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Covenant Life Groups
- (Act 5:42) = Notice there are two different venues where the apostles met with the church for teaching and preaching: 1) “Temple” = larger venue (Act 5:12 – “Solomon’s Portico” = Court area outside the Temple): On the Lord’s Day, the entire church came together for corporate worship (~15k people), 2) “house to house” = smaller venue: During the week, church members wb divided into smaller groups and meet in different houses. Hence the reason the text says this was taking place “every day.” Every day of the week was devoted to some form of meeting. Either corporate worship or a community group. The large number of church members, the small size of the 1st century house and the fact that everyone relied on the apostle’s direct teaching (nothing had yet been written down), meant different community groups “every day” of the week just to get through all the people.
- Here then is the biblical basis for community groups: the practice of the early church: Temple court for church on Sundays – and every other day of the week, different community groups to accommodate all the people. This practice is also mentioned in (Act 2:46: Temple-church and community groups meeting in homes).
- (Act 2:42) = Most believe this verse is in reference to the community groups (esp. since as we saw, v46 mentions the breaking of bread being connected to the meeting in the home – versus as part of their Sunday worship – Act 20:7: this ML refers to the LT [“breaking of bread”: generic reference to hospitality: eating/enjoying food together]). As such, there are four things that are to be taking place in these community groups: 1) apostles’ teaching (or sermon), 2) fellowship (the word means “to share” as in share our lives w/each other), 3) breaking of bread (i.e. hospitality), 4) prayer.
- What then community groups/Covenant Life Groups will look like for us = Small groups of church family meeting mid-week in a host home to: 1) discuss questions related to the most recent sermon, 2) share our lives with one another (including our backstories), 3) experience the hospitality of enjoying good food together, 4) pray for one another.
- Reasons you should be excited about being part of our community groups (Covenant Life Groups) (this new addition to our church:
5.1. Retainage: Community groups will promote better retainage of those biblical truths established each week during the sermon 1) Rediscussion = Retainage (2Pe 1:12-15) “stir you up by way of reminder” = Rediscuss what was already discussed causes it to be “stir[red] up” [thoroughly mixed it into) your brain “so that…[we] may be able at any time to recall these things” = The result of such stirring/mixing thru rediscussion: retainage. The average adult retains ~5% of what they hear in an hour-long sermon (90% is gone after the first ten minutes). That number increases to 50% or more if the material is rediscussed. Though that may still seem disappointing, consider it from the perspective of pages. 50% means 5 full pages of information. The average hour-long sermon covers about ten pages of material (sheet filled front and back = 2500-3500 words which is 10 plus pages in a standard book). From that perspective, 50% is a lot!
2) Anticipation of rediscussion = Retainage. Knowing that I need to participate in the rediscussion of the sermon in my community group, encourages more focus (and better retention of the material) on Sunday (e.g. take more handwritten notes = better listening and cognitive function = increase in initial retention [“A Learning Secret: Don’t Take Notes On A Laptop”, Scientific American]).
5.2. Growth: Community groups will give you the ability to fulfill your obligation to grow the kingdom (Eph 4:11-16) = Based on these verses, there are two things God’s pastors/teachers are to “equip the saints for [to do]”: 1) “the work of ministry” = External growth/Evangelism (vv11-12a), 2) “building up the body of Christ” = Internal Growth in maturity and loyalty (vv12b-16). We should view the church as the ammunition depot: the place we go each week to get refueled and restocked for the work we wb doing during the week to advance our King’s kingdom (externally and internally). It sb mentioned that community groups are a far more conducive environment for evangelism than the “alien” and often intimidating world of the church service. IOW: it is much easier to invite people to our community group than church. (Hence Act 2:47). Community groups are therefore a great way to make sure we are not the last guy in Jesus’ parable of the talents (in Mat 25). On that note, community groups only work (esp. as it re: to evangelism) if we are all committed to attending and participating. No one wb encouraged to join our ranks if the community group they attend is sparse and filled with awkward silence. Your presence and participation can make the difference in bringing someone to Christ (i.e. God gives points for assists when it comes to evangelism – Joh 4:35-38).
5.3. Identity: Community groups also help us get rid of the sinful self-oriented identity given at our birth and possessed by Satan and gain the team-oriented identity possessed by our King (the one needed also to get to heaven) (Mar 10:42-45) “rulers” = Though the Greek word can refer to any ruler good or bad, when coupled with the idea of lording it over, it refers to the latter. It is the kind of ruler whose decisions or actions only serve self-interest rather than what is good/fair for everyone. It is the kind of ruler who leads by position and power and never by example. This is the kind of ruler Jesus is referring to when He uses this word in relation to Satan in (Joh 12:31).
The point then NOT to miss: though Jesus was a leader/ruler, He did not lead by power or position, but by example and decisions that established equity – i.e. what was good and fair/served everyone (versus just Himself). IOW: Jesus’ identity was team-oriented: His approval of self –or how He determined whether self was successful was determined by His sacrifice/contribution to the success of the team/group. Hence why then [again], He says what He does in (v45). In contrast, then, the person whose identity is self-oriented determines their success [or approval of self] based on getting what they want irrespective of whether what they want benefits the team/group. This is the identity tied to our fallen feelings given at birth (and what therefore those who operate according to their feelings have as their identity – a self-oriented identity). This is also what Jesus is referring to when He speaks of dying to SELF as necessary to follow Him and get to heaven.
Why then community groups will help us get rid of this sinful self-orientation and make us care more about the success of the team = B/C their success/failure will be determined by its members (IOW: pastor will not be a part of them: they are YOUR MINISTRY. His part is merely to equip you to do it. And nothing gives you the team spirit like realizing its success is on your shoulders (e.g. Kids becoming parents. All of sudden they are no longer selfish – Why? b/c for the first time, they are responsible for the success [or survival] of someone other than themselves). The same thing once more with the community groups – daddy pastor is not going to be the one making sure it thrives or dies. That’s going to be on you.
5.4. Zeal: Given what we just discussed; community groups have the benefit of establishing/re-establishing zeal for our King. That is often the fruit associated with something becoming more than theoretical – we gain a passion or zeal for doing it. Rather than learning about ministry and watching me do it, you (now) wb in the driver’s seat. Analogy: watching athletes or soldiers competing/fighting or hearing their stories versus actually being the one out there catching the ball or firing the bullets. Passion or zeal is born through hands-on action. Getting to actually use what you have been learning to lead others to our King or grow them in their walk; realizing that what you do/ your participation actually determines the success of something changes you. All of sudden you also are “burdened” to see our King and His kingdom be successful (b/c you now play a real part in that). This is the reason for so many people becoming fired up for Jesus in college. Those kids are usually a part of some para-church ministry that relies on them to be successful and that burden – or that kind of “hands-on” involvement ignites passion and zeal. This BTW is what community groups are: they are essentially para-church ministries (“along-side” the church ministries), but the kind Jesus approves of.
5.5. Priorities: Community groups will likewise help you get your priorities are in the right place. They will require you to carve out time to be a part of them which means that time is no longer filled with things that were potentially doing nothing for the kingdom. This is something that Jesus warns us will happen if we are not careful (Luk 21:34; Rev 2:1-7 “first love/love you had at first” = Loyalty to Jesus and His agenda – the advancement of His kingdom. Though the Ephesians did have some things that were praiseworthy, their priorities had ultimately gotten screwed up. Easy to do in a world always vying for the extra time and energy we possess. Many a person who started out with the right priorities will end up going to hell simply b/c they progressively let more and more of their time be filled with things that do nothing for the King or His Kingdom [the meaning of dissipation]). Community groups therefore can help in that department. The excuse, “I’m too busy training at the gym to be a ninja” or whatever other stupid stuff people preoccupy themselves with (that obviously possess no value to the kingdom) will no longer fly in light of this more worthy and more eternally important commitment.
5.6. Hospitality: The “breaking of bread” mentioned as a part of community groups means that this important practice is something we will also learn since groups will be responsible for seeing that they are “stocked” with good and enjoyable food. More to come in the near future on that. For now however, understand that God cares (and uses this aspect of ministry) to reach others according to Luk 16:9 and the examples of Jesus feeding those who listened to His teaching. We need to be seen as hospitable and that (biblically defined) does not look like a bowl of whatever is left over in the pantry or I can scrounge together. Community groups are not to feel like a hobo’s convention.