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"Fresh Direction for Care, Growth and Mission"

September 6, 2015 Speaker: Tim Zulker Series: Home Groups

Topic: Sermons Passage: Acts 2:42, Galatians 6:1–6:10, Matthew 10:1–10:5

Fresh Direction for Care, Growth and Mission

 “Americans are among the loneliest people in the world.” -George Gallup

HomeGroups.PagePhoto.250x325Howard Schultz tried to address loneliness when he converted Starbucks from a store that sold coffee to a cafe that gathered people together, while drinking coffee. On a trip to Milan Italy, Schultz was captured by the Italian cafe.

He saw the need for a place where Americans could connect with one another. Starbucks, and most coffee shops, large chains and small independents, do three things. The sell coffee. The provide a meeting place. And third, they create loyalty and belonging. I go into certain coffee shops, for all three reasons. We want to be a part of something. That’s what’s behind the jargon of Starbucks: Tall, Grande and Venti. Why not small, medium and large? Because it’s the jargon that creates belonging.

But our loneliness is deeper than even that. We have a deep built-in need for true fellowship at the soul level. We have a loneliness for God. Our true loneliness is the absence of true fellowship — with God and with one another. God is a Trinity. A three person God. So we are made for relationships. Or more to the point, we are made for love. So the greatest commandment, from this Triune God is “Love God.” Love one another.” That is unique in religion.

Our loneliness can’t be truly met by just meeting one another for coffee. We need to have our sin forgiven by Jesus Christ. Only then are we able to be reconciled with God and with one another. God’s grace and mercy through the cross of Christ is the only true cure for loneliness.

And when Jesus saved us, he saved us INTO a family. Our salvation reconciles us to God, and to one another. Now, as growing Christians, we need help from one another to grow more mature in Christ. We need one another to point out our sins. To spur us on to living for God. To say “You too? I thought I was the only one who struggled with that!"

Last week we celebrated communion with an extended meal around the tables. I lost track of how many people said “I wish we could do this every week.” We are a wonderfully relational church! We love being together. We love one another. But if we are going to be richly relational, truly helping one another grow as disciples of Jesus, and if we are going to reach out to others the way Christians do, we need small groups, as a subset of our whole church.

So we are going to transition from having our whole church together for dinner and different small groups for topics on Wednesday nights. A242 will be coming to an end, in other words. The youth group will continue to meet Wednesday evenings at the same time. And there will be at least one small group that meets near the youth group, so that you can attend that group if your kids are in youth group. Otherwise some groups will meet at many different times and many different places.

All of them will have three purposes:

  1. Fellowship and Care
  2. Growth
  3. Mission

Why Home Groups? Because we were designed to do the Christian life together. As our church gets bigger, we can’t do everything all together. We need a place to care and have fellowship, to grow and challenge one another, and to do mission together.

We want to do whatever we can to provide a healthy, loving place for you to flourish. A place of belonging. To know and be known. To love and be loved. People who will listen to you, care for you when you need a meal. Challenge you on your sin. Cheer you on when you are growing. Pray with you about your needs. Go on a missions trip with you. Pray for your non-christian neighbors when you go talk with them or invite them to church. This is what we envision.

You can’t do that in a group of 150, but you can in a group of 8 - 11 people.

So here are the three core purposes of our home groups:

 

1. Fellowship and Care: Acts 2:42-47

"42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common.45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved."

This is Luke’s first summary of the growth of the early church. The first thing that happened was that Peter preached a sermon calling the people to repent. They repented. Then they were baptized. Then the very next thing is, they gather together. The new Christians studied the Scriptures TOGETHER. They talked and share about their Christian life (fellowship) TOGETHER, they ate meals TOGETHER, and they prayed TOGETHER. All of this in homes, apparently in small groupings. Notice the verse just before this: "3,000 were added to their number that day." There’s nothing wrong with a large church. But there needs to be a way for relationships to happen. This was it. Small home groupings.

Two more things: one, they don’t become communists. They obviously kept their homes. And had money to buy food. The point is, they took care of one another. Generously.

The second interesting thing is, they met in the temple courts every day. That was not just to hang out, but to tell the people about Jesus. This is their evangelism: Acts 5:17-21 "17 But the high priest rose up, and all who were with him (that is, the party of the Sadducees), and filled with jealousy 18 they arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison. 19 But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, 20 “Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life.” 21 And when they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and began to teach.”

They’re in the temple to tell people that Jesus rose from the dead to save them. And their in the homes together to build each other up. There you go. That’s the in and out of Christianity.

So the first purpose of home groups is fellowship and care.

Here’s the second purpose of home groups:

 

2. Growth: Gal 5:13 - 6:10

"Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. 2 Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. 5 For each will have to bear his own load. 6 Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. 7 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith."

Remember the ad slogan, “Friends don’t let friends drive drunk.” Well, Christians don’t let friends do life alone. God made us to live in community. Family and church are the two primary groupings that God created for us. And we can’t grow alone. But Sundays aren’t enough. And our Bible studies on Wednesday nights have been more topical, more content oriented. What we want to develop are groups where you can build community more consistently and deeply. That’ll take time. You can start slowly. You will also be able to pick what group you want to be in. You can even shop groups for the first few weeks. We plan to meet for 3 weeks, take off the fourth. And on the 5th week of the month, we’ll gather as a whole church as we usually do for all church prayer.

We just can’t grow on our own. I highly value the moments that others have spoken into my life. Rich for example, has had some very helpful conversation with me about my tendency to keep my problems to myself. Especially early on in our church life. I am wired to be private. But Christ saved me from isolation and independence. Then he gave me friends and family to help me see that Christ saved me from that. And to walk me along in growth that way. I’ve been growing more dependent on others. I need my wife. My kids. My extended family. My church family. My friends. I need you guys.

 

3. Mission: Matthew 10:1-5 10

And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction. 2 The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; 3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4 Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. 5 These twelve Jesus sent out….”

Jesus called these men into the mission of the church as a group. He does the same with you and me. There’s a lot more to say about this third purpose of home groups, so we’ll devote next Sunday's sermon to that topic.

The group that came from the Village Church this summer to work at Summer OFF. That group was a home group. We were their missions trip. Not everyone in the group was able to come. But half of them did. Derek and Miranda were the home group leaders. Derek and Miranda, while they were here the summer, sensed God calling them to move here permanently. So God used a home group to come on a mission to Providence. The leaders will likely leave their Home Group, like Jesus left heaven, move to RI and someone else in their home group will take their place. That’s God’s way of multiplying. That’s the pattern of the Christian life.

The church is a family on a mission. We believe this is a good way, given where we’re at, to accomplish fellowship and care, growth, and mission.