The “Conquerors,” a small group at First Church, have met at Rachel’s home for two years now. The group started with seven members, and all seven members still come. The weekly meetings at Rachel’s are the highlight of the week for each individual. The Bible study is intense, the prayer victorious, and the fellowship deep. God has used the group to bless each member, and they feel stronger in their faith as a result.
Rachel has proved to be an effective leader. She has faithfully kept the goal of discipleship before the group, encouraging them to take risks in their faith. She has exerted positive leadership as well, leading the pack when they needed someone to follow, and following the pack when they needed to lead. In addition, she has allowed an honest, loving community to develop. And within the context of their caring community, the group has studied, worshiped, prayed and taken group outings together.
But now tension is starting to enter the group. The group is studying Acts because they want to learn to identify with the early church. Like their early brothers and sisters in Christ, the Conquerors meet in a home, eat together, and enjoy talking about their master. The study started with great promise, with the group members reading a portion of Acts each day in their time alone with God.
Then Sam changed the direction of their study. The group had been skipping over the practical emphasis of Acts, that the Holy Spirit was using the disciples to spread the gospel throughout the whole world (Acts 1:8). One Wednesday Sam came to the group with the following composition, which he felt that Acts 2:42-47 would say about the Conquerors:
They focused their energy on the study of Scripture, because theywere fascinated with what they were learning. Also, they couldn’t wait to be together. Their meals and their prayer times were very enlightening. They got excited when they were together, exchanging hugs and talking about how they couldn’t make it through a week without each other. Some of the members even allowed their study to bring positive change in various areas of their lives. For instance, when one member needed help, others would chip in, whether they needed money or sympathy or physical help. Each week they came together, but they also got together outside the group. Many called each other throughout the week, and they often had dinner together after church.
Because of their love for each other and for God, the groupfelt close to God and enjoyed worshipping God. The pastor of the church was thrilled with the Conquerors because they were growing in their faith. But others in the church and world felt left out, for the group decided that it was better to stick with a proven group than to risk a new person ruining things for everyone.
Blessed to Be a Blessing
What was Sam pointing out in his version of Acts 2:42-47? He is chiding the group for being ingrown, allowing themselves to enjoy God’s blessing while withholding it from others.
Sam’s honesty, and willingness to ask tough questions, led the group in a new direction with their study. The question that arose from his paraphrase was, “What would have happened if the early church had hoarded God’s blessing, keeping it from others?”
The answer to the question is simple. The growth of the church would have been slowed or even stifled.
In the book of Acts, everything occurred within the context of evangelism. Acts 2 (along with numerous other passages in Acts) contains a reference to people being saved. “And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (v. 47). Peter preached his sermon, and people were saved. Later, believers met together in homes, and others were saved. Christians met at the temple for prayer, and the Lord added to the church. The church was scattered through persecution, and the worshiping, praying, studying community of faith went forth into the world to make other disciples.
Just as the early church was blessed so that they could carry God’s blessing to others, small groups are an extremely effective means through which people can be brought to Christ.