What is your favorite thing about your neighborhood or city?
Lord, let Your Word impact our lives!
Acts 6:2–4 ERV: “The apostles said to them, ‘It would not be right for us to give up our work of teaching God’s word in order to be in charge of getting food to people. So, brothers and sisters, choose seven of your men who have a good reputation. They must be full of wisdom and the Spirit. We will give them this work to do. Then we can use all our time to pray and to teach the word of God.’”
One of the greatest aspects of a real church is the fathering mentality that leads to empowered disciples. The scripture above illustrates that church leaders and pastors are not able to be everywhere and take care of everything; they need others to come alongside them and assist. The apostles delegated not only the important task of caring for the people, but also their authority to do so.
Empowering the right people, trustworthy people who possess the same spirit and attitude that the leaders have, multiplies the possible touches a church can generate. Imagine if the majority of the congregation were put in charge of kingdom business. This type of ownership decreases church drama and increases mentoring and service to others.
Who was instrumental in your growth as a Christian? What did they do that was especially meaningful to you? Share with the group.
An empowering church is a fathering church. What is needed to be able to impart into the life of another? A true father displays certain characteristics. He is long-suffering. He doesn’t give up when early mistakes from his disciples are disappointing. He sees potential. He nourishes such potential with affirmation, which confirms identity. A true father will discipline those he loves.
Has anyone ever had to step in and correct you? Were you able to receive the advice and improve? Share your experience with the group.
When a father gives respect to his disciple, it validates growth. Growth leads to maturity, which leads to empowerment. A true father knows how to transfer weight and will do it at the appropriate time.
Do you consider yourself caring enough to reach out and father someone who wants to grow in the Lord? What traits do you need to develop to do a better job in this?
Who comes to mind when you consider people the Lord is putting in your sphere of influence that you might possibly father? Share with the group, if you can.
The real church empowers others to grow and lead. This type of fathering takes patience and affirmation. The end result is a broad base of leadership with the entire group of believers expanding the kingdom. The reverse would have a much smaller footprint.
Be available to mentor someone. The knowledge you have can be replicated in someone else who needs a spiritual father.
Where did you go to school?
Lord, allow us to come into Your presence, and mark us with encounters in Your presence.
2 Corinthians 6:16 NLT: “As God said: ‘I will live in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they will be my people.’”
The church is more than buildings. You and I make up the church, and God’s presence dwells within us. The real church, of course, is the opposite of the fake church or a dead church.
In this series, we have talked about a Spirit-filled church, a spreading church with an evangelistic nature to it, a loving and generous church, and a devoted church. Now let’s talk about a church that is markedly authentic because of the manifest presence of God.
It is possible to have a church so devoid of godly characteristics that God doesn’t feel at home there. The Bible says that the early church was constantly filled with a state of awe because of what God was doing. The book of Acts reads like a suitable handbook for you and me, showing us how God’s presence allowed the early church to experience miracles in the face of difficulty.
What premium would you put on the presence of God in our lives and the life of our church? Share with the group.
Acts 5:3–5 NLT: “Then Peter said, ‘Ananias, why have you let Satan fill your heart? You lied to the Holy Spirit, and you kept some of the money for yourself. The property was yours to sell or not sell, as you wished. And after selling it, the money was also yours to give away. How could you do a thing like this? You weren’t lying to us but to God!’ As soon as Ananias heard these words, he fell to the floor and died. Everyone who heard about it was terrified.”
What do you imagine it was like when this happened? Share with the group.
The account of Ananias and Sapphira is reminiscent of when God was with the Israelites in the exodus and set His house in order. Miriam became leprous for a week when she came against spiritual authority. Korah’s rebellion caused him to be swallowed alive.
Understanding the tension between God’s love and righteousness also teaches us that we must respect God’s order in His kingdom if we want to experience His presence in our church. As Romans 11:22 (NLT, emphasis added) says, “Notice how God is both kind and severe.”
If we order ourselves, God will not have to put us in order. Examine your heart, because that is where God is looking.
How do you live your life concerning spiritual authority and reverence for the Lord? Share with the group.
We can’t have the manifest presence of God in church without the spiritual authority and supernatural order that God operates through. One of the truest indicators of God’s abiding presence is the miraculous. This was true for both the Israelites and the early church. Peter’s shadow healing the sick was proof of God’s presence working through the apostles.
Value the presence of God. Respect God’s order, and foster the fear of the Lord in your life and doctrine. Expect miracles as the by-product of preaching the gospel and God’s manifest presence.
What was your first car?
Let us worship You, O Lord!
Acts 2:42, 46–47 NLT, emphasis added: “All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer… . They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity—all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.”
We are designed to be devoted to something. The question is not will we be devoted, but what will we be devoted to? The early church was devoted to Christianity, risking their lives to practice it.
As Christians, you and I have chosen what we are devoted to. When we develop our participation in the Word and it feeds and encourages us, we become fascinated with Christ’s life. Whatever we are devoted to we enjoy. That means our relationship with God can be enjoyed, not just endured. Our devotion as believers also leads us into fellowship with other believers.
Devotion demands time. We value the object of our devotion and willingly spend our time and resources there. In this lesson, we’ll take a look at how best to develop our devotion to the Lord as we make up the real church of 2019.
Aside from the Lord, name something you are devoted to.
Acts 2:42 (NLT) lists some things that will develop our devotion to the Lord and other believers: “apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.” From the apostles, the early church learned everything about the life of Christ. Similarly, here at Bethany, we have a steady diet of good teaching of the apostles’ doctrine. We are also encouraged to follow the One Year Bible plan to learn about the way Jesus lived and then to do the same. This is the first step to devotion.
How does God’s Word influence your life?
Though Jesus had ascended to heaven, the early church experienced a relationship with Him through their relationship with other Christians. Their persecuted existence fostered dependence on one another, as Christianity was not even an accepted belief system at that early stage of the church.
Your BFF has close proximity to you and enjoys intimacy with you. What proximity and intimacy does the Lord have in your life? Share with the group.
The early church remembered the covenant relationship they had with both God and believers. Also, through prayer and worship, they saw the Holy Spirit move, and it impacted their community, city, and nation. In a similar fashion, Sunday worship, B-Group meetings, First Wednesdays, and other gatherings help us feel close to one another. Like the early church, we too are called to devote ourselves to prayer and worship.
When was the last time you attended a fellowship meal with other believers? Share your experience with the group.
Our relationship with God can be enjoyed, not just endured. When we develop our relationship with God, we become devoted to Him.
Allow God’s Word and fellowship with other believers to take you to the next level. Don’t be satisfied with any distance between you and the Lord.
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