SESSION WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY? UNSTOPPABLE COMMUNITY THE SETTING ACTS 2:

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1 SESSION 3 UNSTOPPABLE COMMUNITY THE BIBLE MEETS LIFE Companies spend millions of dollars each year developing environments and creating experiences that leave people excited and wanting to come back. The early church was known for a culture that was far richer than anyone could create. They were known for their love love that reflected Jesus Christ and drew people to Him. People experienced a culture within the church saturated in true community and love. Their example in Acts 2 is a challenge to continue that reputation and be a church immersed in a culture of love. WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY? ACTS 2: So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. 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. THE POINT Christian community is a powerful reflection of God s love. THE PASSAGE Acts 2:41-47 THE SETTING Following pentecost, the change in the people s hearts after surrendering their lives to Christ was reflected in the way they lived each day. This passage emphasizes a central theme in Acts: intentionally living out the gospel. Throughout Acts, the church always lives with the mission of caring for one another and sharing the gospel with unbelievers. The gospel is designed to be lived out every day in the real world, and this passage is an incredible view into the lives of the early church living in true community. 100 SESSION 3 For free online training on how to lead a group visit MinistryGrid.com/ web/biblestudiesforlife For free Midweek Options for your group, visit lifeway.com/bsflfal16fresh

2 PREPARE LEADER LIVE IT OUT Plan It Out Acts 2:41-47 One of the greatest misunderstandings in a small group is that community will just happen if we show up and have a Bible open, but this is rarely the case. If showing up is all it takes, then the church wouldn t lose so many teenagers after they graduate high school. The truth is that community takes effort and discipline, and leading a group that is working toward community requires accountability. We can t stress the importance of community for the students we lead, if we are not seeking to cultivate community in our own lives. We tell students that it is critical to study God s Word, share our lives, pray for others, and so much more, but are we genuinely living the same truth we are proclaiming? It s a good thing to feel convicted by truth but even better to be intentionally living in it. Take a little extra time as you prepare this session to let God speak to your heart first. Y As you complete the Culture section at the end of Session 3, fill in each section according to how God is convicting your heart. Whether you need to be more intentional about building community in your life personally or in the lives of your students, allow the Holy Spirit to guide you. 1 Prepare: As you prepare for this session, take a moment to allow the truth of scripture to challenge your heart. God works in our hearts as we teach others His Word. ONE CONVERSATION Scripture: Acts 2:41-47 Topic: Unstoppable Community THE BIBLE MEETS LIFE: Companies spend millions of dollars each year developing environments and creating experiences that leave people excited and wanting to come back. The early church was known for a culture that was far richer than anyone could create. They were known for their love love that reflected Jesus Christ and drew people to Him. People experienced a culture within the church saturated in true community and love. Their example in Acts 2 is a challenge to continue that reputation and be a church immersed in a culture of love. THE POINT: Christian community is a powerful reflection of God s love. Why are certain restaurants more fun to visit than others? What aspects of Church life have been especially meaningful to you? When have you seen the power of prayer in your life? How can being generous with those around us be a part of our lives and not something we keep separate? Discuss the following quote: The church is not a theological classroom. It is a conversion, confession, repentance, reconciliation, forgiveness and sanctification center, where flawed people place their faith in Christ, gather to know and love him better, and learn to love others as he designed. 1 Paul David Tripp 1. Paul David Trip, Instruments in the Redeemer s Hands: People in Need of Change Helping People in Need of Change (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2002). LIVE IT OUT: Your student has been encouraged to take practical steps to take his or her faith and Live It Out in the Personal Study Guide. Here are some ways you can encourage your students to live out their faith with Christ personally, in community, and in their culture CHRIST: Encourage your student to develop a prayer list for family, friends, and teachers and pray with them each day. COMMUNITY: Set aside time with your student to help develop Godly community in your home that leads to serving one another, safety to be honest about struggles, and times to celebrate and value them the way Christ does. CULTURE: Discuss how your student can be intentional about living in community this week. How will your student live out His or Her faith by intentionally living in community? 2 Follow Up: Don t forget to copy or text a picture of the One Conversation section to parents after the session. This will equip them for further family discussion. BIBLE STUDIES FOR LIFE 101

3 ENGAGE (15 MINUTES) 1 2 Engage: Begin the session with one or more of the Engage Options on the next page (optional). Discuss: Ask students, Why are certain restaurants and stores more fun to visit than others? 3 Guide: Call attention to The Point. Come back to it throughout the session. 4 Read: Summarize this for your group. 5 Pray: Transition into the session by praying that students would realize how critical and fulfilling true community in Christ is. 102 SESSION 3

4 ENGAGE OPTIONS LEAD WITH ACTION Before students come in, make sure all the chairs and similar set up material are stacked against the wall (i.e. tables in the middle of the room with the chairs stacked against the wall). When students enter, have them divide into two different teams and select one person from each team to be blindfolded. After blindfolding the students, give them two minutes to fumble around setting up the room as best they can while both teams remain totally quiet during the first round. Next restack all the elements and switch the rules. With two more minutes, the teams can now shout directions and help the blindfolded team members. After the game is over say, It s amazing how much better we do when we have a community of people working with us. Even though only one person was blindfolded, he or she had the help and direction of a community. LEAD WITH ATMOSPHERE Before students come in, set up the room with all the chairs in a circle facing outwardly away from each other. Tell the students that it will be fine to do group this way. After discussion is clearly hindered, tell your students to turn their chairs back around facing each other. Say, When we are not living in community its easy to feel other people around, yet we are unable to truly share our lives with them. Sadly many Christians live like this thinking they are living the way. This session we are going to talk about what true community looks like. LEAD WITH MEDIA Search the Internet for Christian Mingle Inspector. This video makes light of how we are all searching for authentic community in our lives. When the clip ends, say, We all long to experience true community, but often we misunderstand what it is truly about. Today we are going to study what true community looks like. NOTE: Always make sure you preview any video clip you show students and ensure that it is appropriate for your church and ministry. FOR YOUNGER STUDENTS Create teams by pairing students up, then mark off multiple lanes. Place stuffed animals, chairs, or any other obstruction in front of them. Make a race to see who can get through the quickest without touching anything. If they touch an obstruction they are disqualified. The first round, teammates must be silent. For the second round allow each teammate to stand at the finish and give his or her partner directions. Afterward say, It s amazing how much better we do when we have a community of people working with us. Even though only one person was blindfolded, he or she had the help and direction of a community. SECOND OPTION You may have the ability to meet with your group at a coffee shop or restaurant that illustrates a place known for a great experience. Say, Isn t it amazing how experiences can either draw us to places or turn us away? God designed the church and the community we find together in Christ to attract others to be a part of it. LEADER PACK ELEMENTS If you have the optional Leader Pack, consider one of the following: DVD: Play the Unit 2 Session 3 DVD opener to help facilitate discussion. ITEM 9: Consider using the Pentecost Infographic poster to visually illustrate the context and events of Pentecost for your group. BIBLE STUDIES FOR LIFE 103

5 IMPART (10 MINUTES) 1 Read: Invite a student to read the passage aloud Discuss: Take a few minutes to discuss this question with your students. Read: Summarize this section for your group. Read: Enlist a few volunteers to read the following section. Guide: Take the chance to emphasize how critical prayer is to true community. ACTS 2:41-42 The church was exploding into existence. It was more than anyone could have imagined. The love of God found in the gospel was unstoppable. As soon as these people gave their lives to Christ, they devoted themselves to four things. Apostles teaching: Learning together is key to the community of the church. The believers in Acts realized how critical it was to apply God s Word to their everyday life. Fellowship: The Greek word for fellowship means to share. The early church shared their lives together and cared for each other. This wasn t simply a weekly gathering. It was life. Breaking bread: We rarely eat with people we don t like. Think how much sharing your lunch could mean to the person who eats alone every day. Sharing meals showed acceptance. They didn t separate rich from poor, weird from normal, Jew from gentile. Prayer: Let s take a minute to explain this one. Why is prayer in the community of believers so important? Because living in prayer means depending on God s directions instead of our feelings. Feelings change daily but God is unchanging and faithful. Spending time in prayer allows God to make us more like Him. Prayer allows God to change me the one praying. Praying for our friends and their lives increases our concern and love for them. You begin seeing people how Jesus sees them. People will be more open to hearing our message when they sense that we genuinely care about them and what matters to them. Praying for others leads to caring for others. WHAT ASPECTS OF CHURCH LIFE HAVE BEEN ESPECIALLY MEANINGFUL TO YOU?? 6 Do: Direct students to read the quote and thoughtfully answer the question. Discuss their answers. The little estimate we put on prayer is evidence from the little time we give to it. 2 E.M. Bounds How does this statement call your thoughts on prayer into question? 92 SESSION SESSION 3

6 COMMENTARY ACTS 2:41-42 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. ACTS 2:41-42 Verse 41. The Holy Spirit empowered Peter s words and brought conviction to the people. This led to Peter s call for them to accept God s offer of salvation and be baptized (Acts 2:1 40). Those who believed were then baptized. Baptism identified them as followers of Jesus people who have died to their old way of life and entered into a new life where Jesus is their focus. As His disciples they would continue to learn and obey what Jesus had said. Verse 42. The events noted in verses cover an extended period of time. During this time the new community of believers was developing and growing. Their fellowship was characterized by several distinctive activities. In fact, Luke wrote that they were devoted to these things. This word expresses more than a loyalty to or an interest; it implies that the believers gave dedicated attention to these actions; they were persistent in doing them day-by-day. Tip: Ask students for their input and opinion. Always value their answers, but never be afraid to correct error or point to the truth in the Word. The apostles teaching: A disciple is first a learner. On a daily basis the apostles taught the new believers what they had learned from Jesus, as their goal was to help believers become more like Jesus. This apostolic instruction could have included Old Testament prophecies that were fulfilled in Christ; Jesus resurrection; as well as what Jesus taught about God and His kingdom including faith, prayer, giving, relationships, and priorities. The apostles most certainly shared personal stories about Jesus life and ministry that served as examples to believers and gave direction for the disciples lives. Fellowship: The Greek word points to believers unity with Christ or with each other. This is highlighted in all the common elements of Christianity. Believers have a common relationship with God through faith in Christ and we share His Spirit who lives within each of us. Believers also have a common focus of loving God and loving others. And believers have a common mission of growing in their faith and helping others know Jesus and grow as His disciples. The unity of the believers in Jerusalem was expressed in their actions which could have included worshiping God together, eating meals together, being physically present and emotionally supportive in times of distress, and even giving material possessions to help meet others needs. Breaking of bread: Beyond a regular meal, this was most likely a celebration of the Lord s Supper, which represents God s new covenant that was initiated by Christ s sacrifice (Luke 22:14 20). It also symbolizes the believer s communion (relationship) with Christ and with others in His body. Prayers: Acts 3:1 notes how Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour, so it is entirely possible that the believers, who were Jews, continued to participate in these Jewish prayer services. But most certainly the believers also prayed with and for each other as they met together in homes. These were surely more than memorized prayers as would have been offered in the temple service, and could have included prayer for unity, boldness, wisdom, provision, guidance, and strength. BIBLE STUDIES FOR LIFE 105

7 IMPART (10 MINUTES) Read: Invite a student to read the passage. Engage: Summarize this section and direct students to fill in the blanks. Then discuss how each of these aspects applies to their lives. Read: Enlist a few volunteers to read the following section. ACTS 2:43-45 The believers in the early church didn t just meet for prayer and worship. They provided for each other s needs. Unity: They were together and held all things in common. Selflessness: They sold their possessions and property. Mutual care: They distributed their resources to all to meet any needs. The early Church was so committed to caring for others that they sold their own possessions and property to provide for anyone among them who was in need. Even Greek philosophers of the day recognized the care and love the church reflected. Anything they gave was a gift from the heart and wasn t mandatory. The believers gave from the overflow of their generosity. They weren t required to sell what they had, and Luke isn t telling us that either. Luke is describing the events and history of the early church. Their example of caring and genuine love reflects the love of Christ that all believers are called to live out. Few of us are in danger of giving too much of our time to God, and Luke isn t telling us we should fear that. A heart that has been set free from sin by the love and sacrifice of Christ desires to love and sacrifice for others. The greatest lie we can believe is that serving others puts us in the danger of being lost, forgotten, or left behind. Serving and loving one another is a part of our lives, not something we take time out of our lives to accomplish. 5 Discuss: Help your students understand that being a Christian is not something we do, it is who we are. It s an identity versus an activity. HOW CAN BEING GENEROUS WITH THOSE AROUND US BE A PART OF OUR LIVES AND NOT SOMETHING WE KEEP SEPARATE?? BIBLE STUDIES FOR LIFE SESSION 3

8 COMMENTARY ACTS 2:43-45 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. ACTS 2:43-45 Verse 43. Unstoppable community meets physical needs. Because of what was happening in and through the believers, Luke noted that awe came upon every soul. Awe refers to a deep respect, admiration, or reverence. It was not just a one-time occurrence either. The verb suggests an ongoing action everyone continued to experience this reverent awe. Surely the believers were amazed and probably even overwhelmed by what God was doing in and through them. But likely the response refers more to those who were not believers, especially Jews in Jerusalem who witnessed the work of God in ways they might never have seen before. Part of what they witnessed or heard about was the many wonders and signs that God did through the apostles. These were miraculous actions similar to those done by Jesus that met physical needs, demonstrated the power of God, and pointed people to God. These wonders Tip: Help challenge your students with practical examples of how they can live out the truth you are studying together. and signs were a reminder of Joel s prophecy of the last days that Peter proclaimed on Pentecost (Acts 2:19). Verse 44. This summary verse from Luke was another reminder of the close fellowship of all who believed in the fledgling community of Christ. The word together emphasizes the unity of the Christian community. The believers also had all things in common. This was a completely voluntary action they engaged in because of their love and concern for one another. Verse 45. Because of their love for each other, the disciples determined to take care of any who had need. Thus they were selling their possessions and belongings to help meet one another s physical needs. Again, this was not a required action for any disciple. The believers obviously held a loose grip on their belongings and allowed God to use whatever they had when there was a need to be met. Tip: Reach out to every student especially those you connect with least. It s easy to build relationships with the students you have things in common with, but it s important to be intentional about getting to know all of your students. BIBLE STUDIES FOR LIFE 107

9 IMPART (10 MINUTES) Do: Allow students time to finish the optional Action Point (p. 94) in the PSG. Read: Ask a student to read the passage for the group. Summarize: Explain this section for your students. Discuss: Review this question with your students. Read: Guide students to read each section aloud. Summarize: Take time to examine this statement with your students. ACTS 2:46-47 The early church certainly prayed and loved others, but they didn t stop there. If they had only prayed and been generous none of us would know about Jesus today. The early church was concerned with telling people why they loved one another, shared life, shared meals, and prayed. They gave voice to the message behind the love the community displayed. Sharing completes the cycle of praying, caring, and sharing. We pray and God leads us to care. We care and He leads us to talk about His Son, Jesus. Let me tell you why I can love at all. It s because Jesus first loved me. WHEN HAS SHOWING LOVE BECAUSE OF CHRIST RESULTED IN AN OPPORTUNITY TO SHARE THE GOSPEL? The opportunity to share Christ is usually built on the foundation of friendship. Share Christ s love with people who are close enough to see you at your most authentic. People who know you re human and see the work Christ is doing in you. As you pray for those people and God gives you practical steps to share His love with them, honestly share why Christ s love has changed your life and how it can change theirs. This love is different than just raising money for charity or community service. Those things are important and we should be volunteering, but the gospel is set apart from humanitarian efforts because we know that food, houses, and medical advances are not end goals. They re temporary solutions, not eternal solutions. We love and care for others to not only serve them now, but to share the same hope and salvation we have for the future. Praying, caring, and sharing: three acts that create an incredible, dynamic lifestyle. ACTION POINT Febreze is known for eliminating bad odors and leaving areas smelling fresh and clean. To prove its effectiveness, Febreze went to some of the smelliest cars, rooms, and kitchens imaginable to combat bad odors. After spraying each dirty space with Febreze, volunteers were blindfolded and asked to describe the smell. Volunteers were shocked after removing their blindfolds to reveal the nasty mess around them. Febreze disguised the smell around them, yet the mess was there the whole time. It s easy to wear a disguise because we are afraid to share our lives with each other, but the gospel gives believers the ability to genuinely share our lives together. We re made to live in authentic community with God and believers. List three ways you can encourage authentic community in your group? 7 Do: Direct students to complete the Action Point. BIBLE STUDIES FOR LIFE SESSION 3

10 COMMENTARY ACTS 2:46-47 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. ACTS 2:46-47 Verse 46. Even as the believers met together in the temple courts, they had in mind their witness to Jews who were not followers of Christ. Every day crowds of Jews came to the temple to participate in worship, so it was natural for the believers to gather there to share their faith. They wanted others to experience the forgiveness and life they knew because of their relationship with God through faith in His Son Jesus. While publicly, larger group gatherings in the temple were important, it was just as important for the believers to spend time together outside the temple. Thus they also gathered in their homes. It was in these intimate small groups where they were breaking bread. This probably refers to a regular meal, which could have concluded with an observance of the Lord s Supper. Such combination meals, known as love feasts (Jude 12), apparently were a regular practice for the early church (1 Cor. 11:17 34). Praying, caring, and sharing: three acts that create an incredible, dynamic lifestyle. #UNSTPPBLEGSPL The love of the early believers in Jerusalem for one another and their unity in the faith resulted in glad and generous hearts within their fellowship. The gladness they experienced refers to extreme joy, exaltation. The Greek phrase translated generous hearts occurs in the New Testament only in this verse and literally means simplicity of heart. It carries the idea of sincere devotion, a mindset solely focused on pleasing God. Verse 47. One other notable characteristic of the believers was their time spent praising God. Their worship undoubtedly included words of thanks to God for all He had done for them not only for the eternal life they experienced because of Jesus but also for the abundant life they enjoyed because of the Spirit s presence within them. The believers did not live their lives in isolation. The community of Christ was well-known throughout the city. Luke noted that they enjoyed the favor of all the people, that is, the unbelieving Jews in Jerusalem. The believers lives and their fellowship were characterized by great love, and likely this was the key to the goodwill they received from outsiders. Their love was noteworthy and became a witness to others, just as Jesus had promised: By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:35). The results of their sacrificial love and ongoing witness were astounding. The Holy Spirit empowered their witness, just as Jesus had promised in Acts 1:8, and day by day people were being saved. As a result, the Lord added these new believers to the community of faith. Out of their common love for Jesus, believers in the early church expressed love for each other. This love spread throughout Jerusalem as the believers loved their fellow Jews enough to share the good news of the gospel with them. As a result, the church continued to grow and was held in high regard even by those who were not part of it. BIBLE STUDIES FOR LIFE 109

11 IMPACT (10 MINUTES) 1 Discuss: Read and discuss the quote with students. LIVE IT OUT 2 3 Guide: Use the Christ portion of the Live It Out section to develop a personal prayer plan for students to use in their everyday lives. Remember the Bible Reading Plan to help students develop a personal plan to spend time in God s Word daily. (It s a great point of contact to keep conversations going throughout the week.) Guide: This is an excellent time to encourage students to ask hard questions and get intentional about building community with one another. THE CHURCH IS NOT A THEOLOGICAL CLASSROOM. IT IS A CONVERSION, CONFESSION, REPENTANCE, RECONCILIATION, FORGIVENESS AND SANCTIFICATION CENTER, WHERE FLAWED PEOPLE PLACE THEIR FAITH IN CHRIST, GATHER TO KNOW AND LOVE HIM BETTER, AND LEARN TO LOVE OTHERS AS HE DESIGNED. 3 BIBLE READING PLAN DAY 1 AC T S 10:1-33 DAY 2 ACTS 10:34-48 DAY 3 AC T S 11:1-30 DAY 4 AC TS 12:1-25 DAY 5 AC TS 13:1-13:33 DAY 6 AC T S 13:34-52 DAY 7 AC TS 14:1-28 PAUL DAVID TRIPP CHRIST Instead of simply walking to your classes this week, pray for those around you including your classmates and teachers. Pray for their spiritual and emotional needs, and pray especially for opportunities to share your faith through serving them. Ask God to work in their lives and to use you to tell them about Christ. COMMUNITY When you read about the early church and how they lived in community, how did that challenge your group? Take some time to ask the following questions as a group, and don t be afraid to be honest. Are we studying and applying God s Word together? Are we helping and sharing what is on our hearts, whether good or bad? Is our group a place where everyone feels valued and free to talk? How often are we praying for one another and seeking God s direction? 96 SESSION SESSION 3

12 IMPACT STUDY GOD S WORD WITH ENCOURAGE AND SHARE WITH CULTURE God wants to use the church to shape the culture around you, like He used the early church in Acts 2: God uses the obedience of His people to change the world, but we must be intentionally living with the same mind of Christ. Take a minute to pray and develop a personal plan to share and reflect the gospel this week by identifying Who, How, and When you can live out the gospel. VALUE AND INCLUDE PRAY FOR 4 Guide: The Culture section equips students to apply this session to their lives this week. Encourage and help your students develop a plan to be intentionally building community. WHO HOW WHEN 5 6 Pray: Close in prayer asking God to reveal to each student how incredibly necessary authentic community is in his or her life, and to intentionally and obediently pursue authentic community this week. Follow Up: This week, connect with students by sending a handwritten note or tag them on social media at an event you attended for them. When students see you take the time, it opens up doors to minister in major ways. BIBLE STUDIES FOR LIFE 97 BIBLE STUDIES FOR LIFE 111

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