Lesson 9

Church Life and Witnessing

(Acts 2, 4 & 5)
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Introduction: Have you asked yourself, "What should we do as a church to grow?" "What church activities will strengthen the members and increase our outreach?" This week we study some of the activities of the early church during a time of great growth. Let's jump into what their experience has to teach us!

  1. Church activity: study.

    1. Read Acts 2:41-42. This follows Peter's message at Pentecost. Assume that 3,000 new members came into your church. What would you do? What does this text reveal that the early church did with the 3,000?

      1. When verse 42 says that the members "devoted" themselves to certain activities, what do you think that means?

        1. Are you devoted to any of the activities of your church? If so, what are they?

          1. If not, why not?

        2. What can we do to increase the level of "devotion" among the new members to the church? Would your answer also apply to the "old" members of the church?

      2. The first thing the members were devoted to is "the apostles' teaching." How would you apply this idea to the new members in your church?

        1. Does your church have any sort of class to teach new members the doctrines of the church? Does it have any class to teach the old members?

          1. What reason is there to teach the doctrines of the church? Any reason not to teach them?

          1. Does the value of doctrinal teaching turn on the number of doctrines held by the church? If you had a large number of doctrines, would teaching them all be more or less helpful?

        1. So far I have equated the "apostles' teaching" to the teaching of doctrines. What do you think the apostles were teaching? (Most likely what Jesus taught them. These were Christ centered teachings.)

  1. Church activity: fellowship.

    1. Acts 2:42 also tells us that the members were devoted to "the fellowship." What do you think this means?

      1. Is your church devoted to "fellowship?"

      2. How important is fellowship to new members?

      3. Did you notice in the lesson (Monday) the reference to the Win Arn book that says if new members cannot name a minimum of seven new friends in the first six months of membership they will leave the church?

        1. Do you think this is true?

          1. If yes, why? If no, why not?

        2. Some may say that the church is not intended to be a social club -- salvation, not socialization, is the goal. Is socialization important? Is it more important to new members than to old members?

          1. Does your church have a plan or a program to help new members establish a friendship with other members?

      4. Notice that verse 42 seems to link "the fellowship" to "the breaking of bread and prayer." What kind of fellowship does this suggest? Is this "the plan" for helping new members establish a friendship with others?

        1. I was recently reading a witnessing book that suggested a meal in connection with the Bible study for new members. Is it important to eat in connection with a Bible study? If so, why?

          1. What about all that blood going down to your stomach for digestion, leaving none in your head for thinking!

      5. What role does prayer play in fellowship? (An important part of fellowship is the idea of mutual concern. You pray for fellow members and it encourages them that you are concerned. They pray for you and it encourages you.)

      6. Does Acts 2:42 suggest that Bible study, prayer and eating are a God-approved formula for strengthening the membership? Creating friendships among members?

        1. Do you have this formula in action in your church?

    2. Read Acts 2:43. Is your church filled with "awe?" Is the day of "awe" past?

      1. If we were devoted to teaching, fellowship and prayer, would we see more miracles in our churches? Would these miracles fill us with awe?

    3. As I think about these verses and how to apply them to our church today, the idea of "small groups" or "cells" jumps into my mind? Should you have small groups in your church who meet together to eat, study the Bible, pray and fellowship?

        1. What advantage do you see in such groups over merely showing up for church each week? (These groups allow members to get to know each other. While it might be hard to keep track of missing members at church, with a small group you are much better able to notice who is missing and who needs encouragement.)

  2. Church activity: nurture.

    1. Read Acts 2:44-45. Does this mean the early church members were communists? Our lesson (Sunday) tells us that having "things in common was not unusual in Jewish life of the time." The Wycliffe Bible Commentary says, "sharing seems to have been limited to the early years of the Jerusalem church and was not extended into new churches as the Gospel was carried beyond Judea."

      1. So far I have been treating the description of the early church as a prescription for church growth. Is sharing part of the prescription? Or can we just leave that part out?

      2. Read Acts 4:32-37. Does this sound like everyone sold their house or their land? (The text says "from time to time" assets were sold. This seems to indicate that property was sold only as there was a need for additional money.)

        1. Notice the result: there were no needy persons among them. Is that a goal for our church? Is our church help directed more to our members or more to nonmembers?

        2. The Bible commentaries say that the Barnabas of verse 36 is the same one who later was Paul's companion in missionary duties.

      3. Read Acts 5:1-5. What is the lesson in this story? That if we do not sell our possessions we will die? (Look at Peter's statement in verse 4. He is clearly saying that selling the property and giving the money is a voluntary matter. The sin arose in lying about giving the full value of the property. Thus, selling all (or even part) of what we have is not a requirement according to Peter.)

      4. If selling what we have and sharing it is not a Biblical requirement, what do you think we should do to capture the spirit (and the blessing) of Acts 2:44-45?

  3. Church activity: mission

    1. Let's continue with our reading of Acts 2. Read Acts 2:46-47. If they were eating together in their homes, why did they "meet together in the temple courts" every day?

      1. Did they still believe in the sacrificial system of the temple?

      2. Was this worship? (I don't think they needed to meet in the temple. They would not believe in the sacrificial system any more. I do not think this was "worship." I think they met every day in the temple to witness to others.)

      3. Should we still strive to meet in public places? Should we try to hold meetings in government buildings?

      4. Or should we look for ways to bring the public into our churches?

    2. Why do you think the text mentions again (see also v.42) eating together with witnessing? (I think this is a point we may be missing in our witnessing.)

      1. What, at bottom, is going on when the believers feed each other and those to whom they are witnessing? (Eating together, as we discussed before, is simple fellowship. Feeding others meets a central, but nonreligious, need of the potential convert.)

        1. In our witnessing today should we add a "meeting nonreligious needs factor?" For example, last night I was working with others on plans for an "evangelistic series." We looked at having lectures on depression, pediatric safety, gardening, health, back problems, etc. Would these kinds of lectures be the modern equivalent of "feeding" those to whom we witness?

    3. What does verse 47 teach us is the result of this formula for witnessing? (It is exciting for the members. They praise God. The public looks on it with favor. And best of all, new believers came in daily.)

    4. Friend, the role of the church is to facilitate worship, study, fellowship and evangelism. Are all four functions working in your church? If not, what will you do to get things on track?

  4. Next Week: Structures for Witnessing.

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