Summary: I want them to know that it is God’s plan for disciples to be actively involved in a small group so he can transform their lives.
Today is the last message in a series “Three Secrets for a Better New Year.” Our hope has been to share some insights from the Scriptures that if affirmed and practiced would make someone’s 09 superior to their 08. And today’s message is no different, other than to say that this secret, has the potential to do more good in the lives of God’s people than anything mentioned yet.
Let’s begin with Acts 2.42-47. [S] “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” (NIV)
The Word of God for the people of God. Thanks be to God.
[SS] The fourth secret begins to emerge when we read the Holy Scriptures. And that is that it is God’s plan for every disciple to be part of a small group experience because “Everybody needs a little help from their friends.”
Acts 2 tells us that the believers not only attended large group gatherings or worship every day in the Temple courts, but that they also made an effort to meet in smaller numbers in their homes. Why? Because disciples needed something more than what the worship experience provided. They needed the fellowship of a small group of Christians who would pray for them, care for them, and who would encourage them to become better disciples of Jesus. They couldn’t be a better disciple of Jesus on their own, they needed a little help from their Christian friends.
The bible teaches that being part of a small group is a blessed necessity if a person wants to become a better disciple of Jesus.
During the Great Awakening of the mid 1700’s, God used many evangelists, including John Wesley, to preach to crowds where hundreds and even thousands of people responded to the offer of Christ. What Wesley noticed however was that the fires that once burned hot in the hearts of those who received Jesus as Lord, often grew cold afterwards and there progression towards holiness or Christ likeness slowed or stopped altogether. Their change was short circuited as they fell back into their old thoughts and behaviors. Wesley observed that the crusade experience or even the weekly worship event was not enough to keep their passion for Christ alive.
Listen to what he wrote in his journal, [S] “I was more convinced than ever that the preaching like an Apostle, without joining together those that are awakened and training them up in the ways of God, is only begetting children for the murderer. How much preaching has there been for these twenty years all over Pembrokeshire! But no regular societies, no discipline, no order of connection; and the consequence is that nine in ten of the once awakened are now faster asleep than ever.” (Journal, V, 26) [S]
Something needed to be done to keep the life of God alive in their souls and so; Wesley instituted the class meeting, the original small group experience for making Mighty Methodists. In these more intimate settings they were able to tend to each other’s needs and growth in ways they couldn’t in the larger setting. In these gatherings scripture was read and expounded, they prayed for each other, cared for each other, took collections to be pooled with other Methodist groups for larger ministry initiatives, hence the apportionments, and it was here that they held each other accountable to growing in holiness which is still the goal of the Methodist. I was amazed to discover in my reading on the Wesley Class Meetings how alive in Christ the members were and how many people were being led to Christ through them. It was remarkable.
Not only did Wesley institute these groups, but he required anyone who wanted to be called a Methodist to be part of one. Why? Because Wesley understood the small group experience to be a means of grace from God. That is that he believed, based on scripture that God had chosen to use the method of small groups as an avenue to bless and transform the lives of those who participated in it so they could live day to day as faithful disciples of Jesus.
God says it this way in Hebrews 10.24 and 25b, [S] “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. And...let us encourage one another.” [S] Doesn’t that sound like God is saying that every Christian needs a little help from their Christian friends?