Monday, March 20, 2017

When the Church is Not a Building But People (Small-Group In the New Testament)


In Acts 20:20, the apostle Paul said to the Ephesus’ Christians, “I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house.” The early church followed Jesus’ pattern of discipleship and spiritual family life. They broke bread from “house to house” and had large corporate meetings:

All the believers devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper) and to prayer. A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshipped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity – 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” (Acts 2:42-47).

God’s people gathered at the temple and met in small groups in homes. Hey, all of this happened in homes! Peter evangelized Cornelius by meeting him and his family and friends at home (see Acts 10:22-48). Some met in the house of Mary, John Mark’s mother, and experienced small-group life (see Acts 12:12). The believers in Philippi met in homes such Lydia’s (see Acts 16:30-34 and 16:15, 40). The believers in Rome met in Priscilla’s and Aquila’s home (see Romans 16:3-5). Apostle Paul sent his greetings to the household of Aristobulus and Narcissus (see Romans 16:10-11). Paul also once wrote to his friend Philemon and sent his greetings to “the church that meets in your house” (Philemon 1:2). All of these references are from my past studies, all give the evident that the early church met in small groups in homes.

Reading church history, I found out that in A.D. 323, almost 300 years after the birth of the early church, Christians first met in a church building. That was when many problem arises. We should probably ask ourselves this question: Has our focus on buildings and church programs caused us to lose the simplicity and the power experienced by the New Testament church?

Around A.D. 312, it was Constantine, the emperor of Rome that made Christianity an official religion by institutionalized and professionalized it (in my own words). Faith become cheap, forgiveness can be bought, leaderships for sale! The small-group lifestyle and all-serve-one-another ministry that was taking place in people’s homes was replaced by respectable groups that met weekly and led by ordained ministers only. Average believers sat passively while elite church leaders running the show, sometime solo.

In my observations, the church more or less lost this New Testament component of meeting in small groups and give more (or only) attention on the physical building churches. Sure, “temple” ministry is important when it comes to corporate worship, united witness and celebration. But perhaps more than ever the Lord wants us to see the Church as people – you and me – and not as a place where believers meet. Could it be, in the midst of shallow Christianity even in Malaysia today, the Spirit desires us to focus on small-group again? The church meet in smaller groups – at homes, schools, campuses and universities, offices – and led by everyone, average believers with each unique kind of spiritual gifts. As each small group love and obey our Lord Jesus and His Word, the entire church will have a powerful effect on our communities! Oh yes!

In the end of the day,
each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved
THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.

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Saturday, March 18, 2017

Jesus Set the Stage for Small-Group (Bible Study)


Jesus ministered to the multitudes, but He spent most of His time with the Twelves, His disciples. He set the stage for small-group ministry where everyone has the opportunity to get involved and begin to use his or her spiritual gifts. And even though He called the Twelves, He gave priority to a small group of three: Peter, James and John. The small group Bible Study is the place where God’s people can receive training, instruction and encouragement as they reach out to their friends and neighbours with the Good News of Jesus Christ.

The Lord commands us to follow His example. Whatever He has taught us, we are to give away and teach to others. This can be quite effective through small-group ministry. For example, as a small-group leader, the most helpful way for you to teach students to read and live out the Good News is for you yourself to have the passion for the Word of God. They see your example. The best way to teach another Christian how to forgive others is for you to share God’s forgiveness and how you forgive others that hurt you. If, like my friend, you believe the Lord has called you to teach the new Christian to pray, take time to pray with him or her. As we study the Bible, we learn together, grow together, and teach one another. We teach others by modelling biblical truths with our own lives.

True Christianity in its simplistic form includes three focuses: #1 Knowing Jesus intimately, #2 Making disciples, and #3 Reaching out in compassion to those who do not yet know Christ. Jesus told us to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength and to love our neighbours as ourselves (see Matthew 22:37-39). This must be the motivation of our hearts in order to effectively fulfil the Lord’s purposes for us as believers in Jesus Christ. Small groups are an ideal setting for fulfilling these purposes of God. Do you agree with me?

THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.

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Friday, March 17, 2017

Small-Group Bible Study Based on Relationship ("Who", Not "What", We Know)


Today’s church has tried to reach people for Christ in our communities with extravagant church programs and 21st century methodology. While such methods have their place, they can never be a substitute for personal relationships formed in the context of genuine Christian community like the early church demonstrated when they met in small groups.

God said, “Let Us make man in Our image” (Genesis 1:26). The Father, Son and Holy Spirit have always experienced relationship. They are one. Shouldn’t we experience the same in the church? God created Adam with the need for relationship; He said it was not good for him to be alone (see Genesis 2:18). Adam saw his need for relationship. Relationship is an established life pattern. In the church, leadership is a function put in place to help us flow together as God’s people.

Even from the earliest of biblical times, God worked through spiritual family relationships. In Exodus 18:13-26, Moses receives wise advice from Jethro, his father-in-law, to release God’s people into accountability groups to empower people to minister. He indicated there should be groups of thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. From the very beginning, God had a plan to ease the load for leaders and keep them from burning out.

When God established His own people on the earth, He established them in tribes, clans and families. This was to ensure that every human being had a connection – an identity and relationship. The Hebrews’ thought patterns were relational in nature. They thought along the lines of realizing they were in relationship because of who they knew. Malaysians’ thought is almost the same as the Hebrews’, but because of the influence of Greek thought or Western thought worldview today, our thought became more information-based. We thought that we are brought into relationship with others because of what we know. In Christianity, our model of relationship with one another is based upon who [Jesus Christ] we know, not so much about what we know about Him (though it is also important to know what). 

Thus, small group Bible Study should be based on who we know – Jesus Christ, the Word of God.

THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.

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