This week we’re exploring the faith catalyst that we call, “Group Together”.
And the goal from this Sunday’s teaching and our daily readings is not simply that we’ll understand this faith catalyst a little bit more, but that we’ll actually put it into practice in a more meaningful way in our lives. Because the truth is, that no matter how much you study and reflect on this idea, the power of Grouping Together can really only be experienced when you do it.
Grouping Together has been part of the Church’s practice from the very beginning. In fact, it was part of Jesus’ design for the Church from the very beginning. So much so, it’s actually what the Greek word for “church” – ekklesia – means; a “gathering” or “group”. And it’s not a name that we made up for ourselves. Jesus gave it to us when He said, “I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Mt. 16:18).
Ekklesia means “gathering”, but it means so much more than just a group of people sharing the same space. It’s a rich word to describe a community connected with one another and moving together on a mission. So this week, we’re going to explore what that looks like and how we might be able to more fully Group Together in our own little part of Jesus’ ekklesia here and now!
Day 1: Read Acts 2:42-47
As we were reminded from this Sunday’s teaching, the early church was a community that practiced a full and life-giving hospitality.
Not entertainment. They were truly focused on relationships, not on impressing one another with their decorated houses or designer recipes.
Not amusement. Though no doubt, sports and business and the weather probably made up parts of their conversation, God was at the centre of their conversations. Their life in Christ shaped their relationships with one another.
Not affinity. This was a group made up of very different people. Different ethnicities. Different social classes. Different economic tiers. Different ages and stages. They didn’t share much in common. But they literally shared all they had with one another – their homes, their possessions, the resources, and their time. They became a kind of new family for one another.
Read this passage again in light of some of the things we were reminded of from Sunday’s teaching.
Write down all the different things that this community did together as they grouped together.
Take some time to reflect and compare this list of group practices to your own experience with your church community.
Which of these group practices are common in your own life?
Which of these group practices are uncommon or perhaps even non-existent?
If you’re part of a home group, how might your group take a step toward living out one or more of these practices together more fully?
If you’re not part of a home group, maybe it’s time to join one! Click here to sign up for a home group at your site: www.thewell.ca/home-groups/
For the rest of this week’s readings we’re going to explore more about what it looks like for the church to “Group Together” through practicing the UP-SIDE-DOWN-PARTY!
Day 2: UP (Prayer)
Read James 5:13-18
Prayer is a practice that’s meant to mark how we Group Together.
It’s one of the things that the early church was devoted to (Act. 2:42). In fact, the practice of prayer (and in many cases, actual written prayers) is mentioned in almost every book of the New Testament.
Now, let’s be honest. There are times when prayer can feel rote, boring, and disconnected from our real lives. It can be difficult to pray out loud. Some of us have a hard time finding words to pray, or even knowing what to pray for. On the flip side, some people pray with far too many words, on and on and on!
But prayer is meant to be a deep and rich way for us to invite God’s very presence, and power, and Voice into our shared life together. Take a look at James 5:13-18 again and consider all the different things he describes can happen when we pray together…
We can bring to God both our troubles and our joys.
We can ask him to heal our sicknesses.
We can pray for others, and have others pray for us – a powerful way to care for one another.
We can exercise our faith.
We can see God heal!
We can confess our sins and experience God’s forgiveness.
We can open up the possibility for powerful and miraculous things to happen!
And this is just to name a few!!
Prayer is a practice that opens up our “earthy” relationships to the power of heaven. Prayer is the door through which we invite God to be part of our gatherings. And it is a practice that can take even a good conversation and turn it into a God-encounter.
As you think about your group-life, what role does prayer play when you group together?
- As you consider all the things that this passage describes about prayer, what longings does it stir in you – for your own prayer life, and for your home group’s prayer life together?
- Pray for your home group now, or for someone close to you who comes to mind. Let this passage fuel your prayers for those you’re praying for.
Day 3: SIDE (Let’s talk Jesus)
Read: Colossians 3:15-17
What is something you love to talk about these days?
Your favourite Netflix series? (Just in case you’re not aware, Netflix is now home to Seinfeld!)
Your favourite sport? (If you’re a Leafs fan, this is the most optimistic time of year – just before the season actually starts!)
Your favourite pandemic? (Kidding, of course! But we’ve all had no shortage of COVID-talk over the last year and a half!)
All of these things can be great to talk about. They can be the source of hours of fascinating – and sometimes frustrating – conversation with good friends. And they’re all part of life.
And yet, in the community of Jesus-followers, we know that while these things may be part of life, there’s something so much greater at the centre of life.
And so, just as Paul reminded one of the first Christian communities, our community is designed to be centred around the peace of Christ – his life-giving, barrier-breaking, sin-forgiving love, which binds us to Himself and to one another. And when we come together, we’re given a beautiful opportunity to talk about it!
Paul encourages us to engage in the Good News of Jesus in all sorts of ways together. He says, let it “dwell among you richly”. In other words, let this message be alive among you, let it make its home among you.
Teach each other about Jesus.
Encourage and train one another in Him.
Grow in His wisdom together.
Sing songs that open your hearts to His Spirit.
Share in thanksgiving with one another for all that God has done through Him.
Maybe this kind of talk comes easy for you. Or maybe not. But whether you’re a veteran or a rookie at all this, we grow when we’re part of a community that invites Jesus into the centre of our conversations.
Take a few minutes to reflect on the relationships in your home group, and perhaps some of your other significant relationships as well.
- What are some ways you have shared in life-giving Jesus-centred conversations? How have these helped you or others grow?
- Who in your life initiates good God-conversations with you?
- How might you be able to take a step to grow in your God-talk with others?
Day 4: DOWN (Reach Out)
Read Acts 3:1-10
There’s no question that this was an extraordinary event. A big enough deal to make the cut for Luke’s biography, and to be a story that continues to be told two thousand years after it happened. If something like this happened in your life, I’m sure you’d want to tell that story too!
But I think one of the most compelling things about this story is that in one sense, it was just part of the “every-day” practice of the early church. This very uncommon miracle took place in the midst of the very common habits of the early church. They were on the way to take part in their regular practice of corporate prayer at the temple. And along the way, they became aware of a need. And as was another common practice among the early church, they gave what they had to meet the need before them. Of course, what happened was nothing short of a miracle. As Peter said a little later on in the story – it wasn’t anything they did, it was all God! Peter and John just stepped into a need that was in front of them and gave what they had. But God used what they did to do something incredible.
Caring for the needs of others has always been a “common” practice for the Church. It makes sense, because that’s what Jesus did too. And along the way, just as in this story, God has chosen to use the acts of care and service from the church to Act in powerful ways to show His goodness and glory to those who perhaps have never seen it before.
In our busy, super-scheduled and fast-paced lives, the practice of serving others is always at risk of becoming uncommon. Since we often have to keep our heads down and focused on our own long list of cares and concerns, we are often at risk of missing some of the needs that we may be walking by on a regular basis.
What could it look like for you and your group to make serving others in your community a more common practice?
Ask God to show you what needs you potentially walk by on a regular basis?
What could it look like to give what you have to serve these needs in Jesus’ name?
Day 5: PARTY!!
Read Read Luke 19:1-9
If you read through any of the biographies of Jesus, it doesn’t take long to see that Jesus loved a good party. In fact, they seemed to follow him everywhere He went. He broke bread with all kinds – sinners and saints. But even more than that – joyful celebration often resulted from His meals with people. Transforming conversations. Miraculous happenings. Powerful acts of forgiveness. All of these happened when people sat down to eat with Jesus.
Jesus knew how to party. And there’s no doubt, he did it intentionally. Some people thought he was just a “glutton and a drunkard”. But that wasn’t it at all. The kind of party Jesus put on was one that pointed to the ultimate party – that future party that we will one day feast at, where all will be made whole, where evil and death will be no more, and where we will have every reason to party like it’s 1999!!
As Jesus-followers, we’re meant to party in the same way. To share good food, good drink, and good hospitality. Not just because these are good gifts to enjoy, but because they can be a means to demonstrate the kind of party that Jesus himself invites us all into. One where life-giving, transforming conversations happen. One where others are radically included and accepted. One where we experience the healing and renewing power of God in our relationships. Now that’s a party worth crashing!
- Reflect on the kinds of parties you might host or attend. What might it look like for you invite others into the kind of party that Jesus might have hosted?
- As you think about the next party you host or attend, take a moment to ask Jesus: what life-giving gift do you want me to bring to this party?