A Community of Rhythms
Big Idea: Our faith is meant to be lived out in community. We have a very personal faith theology whereas the early church had no such concept. Disciples grow in the soil of relationship. This week we will talk about how we are to be a community committed to the Word and to begin together.
Me - Talk about what a diet or exercise plan usually looks like for me pointing out that it is always a failure to commit for the long run to the things that actually would make me healthier that is the cause why I am not ripped and in great shape.
We - Our attention spans are low and our commitment to seeing things through can often be low.
Transition - Our christian faith works very much the same way. We talked last week about being this community of people dedicated to the mission of Jesus. We talked about how this is not some passive agreement with the principles of evangelism but this actually requires every single one of us to engage in the mission of Jesus using the God-given gifts that empower the church as a collection of individuals committed to the unified pursuit of reaching the nations.
In order for us to engage in this very real spiritual battle (and make no mistake, if we are engaging in the mission effectively it will be a battle) we must be fit to fight. We don’t just decide to follow Jesus and instantly begin walking in victory over sin as an effective missionary in our culture and context. So, for the next few weeks, we are going to be in a sort of series-within-a-series as we look at some of the rhythms that the early church engaged in that led to healthy and effective disciples where every member not only lived out their faith personally committed but functioned as a missionary.
Transition 2 - Have you ever thought about why church looks the way it does? Or why almost every church service you have ever been to follows almost exactly the same pattern? Let me take a stab at what your last church probably looked like. I am guessing you came in and had some form of greeter team that offered you coffee and a pathway for your kids to be involved in children’s church. Then, you and your spouse probably went into the auditorium and sat down until the worship team or song director took the stage. You would sing three (maybe four songs) with an offering and perhaps announcements thrown in there somewhere. Afterwards, the pastor would come speak for 45 minutes (30 if you were lucky) and then you would close with another song and perhaps the bread and the cup. Was I in the ballpark? Yes…almost without a doubt. Have you ever wondered why we do things that way? Is there like some unwritten code that says services have to look like that? Perhaps most importantly, are the thing we are doing effective at equipping you the missionary to make disciples effectively and attain the overall vision and mission of your local assembly?
Let me ask you another question. If you had never been to a church in your entire life…never having seen one either. But you got a Bible and started reading just what was in here (lift up your Bible) what would church look like? What are the practices that we see in there that we should engage in to effectively make and mature disciples? What are the practices that we should be engaging in to equip every saint (who has been gifted specially and uniquely by God) for the task of ministry and living out their own missionary identity?
Well today I want us to begin a conversation over the rhythms that we see in the book of Acts and elsewhere that should inform the practices that we engage in both personally and as a collective church. If you have your Bibles turn to Acts chapter two.
Briefly recap what has happened in Acts since we left the story last week.
Judas hangs himself
The disciples pick a replacement
They sit around a room waiting for something to happen
Talk about link between the giving of the law on mt Sinai and the giving of the Holy Spirit for a law written in the hearts of believers and empowering them for service.
Peter preachers a Holy Spirit given sermon and then we pick up in verse 37.
Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. “For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.” And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation!” So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls.
So we are talking about what rhythms the church is to engage in to grow and mature healthy disciples of Jesus. What we see out of this is that engagement in the mission is both the starting place and the training ground that we work our faith out in.
Our assumption has typically been that missional engagement is only for the mature believer.
Talk about the ‘functional fitness’ craze and why it gained traction so quickly.
Mission is both the starting point and the end goal that we must keep in mind as we engage in spiritual disciplines that promote discipleship growth.
Tell Rick Warrens story of Holy Rollers and why we are not to be about that.
Now, before we move on to this next section I want to spend a couple of minutes talking hermeneutics with you.
Hermeneutics (n) - the branch of knowledge that deals with interpretation, especially of the Bible or literary texts.
We are about to read a passage of text that requires a little bit of work as there is both prescriptive language and descriptive language present.
Prescriptive language directs us towards or away from specific actions and attitudes.
Descriptive language simply describes the circumstances and specific applications happening in the biblical story.
Draw prescriptive and descriptive on the board.
Be careful who you are listening to and how you apply these two concepts to what you read in the Bible. If you throw out solid hermeneutics (such as failing to apply prescriptive and descriptive language appropriately) you can find someone who will support literally anything out of scripture on the internet. Talk about how this passage in particular has been misapprehended by many to say THIS IS HOW CHURCH HAS TO LOOK.
There is a shift that takes place over a period of time between verse 41 and 42. Immediately following this mass conversion story we see that this new group of Jesus follower instantly begin engaging in these rhythms. I am going to read the whole story and then we will go back and look at a few of the rhythms they were engaged in and how we are to do the same. We will be referring back to this passage over the coming weeks as well.
They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.
Write out on the board the list of rhythms:
Bread and the cup (Lords Supper)
Experiencing God’s presence
Serving one another
Smaller house-church gatherings
Sharing meals together
Out of these rhythms, we see a church engaging effectively on mission where there are people being added to the church DAILY!
I want us to look at two of these rhythms in particular this week and we will cover the rest in the coming weeks.
They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
This week we will focus on the rhythms of the Apostles’ teaching and fellowship.
So first up is The Apostles’ Teaching
Talk about how we got the Bible. Jesus did not hand His disciples a completed Bible before He ascended into heaven and say ‘here go make copies of this and hand it out to everyone.’ NO! The Apostles were the people who had followed Jesus around for His entire ministry and experienced all of the stories that would then be written down at a later date and evolve into the completed work that we now hold as our Bible.
The early church did not have that…what they had were these collections of stories (an oral tradition) where the people who saw and experienced the story of Jesus firsthand retold what they had experienced. We don’t have Apostles today. I’m not an Apostle so this is not primarily about you sitting and listening to me preach…although this is a component.
The Bible is Gods revelation of Himself to mankind. It is perfect and complete lacking nothing we need to live out our faith, grow as disciples, and engage in the mission of Jesus. We have to have the Word in us however, if we want to reap the benefits of it. Commentaries and Christian books are awesome but they are not substitute for the transformative power of God’s Word.
So…what does it look like for us to devote ourselves to the Word today?
Explain how we need to know the story…explain how mass consumption works. You will be given a reading plan that our entire church will engage in to mass consume the entire New Testament before the end of the year.
2. Personal Study
The Bible is deeper than any ocean and shallower than any pool simultaneously. It does not matter what level of Bible scholar you are, God desires to speak to you directly through His Word. I have spent close to eight years studying how to study the Bible and it is still incredibly intimidating to me at times…but I have found that no matter my level of understanding over the years, God has always spoken through the Bible in really accessible ways. Tell them about Logos Bible software and other tools like Bible Gateway that they have at their fingertips.
3. Journal your thoughts and meditate on what you read.
How does what you have read apply to you? Where have you seen this truth or this principle played out in real life? Where might you be living your life defined by some other ‘truth’ that sounds really good and may even align with your personal feelings and yet is inconsistent with what God has said in the Bible?
4. Public reading of scripture.
Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching.
Explain how public reading of scripture was a huge tradition in the Jewish faith and how there is something incredible that happens when we engage in the public reading of God’s Word together. Moses did this twice…do you realize that the entire book of Deuteronomy is set as a public reading of Scripture? Joshua read the entire story of the Israelite people aloud once they got into the Promised land so that the people would not forget who they were and what their purpose was. Josiah picked the tradition back up and instituted it once more during his reign. Jesus actually launched His public ministry during a public reading of scripture where He was reading aloud from Isaiah and then offered the very short sermon of “these words you have heard here today point to me...”
This is probably strange and somewhat foreign to us today but the command in 1 Timothy is not descriptive language that only applied to a particular generation but is unquestionably prescriptive and applies to us as a church today. We will have some nights up at the church where we will gather for public reading of scripture and I promise you it will be amazing and one of your favorite things ever…promise. You don’t have to wait until then to do this though…you can gather up a group of people and read an entire book of the Bible…no commentary is needed and you don’t have to be a Bible scholar to lead something like that…you just have to be able to read...
Next we are going to be looking at Fellowship
When I grew up fellowship was something that happened on the fifth Sunday of every month where we would get together after services and have a meal and then go back to the auditorium and have a singspiration (explain in joke what this was…essentially where we got to hear peoples terrible special music and pick songs out of the hymnal)
We see a rhythm here of what their fellowship looked like.
Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart,
There is something about the corporate gathering of the Church that cannot be replicated elsewhere. When the whole body comes together for worship, prayer, and time in the Word, things happen that don’t happen elsewhere.
We have to be careful though…explain what happens when you only work out and don’t sleep right or eat right…you injure yourself.
We can be so consumed by the corporate gathering as the only expression of the church that when something happens (oh i don’t know…like say a pandemic) where we can’t meet corporately for a time that we are rendered useless as the church (we are seeing that with churches all over the country right now).
2. Small Group Gatherings in Homes
We get to know one another in smaller groups in ways that we never can in the corporate gathering. The problem in the past has been that we’ve tried to use the corporate gatherings to build deep discipleship relationships and that really isn’t it’s purpose. When we can meet together in smaller more intimate groups we can begin to work through how the Bible impacts us more pointedly. Explain ‘seeing into your marriage’ thing.
3. Eating together
Eating together is a huge part of scripture. There is something magical that happens around the dinner table. Barriers come down and conversation flows more naturally when we are sharing a meal together. Do you realize that Luke’s other book (the gospel of Luke) is actually centered around ten different meals that Jesus shared with other people. Jesus teaches, rebukes, heals, and saves over the dinner table because the social climate changes as we sit down to eat together. I know it may sound strange, but the Bible sets up meals as a sort of Holy Space where we come together.
Here at The Outpost Church we would say that Relationships are the soil in which disciples grow. To have a faith in Jesus that allows for you to be separated from real Gospel Community is completely inconsistent from God’s Word and yet we have seen the emergence of a faith that can be practiced completely apart from a body of believers. Its a lot like working out. We love the idea of following Jesus but where gathering together often falls on our list of priorities tells a different story.
Just to be super blunt…I am saying you need to be committed to being in church. Now when I say that, I don’t mean you need to be present on Sunday morning…or rather, not only on Sunday morning. We have to be committed to gathering corporately, together in homes, sharing meals with one another (regularly) and in intimate groups of one or two other believers where you are sharing life and time in the Word together.
You would not believe some of the excuses I get from people for why they can’t gather together. Now, this isn’t to say that things don’t come up and there are legitimate excuses for being away from the body (everybody misses a day or two from the gym here and there). I am saying that if that is the rhythm that you establish…know that you are making a very real values statement about what is important.
In firs Corinthians chapter five Paul turns over a member of the Corinthian church over to Satan for the destruction of his body. Now, Paul didn’t have some special connection with the prince of darkness where he could command him to attack someone specifically. No…he does this by putting the person out of the body for a time in hopes that it would drive them to repentance. It’s like an organ that has been cut out of the body devoid of oxygen and blood and protection…it can’t survive. Think about this for a second, the church was such a life giving, loving, caring, community that to be outside of it was akin to being turned over to Satan. Whats more is that if second Corinthians is to be believed…it worked and Paul is then commanding the church to bring this person back into the body!!!
This is a radically different paradigm than what we see in the church now where we have to continually be doing more innovative things and offering more goodies and programs to keep people coming week after week. Why don’t we see this type of situation in our churches today? Why don’t we experience this king of community that is so important, so life giving, and so revolutionary that being engaged is our top priority?
We stand at another crossroads this week as a church. We can develop the paradigm that exists in churches all over our country where we are constantly in this battle of attendance trying to just get more people to come and begging the people who do come to come again next week. Or…we can develop a community that is so life giving, loving, and revolutionary that people could not imagine doing life without this community of believers around them.
Much like last week’s conversation about our mission, this is not done just by preaching a sermon. This type of community cannot be dependent on the sage on the stage for development. This type of community is hard work and requires a commitment to being in the Word as individuals and as a church; it requires being together, corporately, in homes, in groups of two or three, and sharing meals together if it is to work.
In essence, it requires every one of us to do the hard work of making this community and these rhythms of discipleship our top priority.
Over the past two weeks we have asked you to commit to the principles of unity and mission at our church. This week we are asking if you...
Will you commit to a rhythm of Bible reading and fellowship as a part of The Outpost Church?
Close with a call-back to the exercise example I started with...
We all want a shredded and healthy body…but most of us are more commited to the idea of diet, exercise, and healthy sleep pattern than we are in actually doing them. What we show is that there are numerous other things in this life that take precedence over what is required to make that a reality. Being a healthy growing disciple is much the same thing. You don’t just wake up a mature and effective disciple/disciple-maker…it takes a commitment to the rhythms that build that within you.
If you have time, do the stunted growth thing...
When you think about reading your Bible regularly what are the immediate emotions/thoughts that come to mind?
I think for a lot of people it is probably intimidation. We have to recognize that it is hard work understanding this book that was written thousands of years ago in a language we can’t read and in a culture we have no frame of reference for…it is definitely intimidating. Perhaps another thing that comes to mind is that it is time consuming. We are all busy without a doubt. Don’t draw any conclusions on this question, it is just here to get people talking and opening up about what their experience with reading the Bible looks like. Maybe ask: What does your Bible reading time look like? Allow people to talk, without any judgement, about what their Bible reading looks like now.
Realizing that these rhythms fit within the grander rhythm of our life, how can you begin this week adapting this very important Christian Discipline of Bible consumption into your overall life rhythm?
This is where you get practical with people. Ask them whether they are morning people or night people. What are things that are sucking up the margins of their lives that we cognitively know are not as high of a priority as engaging the Bible. Make a list of these things so people can see them visibly. Have people pull out their iphones and look at their screen time history, add up everyone’s social media screen time and lay that huge number out in front of everyone (be sure and caveat this with a no-judgement clause). Adding this number up and presenting it as a whole group allows people the chance to be somewhat anonymous (perhaps you can open up the calculator app on your phone and just pass it around so people can add their number into it). You could even have people give their overall weekly screen time number as well (that number will be huge).
Also ask: What other barriers keep you from engaging the Bible regularly? Maybe this is feeling unequipped. What are some solutions you could offer your group? Logos tools (show them how to access that). Bible gateway is $4 a month and is an amazing and powerful online Bible study tool.
Will you take the New Testament Bible reading plan challenge with us?
Talk this through with your group. What are the drawbacks? How could this be a good first step for fostering the discipline of mass bible consumption? Have you ever tried doing something like this before? What caused you to fail or what helped you succeed?
We talked a little about the functional fitness craze that has swept our country. One of the things this model does differently than other traditional gyms is the community aspect. Whether it is crossfit, zumba, or peleton, all of these new methods of exercise implement some aspect of community where everyone is working together, keeping one another accountable, sharing diet plans, secrets of success and encouraging one another. What could we stand to learn from this model as the church What are some ideas for accountability so that we can help one another succeed at completing this?
As we switch to the other rhythm we talked about in the sermon, what has been your past experience with Christian fellowship?
Get people to open up about the good, the bad, and the weird of Christian fellowship they have experienced. Perhaps share a funny story of your own to sort of loosen the group up a little. Ask the group: Was there ever one of the aspects of fellowship that were overemphasized or under-emphasized? Why do you think that was? Churches typically like to control this fellowship and so it begins to be only in the corporate gatherings that they try to facilitate it. What are the drawbacks of only building community and relationships within the confines of the corporate gathering? That honestly gives us just a few minutes before and after services to try and have a conversation while our kids are tearing the paint off the walls in the background. That isn’t real community and there is no depth of relationship there. People also get left out and cliques get created that inevitably leave some people feeling like they don’t have a place within the group. People also put on a front at church…there is a perceived ‘right way to act’ at church and you never get to see behind the curtain at what is really happening in peoples lives…the places that really need God’s Word applied and the love, grace, and care of a Gospel Community.
What are some of the dangers of this type of community that might keep us from fully committing?
As we open ourselves up deeply to be known by others in community, we open ourselves up to be hurt or exploited. What does the way of Jesus have to say about this? Have your group think back to the final supper where Jesus is washing the feet of Judas, the man about to betray him to His death…and Jesus not only let him into the room where they were gathering but HE WASHED HIS FEET!!! If we are in the Word daily and being shaped by it, how might that inform our approach to this?
How about the fear of being left out? How well do you think most churches do at making outsiders (you know the people we exist to reach) feel welcome and loved in our midst? I think most of them do an extremely poor job. What typically happens is people come to church and speak only with their friends and huddle up in little circles and if you aren’t a part of the group then the burden is then on you to break in and introduce yourself or join their conversation…this is a HUGE barrier; especially in the Pacific Northwest. What are real measures we can put in place to ensure that people (especially guests or others considering becoming a part of our church) don’t have to jump this immense hurdle to feel welcomed and a part of our church?
What has your commitment to Christian community looked like in the past? Have you been marginally commited or all in? What has been the thing that has kept you from engaging fully in community with other believers? No judgement here from or towards anyone!
This is hands down doing to be the toughest question yet. If done properly you are going to be meddling in their business. What are the excuses that they have heard or that they give to avoid church community engagement? Is it kids? Every time they get the sniffles? Hunting? Fishing? Sports? We are trying to get people to see that this is a value statement. You WILL move mountains and travel through hell and back for the things you find valuable and are commited to. If we can’t say that about our commitment to gospel community, what does that say about our values?
What is one practical step you can take THIS WEEK to begin engaging in a rhythm of fellowship with others?
You will eat 21 meals this week…what does it look like to share one of those with another person? You spend x amount of hours doing x frivolous things every week how could just a couple of those be recaptured for the sake of engaging in a rhythm of christian disciplines and fellowship?
Get creative with your group and think critically about how to get people engaged in community.
Adam continue on your discussion about the pumpkin thing. If yall will handle the family prizes, we will run the event on facebook.