Acts 2:42

Community is too precious a commodity to leave to chance. It’s a gift that must be intentionally cultivated. 

Turn to Acts 2:42 
  • Last summer we looked at this passage in our journey through the book of Acts
  • Jesus ascended into heaven, the Spirit descended on His followers, and Peter preached a powerful Gospel sermon to thousands who had gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate the Festival of Pentecost
  • 3000 people repented and believed the gospel Peter preached, then were baptized and added to the church
  • This passage describes the first church in Jerusalem that sprung up overnight after that event
  • We're not going to examine this passage in depth as we did last summer...
Three Weeks, Three Questions
  • Why Should We Cultivate Community?
  • How Should We Cultivate Community?
  • What Happens When We Cultivate Community?
Today, How should we cultivate community?
Read Acts 2:42
Community is cultivated through intentional devotion. 
Devotion in Two Directions:
1) Intentional Devotion to the Gospel
2) Intentional Devotion to One Another 
1) Devote Ourselves to the Gospel
It's not uncommon to find superficial community in our world
  • Crime families, mafia, gangs, etc.
  • LGBTQ+ community
  • Small towns (Poquoson!)
  • Minorities in a majority culture (some of you have experienced this while deployed in the military)
  • Biological families
Supernatural community (the type of community only God can build) requires a devotion to the Good News
Acts 2:42a—"And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching..."
  • Devoted to the Apostle’s teaching = Gospel
  • Gospel = Creation > Curse > Christ > Call
  • Community is cultivated through intentional devotion to the Gospel.
Here's What this Means Practically...
  • If we're going to devote ourselves to the Gospel then cultivating supernatural community is a distinctly Christian activity
    • Unbelievers can observe it and be impacted by it, but they can’t truly experience it
    • Membership at PBC and Communion are reserved for Christians!
    • In a few moments we're going to talk more about Fellowship Groups. An unbeliever can attend, but really they're designed for Christians.
    • Does that feel unloving to you? Imagine the Lincoln Park Conservatory in wintry Chicago. You might feel like it’s unloving for a greenhouse to restrict its warmth to the plants inside, but if you broke the glass to allow plants outside to work their way in, you would destroy the greenhouse entirely.
  • If we're going to devote ourselves to the Gospel then cultivating supernatural community is more than just “hanging out” with Christians.
    • The greenhouse wasn't primarily designed to shelter pedestrians from the wintry cold. It was designed to facilitate an environment where plants can grow so their beauty could be displayed.
    • Community in the church should be more than just hanging out with your Christian buddies. It's meant to facilitate an environment where you can grow so the beauty of Christ can be displayed to the world!
  • If we're going to devote ourselves to the Gospel then we can't be content with superficial community in the church. 
    • Not wrong to have friends in church who share your age, marital status, economic status, hobbies, etc.
    • But if that's all your relationships (or even the majority of your relationships) what you're devoted to be may you more than the Gospel
A few years ago I took Jonah to Buckeyes game at the Horseshoe in Colombus. We encountered incredibly unity, centered on a shared devotion to the Buckeyes winning. But as soon as the game was over that unity was gone. We competed to get out of the parking lots, to get onto the highway, to get out of Columbus. We didn’t know each other and we didn’t care. 

That’s what community looks like when it's a commitment to shared ideas without a commitment to specific people.
That’s what many Christians experience. All Christians everywhere are devoted to the same Gospel. Because of that we like many of the same Facebook posts, listen to the same songs, grieve the same heartaches, read the same Scriptures, maybe even attend the same events but as soon as those shared moments are over there’s nothing that binds us together. 
That's why we also need to . . .
2) Devote Ourselves to One Another
Acts 2:42b—"And they devoted themselves to . . . the fellowship . . .
  • Community is cultivated through intentional devotion to one another.
Here's What this Means Practically...
  • If we're going to devote ourselves to One Another then church membership matters.
    • v. 41 -- These individuals were added to the church!
    • Christian: pursue membership!
      • If you've been attending here for awhile, and for one reason or another you don't feel like you can join, find a place where you can!
    • If you're a Christian, but have no desire to pursue membership at PBC, we're going to discourage you from joining one of our Fellowship Groups
      • We don't want to ask you to commit to something Scripture doesn't require before you've made the committed to what Scripture does require
    • Jamie Dunlop tells this story in his book Compelling Community:
    • "A few years ago, a college freshman named Kaitlin visited my church. She liked our teaching but was put off by our focus on membership--because it felt wrongly exclusive and demanding. 'Why do I need to sign a piece of paper to love people in my church?' What she wanted were authentic relationships, not a bunch of formalities. A few years passed while she visited various churches, until she finally settled back at my church--and joined! Why the change of heart? It turned out that the thing she found offensive--membership--was essential to the thing she craved: authentic relationships. As she visited church after church that downplayed the commitment they required, she found church after church where relationships proved shallow. But as she interacted with her college friends who had committed to churches that made a big deal of membership, she heard about the community she also wanted. Kaitlin discovered that commitment is foundational to community." (53, emphasis added)
  • If we're going to devote ourselves to One Another then church membership must be meaningful.
    • These individuals weren't just added to the church, they were devoted to the fellowship!
    • Membership is much more than a name on a list, it's a devotion to a people!
    • This is where some small group models go wrong. Many have wrongly believed that their small group is their community rather than the whole church.
    • Think about all the one another commands we discussed last week . . . 
      • Serve one another, encourage one another, bear one another's burdens, greet one another, love one another, etc.
      • Church member: these are commands for how you must relate to everyone you're in membership with
    • Or think about some of the promises in our church covenant . . .
      • We . . . pledge to help one another as we follow Jesus together
      • We pledge to walk together in Christian love and unity
      • Church member: these are commands for how you must relate to everyone you're in membership with
  • If we're going to devote ourselves to One Another then we need a place to start.
    • How am I supposed to devote myself to the entire church?!?
      • It would be like me telling you to climb the wall behind you! So hard and seemingly impossible that most of you wouldn't even try.
      • But what if we filled that wall with wall climbing holds . . . it might still be hard, but what seemed impossible would now seem like something that most of you could at least attempt
We envision our Fellowship Groups functioning something like the climbing holds on a climbing wall 
  • The goal is not to get into a group and stay in there forever, but to build relationships in a group so that you can grow in your ability to cultivate community throughout the entire congregation.
  • Fellowship Group is not the destination, but a tool to help you reach the destination.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How much time is this going to take?
  • Groups are going to meet weekly (likely on Wednesday nights) in homes for about 90 minutes a week.
2. How long is the group going to last?
  • Fellowship Groups will be offered in three month trimesters
    • 1st Trimester: January 15 -March 25
    • 2nd Trimester: May 6 - July 29
    • 3rd Trimester: September 9 - November 18
  • One reason for this is to deliberately mix up the groups so you're cultivating community with the entire church
  • You're only committing for about 12 weeks!
  • If you don't like your group, don't worry it'll be over soon!
3. What are we going to do with young children during group meetings?
  • Families can make their own arrangements for childcare
  • The group can hire a babysitter and families split the cost
  • Adults in the group can rotate caring for the kids in the host home
  • Older kids can be a part of the group discussion
4. Will there be homework or required reading?
  • No! Just listen to the morning sermon from the week before
5. What will we do when we meet?
  • Pray together
  • Sermon discussion
  • Fellowship (snacks, desserts, coffee, meal)
  • Every trimester groups will do one service project together and have one party6. Why the name?
  • "Community Group" implies that your community is your group (rather than the whole church)
  • "Small Group" is too vague (we have other small groups like Sunday School, etc.)
  • "Fellowship Group" articulates what the groups are primarily about: helping us grow in fellowship
7. What about Discipleship Groups?
  • Two lessons I’ve learned over the past year: 
  • #1–Having a D-group doesn’t necessarily mean you’re discipling
    • The goal of Discipleship Groups is spiritual growth. If you’re meeting regularly, but the group isn’t growing it’s not disciple-making.
      • “...teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you...”
  • #2–Not having a D-group doesn’t mean you’re not discipling
    • If the goal is spiritual growth, everything we do that fosters spiritual growth is a part of our discipleship program
    • If our Sunday School teaches you how to honor Jesus with your money, that’s discipleship.
    • If our music teaches you truth that equips you to suffer well, that’s discipleship.
    • If our prayers of confession teach you how to confess your sin, that’s discipleship.
    • If our preaching teaches you how to apply the Gospel, that’s discipleship.
    • If our Sunday night Prayer meetings teach you what sorts of things to pray for, that’s discipleship.
    • If our Sunday night feedback meetings teach some of our men how to better teach/preach God’s Word, that’s discipleship.
    • If our staff meetings teach our staff how to reach cultural Christians with the Gospel, that’s discipleship.
    • If our members’ meetings teach you how to think about church membership, that’s discipleship.
  • NOT saying D-groups aren’t important!!! I am saying that they’re one way to make disciples, not the only way to make disciples.
    • Element—singing songs of praise to Jesus
    • Form—hymnal/screen, traditional/contemporary, praise team/piano
8. Will I have to pray or read out loud in the group?
  • Leaders will work hard to not call on people who aren't ready for something like this (but you may need to let us know in advance)
  • We do want you to grow to the point where this isn't uncomfortable for you
9. Who will be in my Fellowship Group and where will we meet?
  • Every group will have roughly 15 adults including a leader, and a host couple
  • Fellowship Groups will meet in various host homes throughout the area
  • Groups will be assigned next week after sign-ups end, so stay tuned
  • We will work hard to assign groups with diversity in mind
10. Why should I join a Fellowship Group?
  • Can't point to chapter and verse saying you have to join a group like this, but let me give you some reasons why I think it would help you . . .
    • It's easy to hide in a larger gathering
    • It's too easy to be passive during a sermon
    • There is little to no accountability during corporate worship 
    • It's too easy to quickly move on from the sermon without small group engagement 
      • Jamie Dunlop: "The Sunday morning sermon isn't the finish line for Word ministry, it's the starting line." (Compelling Community, 90-91)
    • We're prone to think we matter too little in corporate worship (my ideas/struggles/etc. aren't important)
    • We're prone to think we matter too much in corporate worship (forgetting your responsibility to love and serve the whole body)
    • We're prone to think "they need to hear this" in corporate worship
    • We're prone to think "this is only for me" in corporate worship
    • In a large gathering, when we cry there's nobody to ask us, "what's going on"?
    • There's little opportunity to ask questions and interact during corporate worship
    • There's little opportunity to pray for specific, personal needs in corporate worship
11. What's the next step?
  • Visit the Connect Desk after the service
    • Confirm that you're signed up
    • Or sign up (DEADLINE IS NEXT SUNDAY)Back to text . . .
  • Community is cultivated through intentional devotion to the Gospel and to one another.
Read Acts 2:42c—"And they devoted themselves to . . . the breaking of bread and the prayers.”
Devotion to the breaking of bread . . .
  • Could be devotion to hospitality, sharing meals together
  • Presence of the definite article (the breaking of the bread) suggests this is referring to the Lord’s Supper
The Lord’s Supper reminds us of our devotion to the GOSPEL...
  • Mark 14:22-23—And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is My body.” And He took a cup, and when He had given thanks He gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.
  • Bread symbolizes Jesus’ body and reminds us of His sinless life
  • Cup symbolizes Jesus’ blood and reminds us of His substitutionary death in your place
  • Not a Christian? Don’t receive the symbol, receive the reality. Come to one of the tables and talk to one of our pastors. Let them know of your desire to give your life to Jesus and we’ll happily drop everything to talk and pray with you.
  • Christian? As you take bread and cup, focus on your vertical relationship with God. Are there sins you need to confess? Godly habits you need to embrace? Gifts you need to thank Him for?
  • “Jesus and you” moment as you prepare your heart for communion in your seat and eat the bread at the table
The Lord’s Supper reminds us of our devotion to ONE ANOTHER...
  • 1 Corinthians 10:16-17 —“The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.”
  • Communion should remind you of community
“Jesus and us” moment as we pray in smaller groups around the tables and take the cup together as a church family