Summary: Groups, Relationships, Involvement vs. Isolation
I WILL – “I Will” Grow Together with Others
Acts 2:46 (pg. 759) October 18, 2015
About 15 years ago I was walking down the hallway at Fern Creek Christian Church on a Wednesday night and I ran into a guy I’d never met before...I’m not sure of the entire conversation, but I remember saying, “Hey, how’s it going, my name is “Rick.” And this guy responded, “Hey, my name’s Stan.”
And instantly I knew he wasn’t from New York or New Jersey...He was a “hick” like me. I laughed and said, “Where you from?” and He said, “West Virginia, but I’ve been livin’ in Dayton Ohio for the last several years.” I said, “I’ve ministered in Beckley West Virgina and loved those folks...what part of WV are you from and he said, “Charleston.”
Funny how friendships start, huh? I mean real friendships that go way beyond “just knowing each other.” They’re not relationships that you can manufacture. You have to really like each other and have a bond that unites you. And usually that bond will have to survive some painful tests.
Stan and my friendship survived our children being married and then going through a divorce. We both just decided our friendship wasn’t going to stop...it didn’t. We’ve buried parents together, lifted each other up through surgeries and parenting...and I’m not sure which one is more painful.
But what bonded us together was the grateful hearts of a redeemed alcoholic and a redeemed pot-head. A love for a Savior that saved us both from the “uttermost” glued us together...and still does...but my favorite part of our friendship is that Stan is driven to share his salvation with people...to open his heart to a community...a group...we prayed together for a Hispanic ministry...God sent just the right person after 2 years and the assimilation was beautiful...He began one of our first new classes...an open Sunday School that welcomed hurting and new folks...He became a point person with me on an outreach team...and served with me as a deacon and then an Elder...Stan would often say to me and to our small group leaders...the 2 purposes of the Church...“Win the lost...Disciple the saved.”
The point is, Stan and my friendship has always been about loving each other so we could care about the community...the group...and those who weren’t part of it yet.
But something has happened in our communities we call Church. To see the problem we need to go back about 2,000 years ago.
I. CHURCH LIFE PAST, AND PRESENT
Last week we talked about corporate worship, and how powerful it is to connecting us as a spiritual family...but what about smaller groups...where we can connect more honestly and intimately?
Acts 2:46 says “Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple complex, and broke bread from house to house.”
The two contexts where these early believers met and worshipped were in a large group in the temple courts (all the believers were together) and in smaller groups in their homes...It wasn’t one or the other...it was “BOTH.”
The large group worship celebrated God...connected the entire believing community to Jesus...around His table...in His Word...corporate worship was the launch pad for the coming week...but the smaller groups allowed for life to be shared daily...houses became Christian life connectors...shared struggles...shared praises...shared questions...shared meals.
Fast forward to the present, where for many, Church becomes a place you go...and your daily life has very little to do with it. And the effects of this are staggering!
[Thom Rainer has a research project report in his book “High Expectations” where hundreds of Church members who had joined the church 5 years earlier were tracked...the factor that was used to reveal the most telling result was “Those members who only attended worship services and those who also shared their lives in a smaller group. The church members who became involved in a smaller group as well as attending worship services were 5 times more likely to be active in their faith than those who didn’t. 5 times! (They did not include those who moved to another community, became incapacitated or died in the drop out category).
I had to check the results a second time. They were astounding. More than 83 percent of those who joined and were involved in a small group were still active in the churches. But only 16 percent of those who attended worship services only remained in the churches five years later.
I have led a lot of research projects, and I have read even more. But these results were some of the most surprising and most amazing I have ever seen.]
There are four primary reasons that growing in a smaller group like Sunday School, Life Groups, home groups or ministry groups keep us connected by a factor of 5...First: