people make room for him.
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