What do you want from your small group this fall?
You might be hoping for more effective ministry to friends and neighbors. God, how can we see more people meet Jesus? You might be excited to study more of the Bible together. God, show us more of yourself in your word. Maybe there are some really hard things happening in your lives, and you just hope everyone survives and keeps believing. God, how are we going to make it through this? There might be patterns of sin in you or others that you want to see torn down and replaced with healthy habits of faith, love, and purity. God, we want to be more like you!
The book of Acts is a story of the first church — the first regular gathering of followers of Jesus. It’s an awe-inspiring story, but it’s much more than a story. In those 28 chapters, God gives us a glimpse of how he moves in a community captured and shaped by a joy in him. Acts offers a kind of formula for loving one another and welcoming the bigness of God into our lives together. The formula for seeing God do spectacular things in your small group is surprisingly simple.
The Big God in Your Everyday
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. . . . And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. (Acts 2:42, 46–47)
“The formula for seeing God do spectacular things in your small group is surprisingly simple.”
It says the church in Acts 2 gave themselves to four things: 1. the apostles’ teaching, 2. the fellowship, 3. the breaking of bread, and 4. the prayers. Much should be said about each of these critical pieces in a church’s ministry, but the flavor of this passage in general is one of regularity and intentionality. These disciples developed real rhythms of living together in Jesus and for Jesus. It wasn’t a two-hour routine reserved for one morning per week. It was a weeklong effort to keep each other in the faith and to be a winsome witness for the world around them.
Our love for another is a lifestyle, not a weekly activity. There’s no corner of our hearts or lives that God meant for us to keep from our local community of believers. It doesn’t mean you have to spend every waking hour with these people. It does mean they should be tied into your life in more significant ways than what pew you sit in on Sundays. Like that first church, we need to find creative ways to live together in the everyday, incorporating the word, prayer, food, and meaningful relationships.
Our big God calls us to live together in the everyday, because that’s where he is and that’s often where he works.
The Big God in Your Gifts
And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. (Acts 2:44–45)
This group of men and women loved sharing any abundance with those with less. They felt each other’s needs as their own. They were carrying each other’s burdens — at least physically, but much more likely also spiritually, emotionally, and otherwise. The beautiful thread in this theme is that God was gifting some to provide for the needs of others, and vice versa. Needs were being met because God had covered them through others.
“Our love for another is a lifestyle, not a weekly activity.”
God deliberately gives you what I need, and he gives us what others need. It’s one way he gets more glory, by tying his children together in their dependence on him. He gifts us to fill what is lacking in one another. So in our small groups, we need to know each other well enough to know the needs, and we need to be aware what God has given us to spill over in sacrifice and generosity to others.
The Big God in Your Hearts
And awe came upon every soul . . . (Acts 2:43)
The rhythms of the early church were a desire to meet God in his word (the apostles’ teaching), a desperation in prayer, a dependence on one another in need, and a regularity and intentionality in each other’s everyday lives. And what happened? “And awe came upon every soul . . .” (Acts 2:43). As they lived, ate, and worshiped together, God inspired more awe in their hearts. He revealed more of himself — his love, his power, his glory — and so he awakened greater affections for himself.
The disciples were drawn more and more to God through ministry to one another. This joy in God was growing and spreading in the fertile ground of real, consistent, and sacrificial fellowship. God will capture more of our hearts through one another.
The Big God in Your World
And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. (Acts 2:47)
“Joy in God grows and spreads in the fertile ground of real, consistent, and sacrificial fellowship.”
This church — this “small” group — was not just God’s way of caring for Christians. It was his appointed, dramatic way of multiplying them. It was his means of making more and more people his own, drawing them into the kinds of communities that live and love like this. As they gave themselves faithfully to one another, he added to their number.
What did this addition look like? Was God just dropping people at the front door ready to receive the gospel and join the church? Probably not. People are added through the preaching of the gospel, the faithful testifying to Jesus as our greatest treasure. As we commit to one another in these Christ-exalting churches and small groups, we should expect God to make those communities attractive, even irresistible to others. God will make our love, joy, and worship contagious in the world.