Today's passage in Acts shows the new believers devoted to the Apostle's teaching, fellowship, the breaking of the bread, and prayer.
Good morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor at Renovation Church.
Want to start this morning by having you pause and think for a moment if that’s ok with you?
I want you to think of your two most favorite memories of your life?
(Play THINKING Music) J
Now, let me ask you. How many of you thought of moments when you were completely by yourself?
And even if you did, so many of those moments aren’t great until you tell someone else.
One of the one’s I thought of was when I won a big scholarship for Bethel Seminary.
I remember getting the call when I was home in my parent’s basement and jumping up & down
But it wasn’t a great moment until I could tell someone. Until I could share it with someone else.
Our greatest moments in life are with other people.
We are, at the core of our being, created to be with OTHER people and live LIFE with other people.
This morning, you came on a great Sunday (not that there are bad), but you came on a Sunday where we are teaching on a passage that is foundational to what our church is about.
In fact, one of our three Core Values (community) is founded on this passage.
Our other two are evangelism and encountering God in case you were wondering
We are continuing this morning in the book of Acts in the Bible.
Acts is the story about the early church.
So far what has happened is the disciples have gathered together in Jerusalem after Jesus ascended into heaven.
50 days after Jesus rose from the dead, the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples and started doing miraculous things and drawing people to God.
Last week, we talked about how Peter then stood up and explained to the thousands of onlookers what was happening and what Jesus’ death and resurrection really meant for them
Here’s what the last verse said:
(Acts 2:41) – NIV
41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
So the total number of believers in Jerusalem just went from 120 to 3,120. That’s a good problem to have, but it’s still a problem to figure out.
What do you do with all of those new believers in Jesus???
We’re going to get our answer for that in today’s passage. Open up your Bibles, or load up your smartphone apps, or just look on the screen. We’re going to be continuing in Acts 2 at verse 42
(Acts 2:42-47) – NIV
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who 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.
It’s really an incredible 6 verses about how the new church grew and handled so many new believers. And not only that, they had additional growth using this model.
You know, sometimes our picture of what church is OR what church should be is only based upon what we’ve experienced in our own culture.
We see someone doing church differently and we say, “OH, church isn’t that!” “Well, why?” “Well, that’s not how we’ve ever done it?” “Well, what if you’re doing it wrongly?”
We structure and build our churches on what we’re used to. Or what we’ve seen. And we throw stones at other churches because they’re not like us.
A helpful remedy to this model is to go visit a church in Mexico, or in Africa, or in Asia.
It’s just a LITTLE bit different. Yet, the people are just as in love with Jesus.
We can’t look to our own models for how the church should be structured, we have to look to Scripture. And what we’re studying today is one of THE KEY passages on what people who use big words so they can sound smart call: “Ecclesiology.” Which is the study of how the church should look.
In this passage, there really are four things that the believers are focusing on: Look at verse 42 again
(Acts 2:42) – NIV
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
THE APOSTLE’S TEACHING
The first thing we see them devoting themselves to is the teaching of the Apostles. The apostles were the early church leaders who were also the disciples who actually spent time with Jesus.
But they were leaders who also had the gift of teaching.
Notice that in verse 46 it says that they continued to meet in temple courts. This is where the Apostles were teaching the masses of the believers
And the new believers kept going to the Temple in the early days of Christianity because they were still within the confines of Judaism.
I mean, after all, Jesus is the Jewish Messiah to the world.
It was only after time that Christians remembered that Jesus was for the whole world (not just Jews) and also, what happened was many of the Jews became hostile towards the Christians and especially the ones who didn’t believe Jesus was their messiah quickly wanted the Christians out of their temple.
So, after that, what we see in history, is that Christians were driven to primarily house churches
But we still see a pattern of the churches coming together like in Corinth. Or sometimes there would be a local apostle for a city. Or Paul would gather the churches together and teach. The reality is the teaching gift just doesn’t come in 1 in 20, so it was always necessary to have good teaching be done IN ADDITION to the fellowship of house groups or house churches
And new communities of churches are important. We can’t just all go the same church. People are different and different churches and communities reach different people. That’s why we talk about church planting all the time.
IN fact, this morning, we’ve got a few people who are here with Ray Fritz who is starting the newest church in our MnGrace church planting network.
They are going to be starting Connections Church in Ramsey. So be sure to pray for them and stop by and tell them how much you like being a part of a church plant.
But back to the model of the early church for a moment. If you think about it, it’s really a hybrid method of church.
And it was passages like this in Acts that caused me to start developing the vision for this church even when I was back in Seminary in my early 20’s.
When I was in seminary one of the big debates was what’s a better model of church: The megachurch or the house church?
And I started to think…why does it need to be one or the other, and really shouldn’t it be closer to a “both/and”
Because that’s what you see in Scripture. You do see larger groups of people gathering together to listen to teachers teach the Bible and about Jesus.
And yet, that isn’t enough. You ALSO see them gathering in groups of people in homes as well.
And that’s when God really started to put on my heart to one day start a church that did indeed put value on teaching and worship on a Sunday morning just like churches have been for centuries (let’s not throw that in the trash) but to combine it with house churches / house groups whatever you want to call it as well. Just like the early church.
And that’s what we do here.
If you’re newer to Renovation or visiting today and not familiar with our very unique House Groups model: Here’s a 60 second summary:
Basically, each group will has 25 people in it of varied ages, and half the night is spent in large group (getting to know each other, fun activities, DVD teaching from here.), and the other half of the night is spent in small groups of 5-6 people
So really, it’s like having normal small groups that a church would have, but instead of having 4 separate small groups that meet at 4 diff. houses, we are putting 4 small groups together in the same house
And the ages are somewhat varied throughout the house
It’s a community of people that meet together every week to grow together and support each other in Christ.
And they’ve been great for our church. 85% of our adults are involved in a house group.
People are finding that this is one of the things they always longed for church to be. Not just a place where they come to learn and worship. But a place where people KNOW them and care for them.
And this sort of the thing is the second thing we see the believers devoting themselves to in Acts 2:42: Fellowship.
Fellowship is kind of an old word for community. For being together and living life together as Christian believers.
And the need for fellowship is becoming increasingly more important every year in this country.
We are becoming a nation of lonely people. Or at minimum a very isolated ppl
Here’s what I mean: This is the new suburban lifestyle: Do what you can to get an EDUCATION, so that you can get a good JOB, work a lot of HOURS, make a decent amount of MONEY, so we can feed our individualist desires such as:
Have a really large TV that 15 people could watch at once but mostly we watch it by ourselves
We remodel our living rooms so we could entertain 25 people on a Friday night, but usually we entertain no one
We try to buy or build houses in great neighborhoods, but then we never actually meet our neighbors
Our isolationist lifestyle is unparalleled
Think about your parents generation (different for many), and think about how often they entertained
Depends on the person and generation, but as a general rule, the amount of dinner parties they had, lunch get-togethers, random talks in the front yard with neighbors, family get-togethers…the amount of community they had makes many of us look like desert monks.
In just a span of a generation or two
A few generations ago, they built porches in the front yard so they could see their neighbors
We build decks in the back so we can hide from them
A few generations ago, they got together on Saturday mornings and had coffee together every week
We prefer to do our own projects in isolation, because well, we’re busy. And we have stuff to do.
A few generations ago, they called each other and got together to see what was going on in each other’s lives
We prefer to save the time and just stalk them on facebook instead
We are a generation that no matter how hard we try and fake it, is absolutely starving for community and I believe the church offers the perfect meal to starvation, the perfect remedy: Christian community.
WHAT FELLOWSHIP IS
We see in our passage today that the believers are so excited to be in community with each other that they are literally meeting every day!
And I’m not saying Christians today need to meet together 365 days a year
You see this sort of everyday meeting thing happen all the time after revivals. It’s necessary when 1,000’s of people are coming to Christ as once
But after time it often does, and should, turn into a healthy regular regimen of meeting together
Where Christians are coming together and actually getting to know each other, finding out what each other is really struggling with, helping each other, teaching each other, praying for each other, caring for each other when their kids are sick, visiting each other when one is in the hospital. A COMMUNITY of BELIEVERS
And that’s the standard we try and shoot for when it comes to community.
Every once in a while I get asked why we don’t we have a “Greeting Time” here. Partly cuz I always thought it was kind of silly. That people in churches just do it to do it and you never remember the person’s name.
But it’s mostly because we never wanted to pretend that THIS “counts” for fellowship. It’s TEACHING and WORSHIP (which are super important…we see that in Acts)
BUT for FAR too long the American church has pretended that greeting time or “fellowship” time between services was “true Christian community.” It’s not, and it’s time the American church stopped playing games with itself and pretending that it is.
If the Apostles in Acts would have just said, you know, there’s no reason for you guys to meet in homes. Just come here and listen to us once a week and we’ll have you each shake hands and exchange your names each week for our community time.
If that’s what the early church would have done, they would have been done for quite quickly.
What makes church “Church” is when the body of Christ comes together and supports each other.
That’s how new believers grow. When older Christians help them get started.
It’s how we make big steps in our faith: When other Christians directly challenge us about something in our life.
And it’s how we experience the love of God in tangible ways: When other Christians actually know us and support us.
And maybe you’re not ready for community like that quite yet, but we eventually want you to be
It’s such a critical aspect to being a Christian, that I’m desperate for everyone to experience it.
In fact, let me rephrase something for you about our House Groups at this church.
Often in churches when we talk about ministries or groups, we talk about people signing up and committing.
But listen, my vision for this church is that one-day every adult would be connected to a house group in some sort of capacity.
We get people who say to us a lot (I’d like to sign up…I hear a lot about them…but don’t know if I can make it very often (work sched. etc.), so I shouldn’t sign up
But, there is a fundamental difference that we should explain about House Groups.
House groups aren’t a class. They’re not a club option you could pick out of a brochure. They are a community.
Which is a change in philosophy for a lot of you. Especially if you’ve grown up in the church. The church has always offered ministries and classes. We’re offering you a community of people to care for you. Very different. (its like what church is)
Therefore, I’m not all that interested in what your commitment level is. I mean obviously we want you to be as committed as possible because they are so great, but some of you could probably only make it once a month or maybe even once every two months, and I want to say to you this morning, “That’s just fine.”
I’d rather have you connected to a group of people that you saw once in a while than never connected at all.
Because, let’s say something happens to you two years from now. You’re sick in the hospital. A death in the family. You need support.
I want you to have a group of Christian believers who will rally around you and support you in that time.
If you start connecting yourself to a group of believers, even if it’s only on the limited basis you can make it, it’ll be completely worth it two years from now.
We’re not all that concerned about commitments, but we are concerned about community.
If you are interested in signing up for a house group or asking more questions about it, please stop by the house group table in the hallway after the service today.
If you look at our passage today and the broader book of Acts, one of the things I want you to notice is that the house groups/ house churches were integral to not just the building up of believers but the GROWTH OF THE CHURCH
I mean think about this. It’s not like everyone came to the temple first to hear about Christianity.
They were coming to people’s houses and rubbing shoulders with those who had their lives renovated by Jesus Christ. And the Church GREW that way.
I mean, think of where the church is growing right now. Asia. Especially in India and China. And also in South America. OR, think of the early church. A lot of the biggest growth movements in church history are movements where people are meeting in houses.
As long as they are connected to good teaching that is.
For instance, South Korea, which now has the highest per capita of evangelical Christians anywhere in the world, has exploded with growth in this way.
They met on Sunday mornings for a trained pastor to teach them the Word, and then they meet throughout the week in homes. And the South Koreans are reaching millions for Christ.
In America, we have HUGE churches but we aren’t reaching any more people. In fact, we’re losing ground. And many of the huge churches are growing only due to transfer growth of other already believers.
And, on the flip side, many are trying to start House Churches, but their failure rate is astronomically high because the teaching is so poor.
When house groups are connected to good teaching, they can reach people for Christ.
And I like to see us be more bold in inviting people into our house groups first. I could care less if they came to Sunday morning “church” first.
House groups are every bit as much of our “church” and I think are a viable way to reach some people for Christ.
It worked in the early church, it’s working all around the world, and I would challenge us to see “CHURCH” as the Bible sees it and not just “how we’ve done it”
I do want to make a quick comment on how the believers supported each other in our passage today by sharing possessions. We are going to talk about it in more detail when we get to Acts chapter 4.
But I think it’s imp. to point out that property selling was not enforced (this is not forced communism here)
And it was NOT a once-for-all disposal of private property. It wasn’t like every one got rid of all of their possessions as soon as they became Christians.
But what it is saying is that their fellowship impacted their pocketbook. They looked out for each other. And I think we ought to do the same in the communities God has given us.
Not only for each other but for those in need.
I am unbelievable excited about our House Groups doing Renovation SERVE WEEK on Nov. 14th-20th. If you’re in a house group, you’re going to find out more about this this week.
But that week, we are going to be cancelling house groups, and our groups will be out in the community serving in the name of Jesus
One group will be putting together holiday hygiene kits for the homeless and needy in our county (shampoo, soap, diapers, wet wipes)
One group will be serving meals at Alexandra house (a battered Woman’s shelter in Blaine and Anoka
And our third group will be putting on a meal and event for Kinship (big brothers and big sisters) for troubled kids in our county.
These are great ways for us to reach out and start impacting together people in our community. And I pray they turn into long lasting relationships as well.
By the way, if you’re not in a house group, and you’re interested in helping with one of these service projects, stop by the house groups table for more info
The reality is this, the early church thrived on this model for a reason.
The joy of fellowship of true Biblical community is so much more than the joy of entertainment in isolation.
And I think we know this... But you know, it’s “Kind of fun” to sit at home and watch a movie by yourself. And it’s certainly easier.
But those times when we do get off the couch, and hang out with friends, get together and have a good time. It can be so much fun! There’s so much in life in that!
And that’s because God built you for community!
It’s hard work. It takes effort, but it is incredibly worth it!
You know the one thing we didn’t mention this morning is that the believers also were devoted to breaking bread together. Which is partly eating together, but it was also taking part in the Lord’s Supper (communion) together.
This week, we are going to take communion together in House Groups, in homes, just like they did.
But we also wanted to do it here on a Sunday morning in case you are unable to make a house group. So we wanted to all take it together here as well
In the NT, Paul writes this about the reason for communion:
(1 Corinthians 11:23-26) –DON’T PUT ON SCREEN
23For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me." 25In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me." 26For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.
And that is what we will do. But Paul also writes in this passage that we ought to examine ourselves before taking communion.
To 1) not do it in vain. To only do it if we truly believe it 2) To examine ourselves (ask yourself some tough questions)
In the back, 2 tables….with pieces of bread and a bowl of juice. When you’re ready, you can get up take an individual piece of bread and dip it in the juice.
However, take some time to examine yourself before you go back.
Sometime to remember what He’s done and what He will do
And when you’re ready, at any time during the next few songs (if you need to wait, wait), you can go back and take communion.
If you would like to pray while you’re back there, we encourage you to do so. With each other, by yourself, or get prayer from our prayer team.
We really just want you to encounter God during communion.
Let’s worship Him!
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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