Here are the guidelines I promised you last Sunday. The main point of the message was: In order for all the saints (you) to do the work of the ministry as the New Testament teaches (Ephesians 4:11–12; Hebrews 3:12–14; 10:24–25; Galatians 6:2; James 5:16), you need to gather regularly in smaller forms of togetherness. Here is what I think should characterize all these various forms:
1) They should be small: More than 6–8 people will require very long meetings or either someone will stay quiet.
2) They should be regular and frequent: Once a week is natural; less than once every two weeks may not build closeness.
3) The series should be of limited duration: Set a time when the group will dissolve, at least for awhile. For example, say “Let’s meet once a week through the end of the year, or through May.” Otherwise, groups peter out and you feel guilty. You can always start again.
4) There must be commitment to attend except in emergency. Don’t enter a group until you have counted the cost.
5) There should be accountability to each other: We ought not to feel put out when a group asks if we have followed through on a resolution.
6) The aim of every group should be, in general, the “advancement and joy” of each other’s faith (Philippians 1:25) and the “stirring up” of each other’s love (Hebrews 10:24). No group should view fellowship as an end in itself (though it is precious!). The aim is the transformation of our lives for the sake of winning others to Christ and bringing honor to his name.
7) Every group, whether it involves direct Bible study or not, should be penetrated by biblical consolations and exhortations. It is the Word of God that begets faith. So we must convey it to each other from the heart.
8) Every meeting should include prayer. It would be a contradiction to gather in God’s name and not invoke his presence, plead his help, and thank him for his goodness. Brief sentence prayers are better than long, all-inclusive prayers.
9) There should always be opportunity for everyone to talk to others about his concerns. It should not be a lecture time.
Next Sunday in the morning service we will give you the opportunity to turn in your cards. There will be more available at that time, so couples can fill out separate cards. We are praying that in the months and years to come, Bethlehem will look back on September 20 and 27 as a decisive turning point in the emergence of a biblical pattern of life together in Christ. May God help us!
The Authority of the Son of Man
(Sunday Evening, Continued)
Jesus said in Luke 6:22–23 that on the very day when we are hated and rejected and slandered for the sake of the Son of Man we should “rejoice and leap for joy (think of a little lamb!), for behold, your reward is great in heaven, for so their fathers did to the prophets.” We know from Luke 13:28 that the prophets were rewarded with admission to the banquet of God’s kingdom.
But what if the Pharisees said to Jesus: “What does the salvation of God’s messengers in the Old Testament and their persecution have to do with the salvation of your disciples and their persecution?” Would not Jesus say, “You’ve answered your own question. When a person is persecuted for my sake, its exactly like being persecuted for God’s sake.”
What a claim! The Jesus who said, “Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied,” has the very authority and power of God behind his promise. Is that not a great encouragement to loosen our attachment to things and venture all on the Son of Man?