Week #2: The New Normal
Begin in Prayer (5 minutes)
Ask the Holy Spirit to give each person in your group a fresh perspective on this season of life in our world. Be sure to thank God for His capacity to redeem what is lost, fix what is broken, and give new life to that which is dead.
Read: John 13:34-35; Acts 2:42-47; Acts 4:32-35
(NOTE: Consider having your group read the passage in a few different versions)
Overview: [For Leaders]
The early church is a case study in adapting to radical changes. If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, then historians certainly have some explaining to do. Seemingly overnight, a growing number of Jewish people suddenly ceased sacrificing animals at the temple to atone for sin, they stopped viewing the Jewish law as the boundary marker for community membership, and they started meeting on Sundays to worship. Speaking of worship, why did a bunch of monotheists suddenly start talking about a human as if He was God? Why did they start reading and interpreting their Scriptures differently? Why did the purpose and meaning of Passover change…after 1500 years? The only explanation is…say it with me: Jesus changes everything.
Those first few years must have been such a whirlwind–so many changes, so many innovations, reinterpretations of traditions, and controversy. Very few of us ever have the opportunity to truly build something from scratch, to imagine what could be and then to bring it to life. Those who have, though, will tell you that success depends on your ability to conform reality to your guiding principles, values, and purposes. The more you drift from those ideals, the less it reflects the original intentions.
The amazing thing about the book of Acts is that we get a glimpse into what the very first followers of Jesus thought He wanted the Church to be. And what do we see? We see a group of people working hard to become a family–worshipping together, doing life together, meeting each other’s needs, and representing Jesus to their community in word and deed. Whatever else could be said of them–good or bad–no one could deny that they loved Jesus, each another, and their neighbors as themselves.
The Church has certainly drifted to and fro in the 2000 years between Acts and now. It’s unlikely, and perhaps unrealistic, to even want to ‘return’ to the church of Acts 2-4. The world and our context have simply changed too drastically. But that’s not the point. The point is that the guiding principles Jesus gave to His Church work in any time, place, or context. We don’t have to bend and contort ourselves out of shape to fit a previous moment. We can change, tweak, adjust, improve, and experiment. We can use our imaginations. But whatever happens, we dare not lose the heartbeat behind it all–an embodied community, a family, marked out by self-giving love for one another and for our world.
Questions for Discussion (20-30 Minutes)
- What arrested your attention/heart/mind from the weekend talk or overview above?
- Has this season felt like a crucible to you – Why or Why not? Are you at a place yet where you can articulate what God has been teaching you through it all?
- What have you already started doing because of the last few months that you hope to keep as a life practice/rhythm when things get ‘back to normal’? -or- What’s something you’ve stopped doing that you hope doesn’t come back?
- When you think of our church and/or your MC, in what ways do you think we look like the church you read about in Acts? -and- Where do you think we could use fresh imagination, innovation, or engagement?
- In light of your answers to the previous question, are there any incremental changes your group could/should make to better reflect the ideal of the early church?
This Week’s Practices (10 Minutes)
Self-giving love, like winning the lottery, is a much better experience than conversation, so discuss the following and encourage one another to follow through.
- What is one way I can demonstrate self-giving love to my family, friends, and/or neighbor(s) in the next week?
- What is one way we can demonstrate self-giving love to each other in this group over the next month?
- What is one way our group can demonstrate self-giving love to the people of our city this summer?
Close in Prayer (5-10 Minutes)
If time permits, consider breaking the group down into groups of 2 or 3 (same sex) and pray for each other to follow through on your commitments.