Critical Connections Part 2
Community Group Discussion Guide

1. Can you share at least one way in which your small group has helped you connect with the family of God?

2. Discuss some of the important things that can be accomplished by connecting to a small group. (Encouragement, Prayer, Teaching, Serving, Giving, Listening, Helping, Mentoring, Outreaching.)
1 Pet 4:8  Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.
1 Pet 4:9  Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.
1 Pet 4:10  Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms.
1 Pet 4:11  If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

3. What generally happens with folks who do not connect with the family of God via smaller, community groups?
Heb 10:24  And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.
Heb 10:25  Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

4. What are some things each of us could do to encourage others to get connected with the family of God in a community group? Feel free to jot your ideas down and email them to Pastor Larry and the staff. We're always looking for suggestions on how we can better get people connected to the family!!
1 Th 5:14  And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone.
1 Th 5:15  Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.
1 Th 5:16  Be joyful always;
1 Th 5:17  pray continually;
1 Th 5:18  give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.



Critical Connections


Part 2

Acts 2:36-47

"To see the One who gave His life for us exalted and the ones He gave His life for transformed!"

 This is our church purpose!! It's our reason for existence!! It's why we do what we do!!

And just what is it that we do?

"Transforming Worship, People, and the World!"

 That's our mission! And make no mistake about it, we are on a mission. And just what do we envision. What do we hope to accomplish by transforming worship, people and the world?

 "It is our vision to raise up a healthy church that will impact the Northshore and ultimately the world with the life-changing message of Jesus Christ!"

 What does it take to be a healthy church? Remember, the Church is the people who make up the body of Christ. It is not a building or an institution, it is a living, spiritual reality.
In order for a church to be healthy, its members need to connect in four critical areas!
They are...

 Connect with God!
Connect with God's Word!
Connect with God's Family!
Connect with God's Work!

 Last week we discussed the first two connections, God and God's Word. This week we will explore what it means to be connected to God's family and God's work!

 Let's pray and then we'll read our text again. It's powerful and revealing. It speaks of the New Testament, but should be descriptive of the church today. It is my prayer that Northshore Church will become more and more like the New Testament Church as it grows!!
Let's pray and then we'll hear from God's Word…PRAY!!

 Acts 2:36-47

36“Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
Acts 2:36 (NIV)

37When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
Acts 2:37 (NIV)

38Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Acts 2:38 (NIV)

39The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off —for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
Acts 2:39 (NIV)

40With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.”
Acts 2:40 (NIV)

41Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
Acts 2:41 (NIV)

42They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
Acts 2:42 (NIV)

43Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.
Acts 2:43 (NIV)

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

45Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.
Acts 2:45 (NIV)

46Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts,
Acts 2:46 (NIV)

47praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Acts 2:47 (NIV)

 Peter wanted his hearers to connect with the One who had been crucified for them!
Many of them heard his message and cried out for salvation and forgiveness! Thousands accepted the message and connected to God in a personal relationship!
And that's the first critical connection the church must help people make!

 Critical Connection #1

Connect to God

 Our text then states that the people who connected with God did not stop with that initial contact. They devoted themselves to the Apostle's teaching!! And as we said last week, the Apostles were teaching what they had been taught by Jesus and were showing how Jesus was the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies!! In other words, they were connecting people to God's Word of Truth!!

 Critical Connection #2

Connect to God's Word of Truth

 Now let's look at the third Critical Connection…

Critical Connection #3

Connect to the Family of God

 Can you be a Christian without being a part of the Church family?

Yes and No!!

 If you have accepted what Jesus did for you on the Cross and asked Him to forgive you of your sins and to come into your heart, then you have become a child of God and as such you are a part of the Body of Christ!! If you are a part of the Body of Christ, then you are a part of the family of God.

11Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers.
Hebrews 2:11 (NIV)

 Remember the word for Church in the Greek is ekklesia. This term meant called out ones. You have been called out the world to be a part of the family of God!
So, on the one hand, you can't be a Christian without being a part of the family of God!

 On the other hand, there are certainly people who are a part of the Body of Christ because they've at some point in their life accepted Christ as their Savior and were adopted by God to be His child. However, they may have never really connected with others in the family of God or have long since stopped fellowshipping with the family.

 Let me tell you what that is…
That's just plain sad. It's more than sad, it's tragic. I've known people who've disconnected themselves from their human family and have nothing to do with family. It should never be that way among God's family. We need each other to grow and to mature as followers of Christ!!

 God didn't save us to become orphans or lone rangers. He saved us to be a part of a team of brothers and sisters committed to transforming the world by transforming people!
The New Testament did this! How?
Pretty simple, yet very profound...

42They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
Acts 2:42 (NIV)

Skip down to verse 46...

46Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts,
Acts 2:46 (NIV)

47praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Acts 2:47 (NIV)

 One of the things that made the New Testament Church so strong was the fact that new believers were connected with God, and immediately connected with God's family!!
These Scriptures are amazing because they give us a beautiful description of what that connection looks like.

 Verse 46 does say they met together in the temple courts. That was like meeting together here in this building. The only difference? They met there every day!


 They were so excited about connecting with God and His family they couldn't get enough!!! So if you think every Sunday is too much, check your spiritual temperature!! Somethings wrong if getting together with God's people is a chore!!

 They not only got together in the Temple Courts, they gathered in homes for fellowship, broke bread, ate together, prayed together, and praised God together!

I know it's a different world today and we are all so busy, but don't you think sometimes we're too busy for our own good? If we are so busy we can't set aside a little time to gather in a small group to fellowship with one another, eat together, pray together, study together and praise together we may be too busy!

I've said this before, if you don't get connected outside of Sunday morning worship, it's just a matter of time before you leave in search of another place to fellowship or you will drop out of church all together.

You see, when you connect in a community group, you will discover that you are not alone in your struggles. You will discover a place where you can ask questions and learn and grow and receive prayer, and so much more!

 You'll be in a place where you can hear testimony of what God is doing in other in other's lives and you can share what God is doing in your life! This will make you strong in your faith and will help you to grow to maturity! John put it this way...

3We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.
1 John 1:3 (NIV)

4We write this to make our joy complete.
1 John 1:4 (NIV)

5This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.
1 John 1:5 (NIV)

6If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.
1 John 1:6 (NIV)

7But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
1 John 1:7 (NIV)

This fellowship with one another and the connection to God's family leads us to make the other critical connection...

Critical Connection #4

Connect to God's Work

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

45Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.
Acts 2:45 (NIV)

A true and loving family will always desire to be together. You may not always be able to be together, but you'll long to be together. A healthy family seeks time together. A healthy family has things in common with each other. A healthy family works together to meet the needs of the family!

Let me remind you of the conditions of the early church. First of all, they were in an occupied land. The Romans controlled everything and they were pagan and ruthless. Secondly, those who followed Christ faced persecution by the very religious leaders who had crucified Jesus.

They needed each other for many reasons. Let me ask you a question…Do we need each other in our world today? Do we need the encouragement of fellow believers? Do we need the prayer support of our brothers and sisters? Do we need the witness and testimony of how God is working in other's lives?

Here's another question…Are you willing to give encouragement to a fellow believer who is discouraged? Are you willing to pray for their specific needs? Are you willing to share with a less mature believer how God has worked in your life and how He helps you day by day?

 Are we willing to be a part of God's Work?

Let me ask you this…How can you do engage in God's work of caring for each other if we don't fellowship with one another? How can meet others needs if we don't know what those needs are? How can others meet our needs if we don't meet together with them and let them know when we need their help?

A number of years after Peter preached his sermon to the first church, he wrote a letter to churches scattered throughout the known world at that time. In this letter he gave some really good advice about doing God's work!!

I want to read some selected verses to you from Peter's letter. They are speak so eloquently of the connection to our opportunities for ministry!

22Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart.
1 Peter 1:22 (NIV)

    God’s people are to love each other deeply and we want you connected to this love!
   You’re never going to get to the “love deeply” if you just say “Hi” on Sunday mornings and then go on your way.

1Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.
1 Peter 2:1 (NIV)

You know it will just be so much harder to have malice, deceit, envy and slander if you have developed friendships within a community group!!

2Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation,
1 Peter 2:2 (NIV)

3now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.
1 Peter 2:3 (NIV)

We should crave the nourishment that comes from studying God's Word. We should want to grow up in our salvation so we can apply the power of our soul salvation to every aspect of our lives.
And once you've tasted that the Lord is good you'll want others to have a taste!!

Now watch this next part...

4As you come to him, the living Stone —rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him—
1 Peter 2:4 (NIV)

5you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 2:5 (NIV)

Living stones being built into a spiritual house!! It takes each one of us to build the house. God is the stone mason and we are the stones. What kind of house are we to be?

5you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 2:5 (NIV)

Can you see it? We are a holy priesthood. We minister to each other. It's not just the preacher or the staff, it's all of us. Every believer is a priest before the Lord and has been given a call to connect to ministry!
And just what are those spiritual sacrifices?

8Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.
1 Peter 4:8 (NIV)

9Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.
1 Peter 4:9 (NIV)

10Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.
1 Peter 4:10 (NIV)

What are the various forms of God's grace?

Encouragement
Prayer
Teaching
Forgiveness
Serving
Giving
Listening
Helping
Mentoring
Outreaching

11If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.
1 Peter 4:11 (NIV)

Does this really happen? When people connect to the family of God and began to serve others and allow others to serve them, does this really work and is God really praised through this kind of thing?

Listen to the following testimonies and you tell me...

Video

Now let me read to you a portion of a letter I received from another one of our families who flooded during Isaac...  

"There is something special about the Friendships we have been fortunate to connect with at Northshore Church.  Just the other day, my wife and I were discussing how we have so many friends that we have a real problem trying to spend quality time with all of them.  The days are not long enough, nor are there enough of them in a week to adequately spend time with every person.  What a wonderful problem to have to contend with.
 

 There is something special about our Small Group at Northshore Church.  Over the years we have been able to share some of our deepest hurts and greatest joys, our most difficult challenges and the opportunity to give back a little of our time and effort to the Community.  So many of us consider our Small Group to be Therapy…  How fitting. How true.


As you know, we were affected by Hurricane Isaac.  We had about six inches of water in our home from the flood waters that spilled over into our area caused by the backup of a nearby Bayou.  I have had the wonderful opportunity to share this story with so many people and this is our Testimony.  The Flood Waters showed up on Thursday, and the Church showed up on Friday and Saturday.

We had men, women, and even some of the youth from our Small Community Group as well as others to lend a helping hand.  I don’t feel like this experience has traumatized us in the least.  It almost feels like we were lifted up by a cloud and relocated across town gently.  There is no way that my wife and I could have made this transition and the ongoing cleanup without you!
 

There is something special about this Community at Northshore Church.  We can’t put our finger on one main thing.  It’s all the little things that when added up together make Northshore Church so Special.  We can’t offer up enough thanks for all you mean to our Family.  The bottom line is that all of you demonstrate the Love and Character of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in so many ways.  This is our story.
For in Christ we all serve,Blaine, Amy, and Sarah Olson"


Here's the bottom line…
If you're not connected to the family of God and the opportunities for ministry that connection provides, you are truly missing out on a huge part of what it means to be a follower of Christ. You are missing out being a part of a wonderful and God sized purpose, mission and a vision!!
   

But, Pastor, if we all signed up for a community group today, there wouldn't be enough room for us all. That's okay, you sign up and we'll make room. We're getting ready to start a community group for our senior adults. We're also looking to start a group for our younger unmarried adults. We're even thinking about a small group in the Picayune area.

If you're interested in any of these or have considered hosting a community group in your home, please, jot down your contact information and your approximate age on the tear off in the worship guide. We even have a group with child care help.

 

Let's be the church God wants us to be by:

 Connecting to God
Connecting to God's Word
Connecting to God's Family
 Connecting to God's Work