They met together.
Publicly in the temple courts, privately in believers’ homes―the early church gathered often (Acts 2:46). Their time together was a high priority. It can be easy for us to dismiss this priority, thinking, “Well, they weren’t as busy as we are.” But most of our busyness is of our own choosing. We tend to gloss over some of the challenges and time constraints that the early church had; we don’t have to make our own clothes, raise our own food, or deal with the level of daily life-sustaining activities the first century church did. In the midst of these time-consuming activities, the early church was still faithful in meeting together.
In Making Room for Life, Randy Frazee lays out a strong case for replacing much of the mayhem in our lives with a more coherent, life-giving pattern of relationships and activities―a pattern that allows for real connections. These relationships require time together to develop, but they strengthen group members’ commitment.
They took care of each other.
“All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need” (Acts 2:44–45). We see the continuing of this pattern in Acts 4:32–37, and again in the taking care of the needy among them through the distribution of food to their widows (Acts 6:1–7). In both the Acts 2 and the Acts 6 narratives, Luke concludes the passage by noting how the church grew.
A popular song from years ago proclaimed, “They will know we are Christians by our love.” But how will they know about that love? John answers this question: “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth” (1 John 3:16–18; see also James 2:14–17).
Eating together, meeting together, and taking care of each other―carried out consistently―will build strong relationships and increase commitment within the group. Obviously, there are challenges. Geographical distance, family activities, seasons of life, and other situations contrive to keep us from building deep, interdependent relationships. As small-group leaders, we must be sensitive to these challenges while still finding ways to raise the value of the group in the eyes of our members.
- How often does your group take meals together?
- How well do your group members care for each other?
Faithful to the Mission
Prior to the day of Pentecost, Jesus outlined the mission of the church: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). The church carried out this mission. Meeting together in the temple courts, they publicly proclaimed the gospel first in Jerusalem (Acts 2:46). As the persecution worsened, the church scattered beyond Jerusalem―first to Samaria (Acts 8) and then to the nations beyond (the rest of Acts). Individuals like Peter, John, Stephen, Philip, and Paul carried out specific evangelistic activities; but beyond this, the church lived out its life in the community in such a way as to gain favor in the eyes of the people (Acts 2:43, 47; 4:21).