When I was in elementary school we lived in a rural area. There were not a lot of kids on our street but two other boys that were my age did live on my street, one about a mile north and the other a mile south and overtime we became best friends. We rode the same bus and were all in the same grade and enjoyed playing sports and games together. Even though I was pretty shy as a child, taking the risk to start a friendship with these two other guys was one of the best things I ever did. We experienced a lot of highs and lows together. One of my friend’s parents divorced when we were in 4th grade and the other’s father died when we were in 8th grade. Throughout all those times, good and bad, we remained best friends all through high school.
I tell you that story because what I have discovered is that even as an adult every person likes to have a group of people who they share some things in common. It may be a shared passion for a certain hobby, like fly fishing, shopping, exercise, etc. It may be a shared passion for a sports team where you watch games together and talk about them throughout the week. It may be a shared value system, like the fellowship you find with other followers of Jesus. When we have something in common with others it helps us to not feel so alone. We think, “they’re like me” and it validates the things we value and enjoy.
As followers of Jesus, it is vital for us to find other believers who can encourage, support and challenge us and who we can encourage, support and challenge in their faith. What we have in common is our faith and desire to become more like Jesus in our daily lives.
Obviously, the best place to find other followers of Jesus is at church but sometimes in a large worship service, you can still feel disconnected. Not to mention you’re sitting in a row and facing a stage where one person is doing the communicating. Not exactly a great environment to connect with others. The early followers of Jesus knew they had to connect with others in smaller groups to grow in their faith and understanding of Jesus. Acts 2:46 describes them meeting n smaller groups form hose to house. And Acts 2:42 tells us what they would do when they got together, “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Out of this one verse, let me give you some practical and biblical reasons why this getting connected in smaller groups is so important.
Practical (and Biblical) Reasons to Connect with a Group
“They were continually devoting themselves”. Connecting with other believers was not just something they tried once to see if they liked it or not. It was not the thought, “well if it’s convenient I’ll try and make it”. No, this was a way of life that they were committed to or devoted to living. They were devoted to getting together with other believers. Well what were they continually devoting themselves to? “the apostles teaching”. What were the apostles teaching? Everything they had witnessed about Jesus, learned from Jesus, and how Jesus fulfilled the prophecies of the Old Testament Scriptures regarding the Messiah or Savior who would one day come. Today, we more commonly call this Bible study. Preaching and teaching in large groups definitely have its place within the church but it is one-way communication. You listen while the speaker speaks. It´s fine for imparting knowledge but not always as effective for personal application. In a small group setting, you can ask questions, participate in a discussion of the Bible passage, and hear others share insights and illustrations of the truth you are trying to understand. In short, one reason to connect is that you’ll understand the Bible better if you study it with others!
Those early followers of Jesus also continually devoted themselves to “the fellowship”. Some of you who grew up in church when you hear the word fellowship you think of fried chicken, green bean casserole, and congealed salad. But true Biblical fellowship goes much deeper than that. Fellowship is more than just an informal social gathering. It’s participating in each other’s lives because of our connection in Christ. For people who are connected and in fellowship with each other than when you hurt, I hurt, when you experience joy, I experience joy because we both are part of the body of Christ. Small groups provide excellent support in times of crisis, change, and stress. You´ll have a sense of stability and security knowing there are people who really care for you and are committed to standing with you. When someone loses a job, or a family member has an extended illness, or a mother needs a babysitter – these are practical needs that will naturally be taken care of through your small group. A second reason to connect is so you’re able to handle stress and pressure better!
They also continually devoted themselves “to the breaking of bread”. The people you actually invite into your home to share meals with are your closest friends. In this period right after Jesus ascended into heaven and the apostles were figuring out what’s next, this was a key staple, gathering in each other’s homes and sharing meals together. When you share meals with another person walls begin to come down and you get a glimpse of who they really are. We cannot have fellowship with one another if we are not being authentic and sharing a meal or breaking bread together helps us be genuine and authentic with each other. You´ll discover that your needs and problems are not unique ~ we´re all in the same boat. It helps to know that others are facing the same difficulties, or have lived through them and learned spiritual principles in the process. Doing something as simple as sharing a meal together helps you connect with other followers of Jesus!
Finally, they continually devoted themselves “to prayer”. Prayer in our day is mostly an individual one on one activity with God. But this verse implies that prayer should also be a group venture. Praying for each other, praying to God on behalf of others, praying to God concerning the expansion of his Kingdom. Of all the activities or disciplines mentioned in this verse, corporate prayer is probably the weakest and most neglected in the church today. Most of the time that’s because we feel inadequate and uncertain about how to pray or what to pray. Because we as individuals feel inadequate in our prayer efforts then rarely do we venture out and pray with others corporately. Start by personally becoming more comfortable with prayer and then praying as a group will follow naturally. So connecting with other followers of Jesus will help you become more comfortable in communicating with God!
The book of Acts is very clear about how God intends for His people to grow. Pastors have their role but we grow and have our needs met when we connect with other followers of Jesus. For followers of Jesus the best place to find those relationships is in a small group so take a risk and connect today!
Scripture Reference: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Acts%202%3A42&version=NIV
Group Life at RLC: https://discoverreallife.net/get-involved/grouplife-ministry/
Article by: Clint Rhoney, Executive Pastor at RLC