Here is one of the most ideal and perfect moments in the history of the church…
Acts 2:42-47 NLT – All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer. 43 A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. 44 And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. 45 They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. 46 They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity– 47 all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.
When I read that passage, I just want it. I want it for me and I want it for you. I don’t “do” church. I don’t “play” church. I don’t like doing things just because they have been done a certain way most of my life. I want to do, embrace, and experience something real, authentic, and powerful. The passage that I have shared is the most complete picture of that experience in God’s Word. What amazes me about this snapshot of the early church is that it seems so natural and spontaneous.
What did they do?
First and foremost, God had their attention. They wanted to know what they had just “gotten into”. They were experiencing things they had not known before. It was exciting. It was life. It was living for the first time.
They were listening to a message they had never heard much less understood before. They were hanging out with people with whom their only common bond was Christ. They were sharing meals with people they had not known yesterday. They were praying through Christ in the presence of God for the first time in their lives. They couldn’t get enough of Jesus Christ and getting to know him brought them into the lives of so many others.
It really seems so simple in hindsight. Jesus Christ had changed every one of them. That change had called them like a beacon away from the shipwreck of life into a community of people whose only connection was their defining moment. It was the moment they knew that Jesus Christ was the answer they had been seeking. And it was the moment their heart declared, “I am His, and He is mine!”
They did not even try to learn Christ in isolation. How could they? There were no Christian books to guide them. There were not even Bibles passed out at the end of the meeting. All they had was Jesus and each other.
Understanding, Awe, Prayer, Community, and Power fell on them like rain from the throne room of God. They were no longer alone. Christ was in them. Christ was in all of them and THE CHURCH had been called together.
“Awesome” does not even begin to describe this moment in church history.
Call the Question.
Why small groups? I would love to argue that the only way such an experience of Christ is possible today is in a small group. However, it appears the small groups were born out of the large group. So, the simplest and quickest conclusion is that you must have both.
Connecting to the larger community of God, also known as the Kingdom, is important. Call it practice, if you will, for the final day. Connecting through smaller groups is simply more realistic and more real all together.
I can know the Kingdom and serve the Kingdom, but the Kingdom is too large. It’s awesome but too big to be known, only known of and awaited. However, a person I can know and I can help. We are commanded to pray for the Kingdom and for laborers, which I can do. But the act of praying for the Kingdom, although compelling and possibly passionate, is not tender, nor specifically compassionate.
When I pray for a person, a friend who is fighting cancer, or worse an unknown, unnamed monster, whether disease, emotion, isolation, fear or anything else, I care. I am with them in their battle. They are not alone and I am significant in their life. I am needed. I am wanted.
So to echo the question again, Why small groups? We need. No, we must belong. And this belonging is worth a fight. It is worth getting it wrong a few times. It is worth another try. Why? Because you are not alone, Christ is IN you. And because I am not alone, Christ is IN me. We should be “not alone” together. After all, “For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there…” Matthew 18:20.