Why Groups Matter
Small Leader Study Guide
Date: September 16, 2018
Series: Stand Alone Lesson
Bible Text: Matthew 28:18-20, Acts 2:42-47, Ephesians 4:11-16, 2 Timothy 2:1-2
Overview of This Week’s Lesson
This week we have a single stand-alone lesson that re-emphasizes for us again why we have small groups at First Family and the important role groups play in fulfilling our mission and vision as a church. From the beginning, our church has organized around three core concepts: celebrate, grow, and serve. To be considered connected to First Family, you will be pursuing and practicing these core concepts in your life as an individual and family.
- We celebrate the gospel. This happens weekly during our large group worship services. Here, we celebrate together through music and the preaching of the word.
- We grow in community. This happens weekly during our small groups. Here, we see the gospel applied and discipleship happen through the close-knit relationships that come from doing life together.
- We serve the mission. This happens within our church, across the street, and around the world. Here, the natural outcome of a growing disciple is to serve the body of Christ and actively engage the community with the gospel.
This strategy is not new to First Family or to the church universal. In fact, it is within the New Testament church found in Acts and the Epistles that we see this strategy introduced and carried out by the Apostles. When speaking to the Ephesian elders at Miletus, the Apostle Paul summarized his ministry this way:
You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. — Acts 20:18–21.
The Importance Understanding the Times
It is important that we understand and embrace this biblical model of a New Testament Church. One of the themes we will see this fall as we finish our study of “The kings and the King” is the natural belief within mankind that we can rule ourselves, that we do not need God. Our study of 2 Kings will show us the unavoidable consequences of this false belief.
Unfortunately, the church as an institution is not insulated from this belief. There is evidence almost weekly that the church in America is undergoing a paradigm shift. Post-modernism has accomplished its task and produced a generation of people who no longer believe in absolute truth. We see once respected Christian leaders suggesting the Bible is no longer relevant and we need to read Scripture through a different lens.
In the 1970s, Bill Bright identified what he called “The Seven Mountains of Societal Influence.” These included the family, education, government, business, media, entertainment, and religion. If you look at that list, there are only two pillars that still embrace a biblical worldview–the family and the church, and these two institutions are under attack.
As a pastor and Christian leader, I feel an incredible urgency (I believe a Spirit-led urgency) to help prepare our church, First Family Church, to stand strong in the years ahead. When it comes to methods, FFC may look completely different in many ways in the years to come, but one thing remains–to see the next generation that is growing up at First Family today embrace and defend a biblical worldview that we define with three words–celebrate, grow, and serve.
A People of the Word
It is my prayer that there will be a sense of urgency and seriousness that overwhelms First Family this coming year. As we watch this massive paradigm shift happening in our country, may we become more firmly rooted in the truth of Scripture and become known in our community as a people of the word.
When our forefathers landed in America in the 16th Century, they were fleeing the disintegration and oppression of the church in Europe. Known as the Puritans, they were seen as religious zealots and fundamentalist freaks who were hated by Europeans for their piousness and their disciplined lifestyle. The Puritans chose not to stay in their home countries and fight against the humanistic trends influencing the church in Europe. Instead, they believed God was leading them to a new land with a new burden on their hearts. They saw in America a land of opportunity and religious freedom where a pure church could live in communities governed by the word of God. Early Puritan writers pictured America as “a city set upon a hill” which would serve as a bright beacon not only for the new world, but also for the old one. The word of God was central to the Puritan way of life.
This is our heritage, one that too few of us know or recognize today. As we meet “in public and from house-to-house,” this needs to be something we strive to inculcate into our church family. We are a people of the word.
A People of Prayer
Finally, we must be a people of prayer. The clearest sign of independence from God is a prayerless church. Like the ancient Israelites of old who turned from God and declared, “we want to lead ourselves,” we do the same when we live a prayerless life. Folks, we will not see God’s power in our church until we become a people of prayer. To put it succinctly, a prayerless church is a powerless church. As we will see in this week’s lesson, it was prayer that brought the power of the Holy Spirit upon the New Testament church.
The battle is coming to the church, and the fear of many is we are unprepared. Small groups are essential as we refocus our attention upon the two foundations of prayer and the word.
Memory Verse for This Week
2 Timothy 2:1-2 (ESV) You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.
Core Practice: Prayer
Prayer (Psalm 66:16-20): I pray to God to know Him, to lay my request before Him and to find direction for my daily life.
See “Growing at First Family” to learn what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.
Take Home Truth
One of the best ways discipleship happens is within small groups.
As your group begins, use this section to introduce the topic of discussion.
What was your favorite team/group activity to participate in when you were in high school or college?
What life lessons do you still value from your participation on the team/group?
While Jesus’ mission of salvation had the whole world in mind (see John 3:16), He started with one small group of disciples, twelve followers who—except one—believed in Him and committed to learn from Him how to love God with all their hearts and love one another from a pure heart. Today, some two thousand years after Jesus launched the church with a single small group, there is no better strategy for continuing His mission of building God’s kingdom community than working in and through small groups. Let’s explore together four Bible passages that demonstrate one of the best ways discipleship can happen is in small groups.
Read the Text
This week we will draw from four different passages of Scripture to understand the role of small groups in fulfilling the great commission of making disciples across the street and around the world.
Matthew 28:18–20 — And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Acts 2:42-47– And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
Ephesians 4:11-16 — And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
2 Timothy 2:1-2 — You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, 2 and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.
In this section, feel free to develop your own questions to help guide your group’s discussion. Below are some suggestions. Remember, if you are hearing from everyone in your group, chances are you won’t have to time to discuss every question. You may start with one that catches your attention so you don’t run out of time. For example, it’s not odd to start with Question #6, then go to Question #5 and if you have time come back to Question #4.
Have a volunteer read Matthew 28:18-20.
Matthew 28:18-20 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
How do the phrases “baptizing them” and “teaching them” express the basics of discipleship?
Whatever doubts or uncertainties the disciples might have felt about their commission, Jesus gave them a clear vision of what it means to “make disciples of all nations.” It involves going, baptizing, and teaching. Going means to take the initiative, to not wait for people to find you but rather to go and find them. Baptizing means sharing the gospel message effectively with others so that the Spirit draws them to believe in Jesus and confess His lordship over them by being baptized. Teaching involves helping believers grow in faith throughout their lives by obeying Christ’s teachings throughout the Scriptures. Jesus promised His disciples that they would enjoy His presence (through the Holy Spirit) “to the end of the age” (28:20).
In what ways does the Great Commission serve as marching orders for your small group?
It is this promise, in particular that shows every small group today is an extension of that first small group of Jesus’ disciples. Their commission is also our Great Commission. Our purpose as Christ’s disciples is no different today than it was then. We are charged with making disciples of all nations (people groups) by going (through all available means), baptizing those who believe, and teaching God’s Word.
How can your group actively work to fulfill the Great Commission?
Take some time as a group and discuss ways you can fulfill the Great Commission both here, in Central Iowa (across the street) and around the world. How can we take the gospel to our community? What things might our church do to increase its influence and impact within our community? If you have some good ideas, share them with us! You can include your feedback in an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a volunteer read Acts 2:42-47.
Acts 2:42-47 (ESV) And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
The Book of Acts tells the story of the early church from the time believers were indwelled and empowered by Holy Spirit in Jerusalem until the apostle Paul—the early church’s most prolific church planter, missionary, discipler, and theologian—spent two years in Rome as a prisoner for preaching the gospel, all the while welcoming “all who visited him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance” (Acts 28:30-31). Acts 2:42-47 summarizes how the early church went about discipling three thousand new believers who were saved on the day the Holy Spirit came on the church in power.
The phrase “devoted themselves” (2:42) indicates commitment and passion. For these believers, discipleship was a priority, an imperative, not an option. It involved regularly hearing “the apostles’ teaching” (Bible study), “fellowship” (building community) “breaking of bread” (fellowship and ministry), and “prayer” (as individuals and in groups). Daily the new and older Christians met together “in the temple” (a larger group) and “broke bread from house to house” (in smaller groups). The depth of their life together as disciples became evident as those who had possessions and property gladly shared with other believers who were in need. Lost people were so impacted by the difference they saw in the new believers that more and more people were being saved. Discipleship led to effective evangelism.
What preceded the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the church in Jerusalem?
Following the ascension of Jesus in Acts 1, the Bible tells us, Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away. And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.
What we learn about the early church in Acts is that they were a people of the word and a people of prayer. As Christians today, we can be no different. If we want to see the power of the Holy Spirit fall upon First Family Church, we, too, must be a people of the word and a people of prayer. Corporately, this happens in both our public worship services and from house-to-house in small groups.
Imagine that First Family Church suddenly gained hundreds of new believers. What, in your view, should our church do over the next few months to help these new Christians grow as disciples? Be as specific as possible.
Your group finds itself as the elders of the church. It is your responsibility to help hundreds of new believers grow as disciples. What would you do? Discuss this as a group and if you have some great ideas emerge, share them with our elders by emailing them to email@example.com.
How can participating in a small group help believers better devote themselves to God’s Word? Experience community? Pray? Minister to others?
Have a volunteer read Ephesians 4:11-17.
Ephesians 4:11-16 (ESV) And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
How would you explain the ultimate goal of discipleship to a new Christian?
In Ephesians 4:13, Paul explained the ultimate goal of discipleship as “growing into maturity with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness.” It was for this very purpose that God gives the church gifted leaders to equip all believers “for the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ” (4:12).
In what ways does this text teach that spiritual growth happens best as a group endeavor? How does it teach the individual believer’s responsibility to grow in discipleship?
In describing this goal, Paul spoke of group-based discipleship (“until we all reach unity,” 4:13; “we will no longer be little children,” 4:14; “let us grow in every way,” 4:15). He described the church as a body that promotes its own growth in Christlikeness by working together in love to make sure every individual believer is fully discipled (4:16).
Have a volunteer read 2 Timothy 2:1-2.
2 Timothy 2:1-2 (ESV) 1 You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, 2 and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.
In what way do these verses describe a mentoring relationship between believers?
Paul reminded Timothy that the foundation of an ongoing, fruitful ministry did not require Paul’s physical presence. Instead, Timothy needed to find his strength “in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” Further, Timothy needed to realize that he too could face death one day but the gospel would not end with either Paul’s or Timothy’s (or any Christian’s) passing. Paul thus urged Timothy to faithfully train other disciples in the Christian gospel and teach those disciples to train still others. In other words, Timothy was to adopt a multiplication strategy of discipleship. Through mentoring, Timothy could disciple and train at least two new Christian leaders. Those two leaders eventually could each disciple and train two new leaders for a total of four. And so on.
How can a church use small groups and mentoring to move from an “addition” strategy of discipleship to a “multiplication” strategy?
At First Family, we use a similar strategy in our discipleship through small groups. It begins at the leadership level. Maybe you look at your group and you don’t see a qualified co-leader. That is a discipleship opportunity! Take one or two couples in your group and make them co-leaders and begin working with them to develop the character and skills of a godly leader. Over the coming year, give them opportunities to lead using the method Todd described during our summer series on discipleship: they watch you, they lead with you, you let them lead and offer feedback, they lead.
An established group can challenge some of its mature disciples to create a new group that reaches out to lost people with the gospel. The new group eventually can follow suit and give birth to yet a new discipleship group even as the original group starts yet another new group. This is multiplication.
What ideas from this study could best help your group strengthen its discipleship strategy?
What challenges would your group need to overcome to give birth to a new discipleship group?
In what ways can you take more responsibility for growing in discipleship?
What is First Family’s mission?
“To develop devoted followers of Jesus Christ who celebrate, grow, and serve for the glory of God.”
Becoming A House of Prayer
“Even them I will bring to My holy mountain, And make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices; Will be accepted on My altar; For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.” – Isaiah 56:7.
Prayer Focus for the Week of September 16
Use Acts 2:42-47 as a launching point for your prayer time this week.
42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
Who is God? (Reverence)
- Lord, You are worthy of my praise (v. 47)
- Lord, You are a powerful God (v. 47)
- Lord, You alone save us from our sins (v. 47)
How Shall I Respond? (Response)
- Lord, we approach You with awe (v. 43)
- Lord, we live in daily discipline and obedience to You (v. 46)
- Lord, our natural response to your generosity is to live generously (v. 45)
- Lord, Your Spirit causes us to walk in unity with one another (v. 44)
What Should I Pray About? (Request)
- Lord, may the people of First Family be a devoted people to the word, the breaking of break, and prayer (v. 42)
- Lord, we see the power of the Holy Spirit poured out upon First Family Church (v. 43)
- Lord, save many hundreds within Central Iowa through the gospel outreach of First Family Church (v. 47)
Where Do I Go From Here? (Readiness)
- Lord, fill my heart with gladness and generosity (v. 46)
Lord, give your people favor within our community (v. 47)
Questions to consider as you continue to reflect on what you learned this week:
- Take Action: What daily habits do you have that identify you as a person of the word and a person of prayer?
- Take Courage: As a part of The Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20), Jesus assures us he will never leave us. Remember this the next time you have the opportunity to begin a gospel conversation with someone. Jesus is right there with you!
Work to memorize this week’s memory verse: 2 Timothy 2:1-2 — You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.
Our Core Practice this week is Prayer (Psalm 66:16-20): I pray to God to know Him, to lay my request before Him and to find direction for my daily life.
Remember to use the Daily Bible Reading plan as part of your walk with Christ, taking the time to reflect on each passage and what it means for your lives.
28:18 Before the resurrection, Jesus had authority (7:29; 9:6,8; 11:27; 21:23). However, through the resurrection, the Father granted Him all authority over heaven and… earth, an authority far greater than that which Satan had vainly promised Him.
28:19 The command to extend their mission worldwide brings to a climax Matthew’s repeated theme of Gentile participation in God’s salvation. The inclusion of four Gentile women in Jesus’ genealogy and the summons of the magi to worship the infant Christ foreshadowed the disciples’ mission of making disciples of all nations. Baptism marked a person’s entrance into the faith community. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit is a reference to the Trinity. Matthew’s language shows that a clear understanding of Jesus’ nature and identity as God was required before baptism.
28:20 The Great Commission (vv. 19-20) is preceded by a reference to Jesus’ authority and followed by the promise of Jesus’ spiritual presence among us. Both are necessary if we are to fulfill our God-given mission.
2:42 These four practices— teaching… fellowship, the breaking of bread, and prayers—provide insight into the priorities of early Christianity. These same practices should be considered normative for the church today. The apostles’ teaching was probably similar to Peter’s message at Pentecost. That is to say, it focused on making Christ known by appealing to eyewitness testimony and the prophecies of the OT. Early Christians gathered together regularly for edification, prayer, and exhortation. The breaking of bread probably included fellowship meals and participation in the Lord’s Supper (1Co 11:17-34).
2:44-45 As part of their fellowship, the early church practiced a community of goods for a short time. Distribution to members of the faith community took place according to individual need. This practice did not last long, likely because it was logistically difficult and fraught with potential abuse (see chaps. 4-6).
2:46 Early Christian gatherings took place in two places: the temple complex and the homes of individual believers.
2:47 The early church was an evangelizing church. Luke recounted that every day the Lord added to those who were being saved. He did not say how this took place, but it appears that evangelism took place primarily through the gathering of Christians in the temple and in individual houses. The crucifixion and resurrection of Christ were at the heart of early Christian preaching, which called for immediate response from anyone who listened.
4:13 Ministry is intended to move believers toward accomplishing three goals: (1) unity of faith and full knowledge of God’s Son, (2) maturity, and (3) the fullness of Christ. Maturity and unity are measured in terms of the relationship of the body to the Head, Christ.
4:14 When the gifted people equip the church, the community of faith will evidence stability in precept and practice.
4:15 Speaking the truth in love can literally be translated “truthing in love.” When a church is faithful to speak truth in love, it will have transparent relationships where people edify and benefit one another.
4:16 Ultimately the church will grow up into Christ in all aspects, with each part fitting together and supporting the other. Each member of the body must function properly if the body is to grow. We get our English word harmony from the Greek term translated fitted and knit together.
2:1. Having just shared his disappointment over the growing apostasy spreading through Asia, Paul turned to Timothy and wrote, You then, my son, be strong. Difficult circumstances, our own weaknesses and fears, and the negative attitudes or unfaithfulness of others should not determine our course in life. Just as Paul wrote of the power which comes from the Holy Spirit (2 Tim. 1:7), so now he wrote of the strength which comes from Jesus Christ.
No doubt Timothy knew, as Paul did, that he could not find adequate strength within himself to fulfill the responsibilities thrust upon him or to endure the hardships ahead. Our confidence and ability to live successfully as followers of Christ comes when we are strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. Paul knew that God’s grace not only saves us; it enables us to carry out the life of faithful obedience.
2:2. Our own relationship with Christ Jesus must be developing in trust and dependence before we can expect to influence others for his kingdom. The perpetual strength of God’s grace would enable Timothy to fulfill his tasks. Timothy must not only guard the gospel; he must take the gospel and the apostolic instructions ( things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses) and entrust [them] to reliable men.
Unlike the false teachers who claimed special revelation or secret knowledge, Paul’s message stood in accord with all Scripture and in agreement with the apostles. What he received from the Lord he passed on in an open manner (1 Cor. 11:23). Likewise, Timothy received no inside information from Paul. The message was widely known, spoken of freely and before many witnesses.
In his assignment to entrust the gospel to other people, Timothy needed to observe in these believers the quality of adherence to God’s truth. Reliability and trustworthiness in remaining true to the gospel were prerequisites.
Timothy must also seek those who evidenced a knowledge and ability to teach others. Paul wanted to establish people of godly character who possessed the aptitude for relating divine truth to everyday life, for clarifying ideas, and for maintaining purity in their instruction.