Small Group Leader Prep Page Starting Point Week 8

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Jesus predicted that He would start a gathering, a movement . . .

We call it, Church.  His Church would spread all over the earth and outlast the Roman Empire. It would change the world. His prediction must have sounded outlandish to even His closest followers. But here we are, two thousand years later, and the Roman Empire exists only in history books, while Jesus’ gathering is still going strong.

Matthew tells us that one day Jesus stood with His disciples. They looked at a city renamed after Caesar Augustus upon his death in AD 14. While they stared at what was then a beautiful, thriving city named after someone who everyone knew, Jesus asked a question. “Who do you think I am?” Likely – after a bit of silence or back and forth – Peter blurts out . . . 

Matthew 16:16 (NLT) Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus was apparently impressed and responded, “You didn’t come up with that on your own.” He then follows up with this.

Matthew 16:18 (NLT) Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.

Jesus promised that He would build His Church. When Matthew recorded this interaction he chose a non-religious Greek word to describe it. The word – Ekklesia – means “to gather, assemble, or a congregation”. So Jesus boldly proclaims, “I’m going to build my gathering.”

Jesus didn’t predict a place, a building, or even an organization. He predicted a people—a gathering with one thing in common:  That Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. 

As we saw last week, after the crucifixion, all of Jesus’ followers lost their faith. Why? Because Jesus’ teaching is dependent upon Jesus being alive. But, the resurrection changed all of that.  And a few weeks later, when he gathered his followers together, He told them:

Matthew 28:18 (NLT) Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 

Now if that isn’t true, it’s very arrogant. But, the guy who said it had been dead for 3 days and now He was alive. He then tells them what He is going to do with all of that authority:

Matthew 28:19-20a (NLT) Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you…

WHAT? They were outlaws. They had no organization, no money, and no resources. Yet, Jesus’ choice for His authority is to commission His followers. “I want you to go to EVERY nation and make Jesus followers, Jesus gatherings.”

Again, they must have looked around and wondered, “All nations? Us? We are nobodies from nowhere. We are fugitives with no influence, no status, and no Facebook.”

Oh, He said one more thing:

Matthew 28:20b (NLT) …And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Then He left.

  • What do you associate with the word “church”?
  • What about Jesus’ final words here in Matthew 28:19-20 surprise you?

The Gathering Gathered 

A few weeks later, according to Luke, this group poured into the streets of Jerusalem with the message we’ve discussed: “You killed Him. God raised Him. We’ve seen Him. Say you’re sorry!”  It was then that the Jesus-gathering – the church – was launched. And, for two years, things went pretty well. They traveled 100 or so miles north and south, but then . . . 

The Movement Stopped Moving

Instead of going into “all the world”, they stayed close to home.  Persecution drove a few out, but they only went far enough to avoid persecution. And it appeared that the Jesus gathering, intended for everybody, would reach hardly anybody. But then something interesting happened.

The Conversion of Saul – Acts 9.  Saul (later referred to as Paul) has a story that is hard to reject. He was a fierce opponent to the early Jesus gatherings. He was very educated. He was well connected and he was a Roman citizen. His story about meeting Jesus and the life transformation that followed is a big problem.  His story makes it hard to reject Jesus’ resurrection and the claims of the early Christians.

Paul took on the mission of getting the story of Jesus out of Jerusalem and into the rest of the world. He traveled around the Mediterranean for 30 years. He traveled and made tents for his living. He was harassed, ridiculed, beaten, arrested, and beaten again. But wherever he traveled little ekklesia, or Jesus gatherings, remained.

Eventually, he was executed. But the city that executed him some 2000 years ago, is now buried under symbols and cathedrals that memorialize and magnify Paul’s message. Where Nero’s circus once stood, now stands the Basilica of St. Peter.  And the Colosseum now displays a Cross to honor the Jesus followers who died there.

Could Paul have imagined any of this? But it happened… Jesus predicted it would happen. 

Matthew 16:18 (NLT) Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it. 

  • How does the description of the original purpose of the church differ from or affirm your personal experience?
  • What are some things people think make them unworthy or disqualified from being fully engaged in the mission of the church? 
  • In light of Paul’s story, how might God use those parts of your story to draw others to him?

The Invitation 

So, as you consider your adult faith starting point, I want to invite you to join a movement that is based upon the indisputable activity of God. The church happened because Jesus promised it would. And, you have been invited to participate in the multiethnic, multinational, unstoppable activity of God on earth. You have been invited to participate in the activity of God in the world!

  • What are some things you can do to better understand how to use your strengths, weaknesses, and experiences to help draw others toward Him?
  • What is your best next step for engaging more fully in the mission of the church? Putting your faith in Christ? Baptism? Serving on a team? Giving? Inviting a friend? How can this group support you as you take that next step?

Used Under License from North Point Ministries