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Summary: What participation in a small group will do for you based on what it did for Matthew.

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Randy Frazee wrote a book called “The Connecting Church.” He has a son who was born without a left hand. One day in Sunday School the teacher was talking with the children about the church. To illustrate her point she folded her hands together and said, “Here’s the church, here’s the steeple; open the doors and see all the people.”

She then asked the class to do it along with her – obviously not thinking about Randy’s son’s ability to pull it off. Then it dawned on her that the boy wouldn’t be able to join in. Before she could do anything about it, the little boy next to his son, a friend of his from the time they were babies, reached out his left hand and said, “Let’s do it together.” The two boys proceeded to join hands together to make the church and the steeple.

Frazee says, “This hand exercise should never be done again by an individual – because the church is not a collection of individuals – but the ONE BODY of CHRIST.”

Jesus also set this example with His disciples and that's what we'll be considering in this new series.

One of the interesting things about studying the Good News Accounts about the life of Jesus is how Jesus interacted with them and how they interacted with one another. We often focus so much on how Jesus interacted with the disciples that we fail to see how they related to one another.

So we’re going to discover some practical information about our friendships and how we need the support of a small group in life in order to grow spiritually and to help one another.

What we’re going to do for the next few weeks is look at the interactions between Christ’s 12 apostles to see what we can learn how to more effectively relate to our friends. And we’re going to especially SEE THE IMPORTANCE OF HAVING A SMALL GROUP OF FRIENDS TO INTERACT WITH.

How do you handle someone who has the outspoken personality of a Simon Peter, who is often opening his mouth before he has completely thought through what he or she should to say? Do you know anyone like that? Is there anybody here like that?

Or how do you relate to an Apostle James or John, who had this tremendous drive to set people straight, not always thinking about mercy and gentleness? (That’s why they were nicknamed “Sons of Thunder.”) I bet you know someone like that too! Odds are some of you have that disposition.

Jesus was teaching us a lot about how to have good, solid friendships, by how He was leading His small group – the twelve apostles. He didn’t give up on them because they had faults. He taught us the importance of relating with others on a spiritual plane in a smaller setting than the crowd. He taught us the value of small groups. He purposely put these guys together so that they could learn to get along with each other in spite of their differences. In fact it was a vital part of their training. It was a vital part of their growth, not only as leaders, but as friends. In teaching them Jesus was teaching us.

We meet for corporate worship together on Sundays and that’s great. But that’s only one part of the formula devised by God for our spiritual, emotional, mental and physical well-being. It takes more than just corporate Sunday worship to grow like we should grow spiritually and develop deep, caring friendships with others. So today we’re LAUNCHING sign-ups for small groups at Pathway.

Why is this such a big deal? Because Jesus made it a big deal! The Bible makes it clear that a lot of the spiritual formation that God wants you to achieve in your life occurs through interaction within a small group. We’ll see that in this 3-part series.

He doesn’t want you to continue being frustrated by certain things in your life because you aren’t making any progress. When you don’t grow you keep on fighting the same battles over and over. In this new year think about setting some growth goals in your spiritual life and in your relationships.

One of the God-initiated great ways to grow is to plug into a small group; to team up with a small group of friends on a regular basis to interact with one another purposefully.

When you get among a smaller group of friends trying to love each other the way Christ loves us and start interacting with Christ and His followers the way Jesus Himself did – the ways His apostles did - you begin to grow. You begin to learn how to handle one another’s faults and still love each other and be a blessing to one another. You begin to see yourself in a new light and you learn from one another.

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