Connect To Community

Sermon Summary

This message looks at the first New Testament Church and how they connected in small groups. They met in large gatherings in the Temple Courts, but they met in homes throughout the week. In fact this early group of believers were so excited about their new found faith they met together every day! There are things a person can get in a small group that just can’t be found in the larger gathering! Getting to know people more closely and fellowshipping with them. Being able to share some of your questions and struggles and to hear from others how their faith has helped them when they faced the same kinds of things. Bottom line is this: Sunday’s just not enough! When you connect with a community group you get more fellowship, more encouragement, more of God’s Word, more prayer, more worship, and the chance to receive ministry and participate in ministry to others.

Community Group Discussion Guide

1. What are some of the reasons you’ve decided to connect with a community group?

2. Sunday is a little bit like a pep rally to get each of us ready for the game of life. Community groups, on the other hand, are where we huddle together to discuss our game plan and strategy. This is a two way street. We share how God has helped us in our life and we hear how God has helped others in theirs! Can you think of a specific example of how this has worked in your own life?

Colossians 3:16a Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom...

3. How can connecting in a small group help you minister to others? How can connecting in a small group help others minister to you?

I Thessalonians 5:14 And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone.

Galatians 6:2 Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

4. Do you agree with Pastor Larry's statement that Sunday does not provide enough, study, fellowship, encouragement, prayer, or ministry opportunities? Explain!

Heb 3:13  But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness.
Prov 8:33  Listen to my instruction and be wise; do not ignore it.
Prov 8:34  Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway.
Prov 8:35  For whoever finds me finds life and receives favor from the LORD.

"Connect to Community"

Full Sermon Notes

What a powerful testimony about the benefits of connecting in a small group! The New Testament Church certainly understood the importance of getting together in small groups. Last we talked about the reasons we come together in a large group on Sunday mornings. We talked about coming together to learn, to fellowship, to pray, to break bread, and to worship. These are just five reasons to come on Sunday mornings. There are so many more.Today we will talk about connecting! We'll focus on community groups. There's so many reasons to get connected I'll only be able to scratch the surface this morning! Bottom line is this…if you just come to the gatherings on Sundays but never get connected, you loose, we loose and this may come as a shocker to you, but God looses! Some of you may be thinking, "But God is God, He never looses!" If you're here today and you think God has never experienced loss, you don't know your Bible. The Bible tells us that God has wept and grieved over many things. The rebellion of humanity, the disobedience of His people, the death of the wicked, the rejection of His prophets, and the rejection and crucifixion of His only Son! So with that in mind, let me tell you what we want to connect you with at Northshore Church. First of all we want to connect you to a personal relationship with God through His Son Jesus! That's the most important connection anyone could ever make at Northshore Church. If you make every other connection, but don't make that one, what a tragedy! We talk about this connection at our big and small gatherings. We talk about this connection at our membership class. Ya just gotta make this connection. It is the connection to real life here on earth and eternal life in heaven. Your connection with God effects every other connection in your life!

Secondly we want you to connect to God's Word. We do that in large and small groups. Why? Because God's Word teaches how to live our lives in His power and victory even in the most difficult of times.There are many ways to learn God's Word. Hearing it preached, reading it ourselves, studying it with others, and watching others live it!

I write an article for Metro Fitness Magazine entitled "Spiritual Fitness." A few months ago I wrote this...

“One of the most important things in life is to find good examples. If we have no teachers, trainers, or mentors, we are forced to learn every lesson the hard way! My dad once said: ‘A wise man learns from other’s mistakes, a smart man learns from his own mistakes, but a fool learns from no one’s mistakes.’”  

This is just one of the reasons we want you to Connect to the family of God. God has given us this third connection to help us in our connection with Him and His Word. I'm going to give all kinds of reasons why connection to the family of God is so important. I'm going to share with you how to do this and we're going to give you an opportunity to take the first step at the end of our service. Let's pray and ask God to show us why connecting in small community groups is so vital to our Christian commitment.

Take your Bibles and turn with me to our text for this series of messages. Acts 2:42-47

42 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.

 

Here's my "ah ha" moment when I read this passage…

 

Sunday's just not enough!!

Sunday's not enough!

We need more of God's Wisdom!

Sunday's not enough!

We need more fellowship!

Sunday's not enough!

We need more spiritual nourishment!

Sunday's not enough!

We need more prayer!

Sunday's not enough!

We need more time to worship!

Sunday's not enough!

We need more opportunities to serve!

There will be a whole message on the opportunities and reasons God wants each and every one of us to find our place to serve. Next week our various ministries will be set up to show you what they do and how you can get involved. It's going to be a great day! If you have to miss any of these messages, don't miss next week!! Now, back to Sunday's just not enough! Let me ask each of you a personal question. How many of you eat at least two meals a day? How many of you eat three meals a day? Okay, confession time. How many of you snack at least once a day? Okay, that would add up to eating something four times a day. That would add up to eating 28 times each week!! So we eat 28 times a week to keep our physical bodies going, but somehow many folks think they can get by spiritually on one meal per week. Sunday morning. Folks we've got a lot of people walking around spiritually malnourished. It's no wonder we stumble and fall. It's no wonder our spiritual minds are sometimes cloudy and just unable to think clearly. It's no wonder we sometimes feel alone in the battles we face. We in America are fiercely independent. That can be a good thing at times, and has been one of our strengths as a nation. However, it has also been one of our pitfalls. When we don't realize our need for one another and we think we can handle everything on our own, we end up isolated and defeated. And here's the flip side to this fierce independence. Not only do we refuse the help of others, we expect others to do for themselves so we justify our disinterest and lack of involvement in their hurts and needs. This is not the way it was in the first New Testament Church. Let me read it to you again...

Acts 2:44-47

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.

 

So what do you get when you connect to a community group?

You get

Community!!

It says all the believers were together! It's great to gather in a large worship setting,, but everyone of us knows a person can get lost in the crowd! You can be anonymous in a crowd! You can be lonely in a crowd! When you connect to a smaller group of believers in a community group you get a level of fellowship simply not possible in a larger group. What is the definition of fellowship?

Fellowship -  "The bond of common purpose and devotion that binds Christians together and to Christ!" Holman Bible Dictionary

To be sure, we get some of this on Sunday mornings, but when you connect in a smaller group you'll find the common purpose and devotion you share together as Christ followers becomes so much stronger. This fact and the fact the New Testament Church practiced this concept informs the Northshore Church Model of Come, Connect, Commit! Let me share something with you this morning that is very important and I think it might even answer some of the questions some of you have had. If you've been involved in women's ministry or men's ministry here at Northshore or somewhere else, this is important. For years churches focused on ministry programs. They would come up with a men's ministry program, a women's ministry program, a youth program, a children's program and they tried to get everyone to fit the program. They tried to get everyone to attend the program. They would have large program events. How do I know this? I grew up during this era. It was all about getting larger and larger numbers of people to attend the program. If you could get a thousand people to attend a program, you were considered successful. Revivals, crusades, and concerts were the tools of outreach for the church. It worked to a point. But here was the issue, the elephant in the room, very few were willing to talk about. Those thousands of people who attended the events, who were they, and where were they after the big event? Did anyone get to know them personally after they signed a card? Did anyone mentor them and help them grow in their faith? Who helped them understand there would be spiritual battles to fight and discouragements to face, and consequences still to come from their years of living by the world's standards? To be sure, God had forgiven them and was now in their heart, but the were spiritual infants and needed more mature believers to help. I'm not saying this connection never happened, but unfortunately it was rare. Now, am I against large ministry events? Absolutely not! I'm involved in a rather large ministry event every Sunday morning! But hear me out. Instead of our Men's ministry or Women's ministry being a ministry of events, we want them to be a ministry of people! What do I mean? We want to develop many small groups of women connecting with each other in Bible study, fellowship, encouragement and ministry to one another. Same thing for the men. We then want the small groups to come together for some exciting and fabulous large events. What's the difference? When your large events grow out of your small groups, you already have connection points for people so they are not lost in the crowd. You don't have to scramble to create a place for people to belong. You can say, "glad you're here, here's a place where you can connect and get plugged into our fellowship!" So have no fear! As our ministry grows through community groups, our ability to have big ministry events will grow as well! So many lives have already been touched through things like the Testimony luncheons, She conferences, Men's breakfasts and mens' retreats. We'll still have things like this! So what's different now? Our different ministries will come under the umbrella of the Community Group Ministry. Leaders of these groups will be trained together and we will work together to do ministry as the Body of Christ! I'm excited about the possibilities!

What else do you get when you connect to a community group?

You get

Encouragement!!

 

Acts 2:44 All the believers were together and had everything in common.

 

E.C. Smith stated this in the Broadman Commentary

"The Jewish Christian community had a strong sense of togetherness. They were bound to a common Lord. They shared a common experience."

It's this sense of togetherness, common experience and their common faith in the Lord which allowed them to give encouragement to one another. One of the most common stories I hear about small groups is about the encouragement and support people get from each other! You're just not gonna get that level of encouragement at the large gathering because you don't have the opportunity to share your struggles or victories with each other, so people can't give that deeper level of help to you! In other words, we may not know you're struggling with something. This leads me to one of the most important reasons of all to get connected in a community group. What do you get when you connect to a community group?

You get

Ministry!!

I'm going to share with you one of my greatest struggles as a pastor. I simply can't keep up with all the ministry needs of our growing congregation. Sometimes this bothers me and distress me greatly. Especially when I see someone who hasn't been to church in a long time and I find out the reason is a serious health reason, or a major family issue, or maybe the loss of a family member. The first thing I feel is guilt, because I didn't realize they had gone missing until I saw them out somewhere. I then feel bad because we missed an opportunity to minister to them in their time of need. But now I'm going to tell you something God has spoken to my heart. I'm right to feel sad about these missed opportunities, but there is an answer and you and I are both part of the solution! God's Word makes it plain in Ephesians 4:11ff If God had not shown me this truth I would have been crushed under the load. Here it is...

Eph 4:11-16

11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers,

12 to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up

13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

 14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.

15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.

16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

I'm to equip you to do works of ministry. I can't do it all. I'm not superman! I'm not super pastor! We do have a super staff, but we couldn't hire enough people to do all the ministry that needs to be done in this church and the different communities into which our ministry reaches. However, together, we can accomplish the ministry God has called us to pour out into the lives of others. So today and next week I'm going to equip you to do ministry! Here's what you do today. Ready. Connect to a Community Group. When you do you'll get to know the family a little better and when you notice someone's not at small group you can call and check on them. If they share with you they've been sick, you can let them know you'll be praying for them. You might even want to get some of your group to fix a meal or two! Or it may be you standing in the need of prayer or your family who could use a meal. It's so simple yet so profound, when we gather in small groups we can minister to one another and so fulfill the law of Christ which is to love one another! And did you know this is more of an example to the world around us than anything we do on Sundays? People held the people of that first church in good favor, because they saw them helping one another. Jesus had said something about this...

John 13:35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

As a result their numbers grew daily, not just on Sunday.

Okay, one last, reason to connect in a small group.

You get

Spiritual Nourishment!!

People don't just need God on Sundays, and people don't just need each other on Sundays! We don't just need God's truth on Sundays! We don't just need prayer on Sundays!

Get connected to a community group and you'll get...

More Word!

More Prayer!

More Worship!

More Fellowship!

More Encouragement!

More Ministry

More Awesome!

 

Let's pray!

Andrew will come now to share with you a unique opportunity to get connected to a Community Group today!