Everything Revolves Around Relationships
Everything in life revolves around relationships — everything. The most important relationship is a personal relationship with Abba through His Son Jesus — a vertical relationship. But let us not be so heavenly high that we are of no earthly good. Horizontal relationships bring balance in this life. And the best horizontal relationships are covenant commitments to live with others, to become connected with others in a basic Christian community.
A church should be large enough to celebrate while remaining small enough to care.
In Acts 20:20, Paul's vision was “to preach the message in public (large-group worship) and to teach the message from house to house (small-group community)” — a 20/20 vision for the church.
The Message’s mission—“to help people cultivate a growing relationship with Abba, with each other and with unbelievers, through Jesus, by way of the community the church”—is gleaned from what are popularly called the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. Both emphasize a balance of vertical and horizontal relationship.
In Acts 2:41-47, we see the early followers involved in nine basic activities. They: (1) believed in Jesus, (2) were baptized, (3) were added to the group, (4) spent their time in learning, (5) took part in the fellowship (koinonia), (6) shared their possessions, (7) prayed together, (8) met regularly as a group to worship, and (9) regularly added new believers to the group.
In his book, The Bride — Renewing Our Passion For The Church, Charles Swindoll identifies four major objectives in these nine basic activities; Worship, Instruction, Fellowship, and Expressions of our faith in Jesus (pp. 47-63). Under the subheading, “Reasons We Embrace These Objectives” (p. 44), he writes, What a scene! Here in ancient Jerusalem was a group of believers whose worship was spontaneous, whose instruction was substantial, whose fellowship was genuine, and whose expressions were compassionate. No wonder so many new folks were attracted! It is no surprise to me that the Lord added to their number day after day.
Swindoll further adds, When we embrace these objectives, several benefits come our way. Our eyes will get off ourselves and unto the Lord. Our own petty differences are minimized, which deepens the unity of the relationship. And all this, when kept in balance, creates such a magnetism that the church becomes irresistible. And then? Well, then we start becoming what the church was originally designed to be — irresistible!
Why have small groups? So the church can once again become an irresistible Christian community where a person can: love and be loved, know and be known, serve and be served, and celebrate and be celebrated.
In Acts 20:20 and 2:41-47 we discover large-group worship wed to small-group communities. This is alluded to throughout the New Testament in the letters of Paul and Peter. The large-group worship provides an opportunity to focus on our personal relationship with God within the broader setting of the family or tribe of the Way. It offers a time to receive and understand biblical instruction. The experience of large-group worship helps us to be immersed in the Great Commandment: Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence. (Mt 22:37).
The gathered large-group then becomes scattered small-groups of people meeting during the week. The focus of the cell-community offers an environment to discuss, examine in greater detail and make application of the teaching given when the whole body was gathered, plus delve into other aspects, study and application of the Word either that the situations in the members’ lives brings up or because of a desire to learn more as a disciple. Just as important, the cell-community fosters an arena where the participants become more firmly connected with and to one another – true koinonia. In this setting people establish relationships of accountability and openness with one another. True fellowship means that we care about, and care for, one another. This is how the cell-community embraces the second part of the Great Commandment: Love others as well as you love yourself (Mt 22:39).
It's hard to form “relationships” and come into “community” when people sit in rows looking at the back of each other's heads on Sunday mornings.
A recent news report noted that when people were asked why they attend many of the fastest growing churches in America, the number one reason given is so “they can remain anonymous.” How very strange! The number one reason for the fastest growing churches in America is “anonymity” when the number one need in every person's life is the need for meaningful “relationships.”
“Relationships,” “community” — involves a covenant commitment to one another, which springs from total surrender to Jesus, a seemingly difficult concept for most Americans to grasp.
The Message desires to remove that difficulty and offer the life that grows out of heaven-associated relationships.