The relationship between the early church and the Roman government was a turbulent one. Persecution and peace surfaced sporadically at the whim of the emperor. The Roman officials, ignorant of the true practices of Christianity, often acted out of fear, superstition, and misinformation. The royal court assumed that the Christian church operated just like their greedy religions.
There is a story told of the emperor who coveted the riches he believed the church possessed and ordered their head bishop to produce "the treasures of the church." The bishop tried to tell the emperor that the church had no gold, silver, jewels, or other valuables, but still he ordered that "the treasures of the church" be brought before him the next morning.
Early the next day the bishop appeared before the emperor empty-handed. Outraged, the emperor demanded an answer about why "the treasures of the church" were not being given to him.
The bishop invited the emperor to look out at the palace steps. Gathered together, cautiously gazing up at the great doors of the royal palace, was a mass of ragged beggars, cripples, slaves and outcasts.
"These," said the bishop, with a broad gesture of his arm, "are the treasures of the church."
For his unappreciated but very accurate insight, the bishop was promptly martyred.
The treasure of the church is people. The church is not a building. It is not a doctrine. It is not a schedule of programs. The treasure is you and me.
This month, enlist the help of your small group members and have a rummage sale. The "junk" that is sold may become someone's prized possession, but the greatest treasure will be the people in your small group who will be helping with the sale. The community will witness the riches of relationship as your group members interact with each other and serve the customers. Set a date, pick a location and allow a couple of weeks for everyone to gather their sale items. The night before the sale, get together as a group to swap items and put prices on what is left. Decide as a group what you will do with the money that is collected. Enjoy a time of worship and prayer, then indulge in some refreshments.
During the rummage sale, have as many group members present as possible. Enjoy each other while the community watches. Some people shopping the sale will know someone in your group and will be curious about how you all know each other. This opens the door to sharing with others about your small group. It is a great opportunity to show an often fearful, superstitious and misinformed community the true treasures of the church.
At the close of the day consider donating the leftover items to a homeless shelter or thrift shop.