Yes, I am a Lord of the Rings fan. But here in recent history I’ve been becoming a fan of something more intense, meaningful, and eternal.
Acts 2:42 should be the calling card for every body of believers, whether a church family or a small group Bible study: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”
For several months I’ve been a part of a small group Bible study. We don’t have any set agenda week by week, but our leader will share a passage of Scripture, newspaper clipping, or other thought-provoking tidbit, and then we as a group will discuss the issue from as many aspects as possible. We also spend time worshipping Almighty God together, share life happenings with each other, cry together, laugh together, and pray together. We even spend time outside of our scheduled meeting, whether it’s for one of our birthdays or for an after-church hang out, complete with conversation and a game of tackle darts! In fact, we all have grown so much on each other, that not a day goes by that I don’t have a conversation with one of the 12 or so people in our group! I don’t mind being connected to these people at all!
devoted to the apostles’ teaching
I’ve never been a part of a group of people who act more like the Bereans in Acts 17:11. The Bereans “received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every dayto see if what Paul said was true.” This gang of people I associate with are devoted to the Word of God. Not just for doctrinal accuracy, but to see a clearer picture of who God is, collectively and individually. It is refreshing being a part of a small body of believers who embrace the Bible as these people do!
devoted to the fellowship
The concept of fellowship has become watered down in church circles, I believe. It’s been reduced to just hanging out with other believers, doing fun stuff together. Fellowship is more of a “partnership” in scripture. I think of the Lord of the Rings. Gandalf, Frodo and the rest didn’t sit around playing checkers, drinking church coffee, and talking about the weather. They were partners together with a single mission in mind – to destroy the ring. Yes, they had a few laughs together, but their purpose was missional and dangerous.
I’ve never been a part of a small group Bible study that more closely resembled the mission-minded Tolkien crowd. No, our leader doesn’t quite look like Gandalf, but we each have a heart for ministry, to impact the world for Jesus Christ.
devoted to the breaking of bread
Well, okay, we don’t always break bread together, but we almost always have Doritos. But the point in sharing meals is to spend time together, doing life together, being deliberate in getting to know the people across the table from you in a real way. This last week I ate lunch with two couples from our group, and one of the couples was comfortable enough to ask some very personal questions about my past. And I was comfortable enough to answer. As we are growing together, I see walls falling down and biblical intimacy developing. Largely because of Doritos.
devoted to prayer
God doesn’t do anything by accident, and He’s already aware of what we need. Prayer, I believe, is a re-alligning of our hearts, a yielding of our wills to His. When we pray collectively, we become accutely aware of our need for the Father, for earthly needs but especially spiritual needs. I don’t like the phrase “the power of prayer,” or “prayer works!” I prefer to say, “the power of the One to whom we’re praying.” Prayer, words that trickle out of our mouths, has no more power than the bark of a chihuahua. BUT our God, who created the universe by uttering it into existence, has all the power we will ever need. Prayer draws us close to God, to Jehovah Jireh, not Jukebox Jesus, where, if we put in enough quarters and push the right buttons, we can hear the song we want. No, prayer is an acknowlegement of our extreme dependence on the Father.
The church in Acts worked together, ministered together, did life together, and they saw the Lord work in powerful ways. Thousands of new believers were added to their number at a time, and the spotlight was on God. I would have to imagine that their devotion to the gospel, to fellowship, to common meals, and prayer had something to do with it! They walked in unity, and I believe the Lord blessed them!
As I grow in my walk and while I am connected to a group of people devoted to these four things, I want to grow in my devotion individually to these things. I want to live a life pleasing to God, walking in His strength, doing His will on this earth. And I’m glad I have brothers and sisters in Christ to encourage me along the way!