Say the word church — and people automatically think of a building—a place where Christians go to worship God.
Or they think of a denomination — “I go to the Catholic Church” or “the Baptist Church.”
No doubt this is true, but the church is so much more than just a building or a denomination.
The word church comes from the Greek word ekklesia. (ek-la-see-a)
It’s defined as “an assembly” or the “called-out ones.”
So when you see the word “Church” in your Bible, remember it’s not talking about a building, but instead it’s referring to people.
For example, in Romans 16, we find Paul greeting Priscilla and Aquila, and he says, “Greet also the church that meets at their house.”
I want you to notice Paul is not referring to a church building, but a “body of believers,” a local body.
It’s in scripture that we see this community of believers, caring for one another, loving one another and laying their lives down for one another, all the while encouraging, teaching and building up one another in the knowledge and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Cor. 12)
From the first century until now, nothing has changed; believers are called to be a part of a local church—a community of believers.
So for us, River Community Church, we believe the Christian life is best lived out in the context of small group life.
Small groups take us outside these four walls and into different places all over the city of Wichita.
It’s in these small groups where we do life-on-life ministry.
It’s where we learn to do real ministry in real-life situations, and it’s the reason we call small groups the “Living room” of our community.
That’s why you’ll here us say things like, “We don’t do small groups… we are small groups!” it’s in our DNA
*Purpose: This morning, I want to cast a vision for you to plug into a small group.
So let me begin by unpacking what I mean by the term “Small Groups.”
** Small Groups are the “Church” “the assembly”
It’s where we see this life of faith lived out.
It’s where we take what was preached on Sunday, and then come along side each other and flesh it out.
It’s where you learn to live out your faith in real and practical ways.
It’s a place where people are cared for, spurred on, built up, encouraged and prayed for!
Yes the corporate worship is important, but just coming on Sunday, won’t get it.
The crowd here can’t know you, they can’t pray for you, they can’t walk along side you, and speak into your life, or have someone minister to you when your walking through a major crisis.
Small groups are where this happens.
We were made to be in relationship with others.
That’s why Heb 10:24-25 tells us…
24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching
If we’re going to live this verse out, we’ve got to realize, it only happens in the context of relationships!
Small groups are the venue that allows for this to happen.
** A small group is a group of folks who gather weekly in homes, businesses, restaurants, gyms and lunchrooms for the sole purpose of growing in their walk with Jesus.
These groups are led by men and women who are just like you.
If you’re a group leader, will you just raise your hand? Thank you.
I want you to see our leaders. They haven’t been to seminary and they don’t have theological degrees.
Some of these leaders are married and others are single.
Chances are they have the same worries and stressors that you have: kids who stress them out, demanding bosses, financial concerns…
But in the midst of all of this, here’s what they do have—a strong desire to grow in their walk with Jesus, and a desire to help others grow in their walk with Christ as well.
**These small groups exist for the sole purpose of carrying out our mission of doing life together in the context of community.
The mission is simple: you see it on the wall in the foyer as you come into the building. You see it on the bulletins every week.
Our mission is this: To know and love God…and to make God’s love known to others.
It’s the Great Commandment and the Great Commission!
Jesus said the first thing we’re to do is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, your soul and your mind.
And right alongside this first commandment, we’re to love others as well as we love ourselves!
Jesus replied: 37 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. (Matt. 22:37)
What better way to do that than to share the gospel with them.
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. (Matt.28:19-20)
We believe small groups are the perfect setting for this to happen.
It’s where relationships are built, new people are welcomed and invited in, and it’s where we see folks coming along side each other and praying for one another.
It’s where we learn to understand and apply the Bible to our lives.
Small groups are a place where people can speak into our lives; a place where we can find spiritual accountability and encouragement…
…a place where powerful transformation can take place in your life and the lives of others.
** Small groups also allow us to “be known” beyond a surface level.
Today we can make “friends” in social media by the hundreds.
And yet at the same time, people are longing for someone to genuinely know them and care for them.
They are longing to be spoken to with thoughtful, meaningful words.
A recent study shows that we’re heading towards “disconnection” in a big way, just consider these statistics:
- 27.2 million people live alone.
- More people say they feel alone now than at any other time.
- 25 percent say they have no one they can turn to as a confidant.
Yet people long to be known: “We have an insatiable need for connection… give us two seconds of down time and we reach for our phone to scan Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram feeds.” Willis, Dustin (2015-07-16 Kindle Locations 295-296).
Chances are we have some folks here today who can relate to these stats.
But the good news is, you’re not a stat, and you can choose to do something different!
Small groups are a move in the right direction.
They give us a place where we can be open and honest, a place where we don’t need to put up a façade.
A place where we can “put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor”
Ephesians 4:25: “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body.”
A place where we can be real and build trust with one another; where we can speak the truth in love, where we can grow in Christ.
Eph. 4:15: “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.”
** Small groups are where we learn to live out our values.
Faithfulness: where we learn to walk in obedience to God’s will. (Luke 16:10)
10 “If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities. (NLT)
Living a single-story life: There is but only one life in its totality, and it all belongs to Christ.
That means all dimensions of our life: hobbies, work, finances and our spiritual side — it all belongs to him!
17 And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father. Col.3:17
Learning to become like Jesus: We spend time together in the gospel learning about Jesus’ Life.
When we do this, it transforms us…the more closely we walk with Jesus, the more we will be like him.
And the chances of this happening go up exponentially when we include others.
1 Cor. 3:18: “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”
We learn to Love People: It’s Romans 13:8, we can’t help but love people as we reflect on the love that has been lavished upon us.
Romans 13:8: “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.”
Christ’s love for us compels us to give our lives for his glory!
2 Cor. 5:14: “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.”
I’m convinced we can experience this kind of a life as we live out these values in community with others.
I’ve found every bit of this to be true in my own life.
But I don’t want you to just take my word for it, I want you to hear personally from people whose lives have been impacted by living life in community…
Lindsey Peters: How did you get plugged into a small group? Why has small group become so important to you?
David Peters: You were kind of resistant to plugging in to group life, so would you share with us some of the reasons why? And how did group life end up being different from what you were expecting?
Judy Ledbetter: How has being a part of a small group helped you to live a single-story life? How has it impacted your life? How has it encouraged you in your walk with Christ?
Doug Ledbetter: We talk about small group being a place where you can “be known” beyond a surface level. How has that been true for you, and what does it look like?
Aaron Lewis: You’ve been at River since you were two. Can you share with us how your life has been impacted by small group life?
Last Question for Everyone: In one or two sentences, what would you say to folks who have yet to plug into a group?
If you’re not yet plugged into a group, I’d encourage you to get plugged in.
You can go to the iPads after service and check out the groups
Or you can come get me or Brenda; we’d love to help you to get plugged in.
If you’re already plugged in, stay plugged in.
If you’re leading, stay the course. Your efforts matter.
Let me pray for us…