We seek to encourage our church in reading, studying, and living out Scripture in our daily lives. This study guide is designed to correspond to Sunday’s sermon (Dec. 3rd) [Listen Here]. Read through this lesson on your own or with a small group.
The concept of “sacrifice” in the Bible is a pretty loaded topic. It could mean the burnt offerings the Jews offered to God under the Mosaic Law, the sacrificial atonement that Jesus made on the cross,the self-sacrificial attitude Christians are to display as they follow the Christ, or even just giving up some portion of our earthly treasure to provide for others. This week, we are going to talk about that last definition, and what it means to step up to spreading the message of the gospel through how we spend our money and value our possessions.
- If he is truly all-powerful and outside of any sort of earthly need, why does God demand such expensive sacrifices from His people?
- What are some ways that we can “pollute the offering table” than turn around and pretend like we have done nothing wrong?
- What is the modern day equivalent of offering a lame or diseased animal as a sacrifice?
- Ignoring his true intentions revealed to us by the author, do you feel as though you might agree with Judas in this story?
- What do you imagine the mood was like in this home, knowing that Lazarus was dead not too long before this?
- What does Jesus mean in verse 8? Is he declaring that the poor are less important than Him?
- There are many different views on how a Christian should use their money in relation to the church. Some people give to specific charities, some give when they feel like they have enough to give, some give a constant %10. How do you feel people should view money and financial responsibility toward the mission of the church?
- What resources, aside from money, can we use to serve the church?
- What is your “expensive perfume” from the story in John? Would you have a hard time using the things you find valuable as a way to worship, like Mary?
In Matthew 6, Jesus declares that “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” When Mary uses her treasure to serve Jesus, her heart is in the right place. Judas outwardly claims to have a heart for the needy, but his heart was truly for himself. It seems that not only do our actions matter, but the attitude with which we do them, as well.
When you use your wealth and possessions to serve others, it is with a sacrificial heart? Are you seeking not only to provide for the church, but also to bring glory to God? This week, examine your sense of generosity and take steps to uncover where your heart truly lies.
Pray for opportunities to live sacrificially. Pray that your heart is in the right place, so that God will see fit to open up the storehouses of heaven and use you as a way to bring the gospel of contentment to those who don’t yet know who He is. Pray for assistance in realigning any selfish motives you have when considering how to use the money and valuables you have received from God.
We seek to encourage our church in reading, studying, and living out Scripture in our daily lives. This study guide is designed to correspond to Sunday’s sermon (Nov. 26th) [Listen Here]. Read through this lesson on your own or with a small group.
- What are the different parts of the body of Christ? For example, someone who preaches could be considered the “mouth.” What other roles do members of the body play?
- Paul seems to be encouraging people by reminding them that everyone has a role to play in God’s plan. Why is this something of which we need to be reminded?
Paul wants his readers to know that they all have a specific role to play in the church’s mission. We have all been given personalities and abilities that make us uniquely suited to serve the purpose of evangelizing the world. Sometimes, however, we feel as though we will never live up to the precedent that others have set. We decide that our prayers aren’t eloquent enough, or that we aren’t truly faithful if we don’t give up our possessions and move to Africa to minister to an unreached people group. However, the story of Jesus healing a paralytic explains to us that we all have a role to play, regardless of the “level” of talent we have.
- In verse four, the men encounter a roadblock, but simply find a way around it. What are some roadblocks we come upon when spreading the gospel?
- How do you think the various characters felt at different points during the story:
- The four friends when they saw the daunting crowd.
- The paralytic when being brought up on to the roof.
- Jesus, as the paralytic is being lowered down to Him.
- It would have been far easier for these men to simply say “let’s just wait in line” or “maybe we’ll catch Jesus the next time he is in town, rather than go through the hassle of climbing onto the roof and doing what they did. Why do you think they chose the hard way?
- What do you consider your role in the body of Christ to be?
- Have you ever encountered a roadblock when you attempted to share the gospel with someone? How did you get around it?
- Who is someone that you have hesitated to talk to about Jesus, and why?
A major new idea that Jesus brought to the followers of God was the concept of “gentile inclusion,” that is, that salvation wasn’t to be kept to the Jews anymore! Instead the whole world was not included in the church’s mission to expand the Kingdom of God.
Things haven’t changed. While it is easy to say “I agree, the world needs to know Jesus” it is much harder to get around our own personal concept of who is worthy of evangelism. Sometimes, we just can’t stand a coworker and don’t want to talk them more than needed. Sometimes, we’re holding a grudge against someone who used to be a friend.
However, the culture of the church needs to work against the culture of the world. Rather than putting our own desires and opinions first, and expecting to be served, we need to see others as more important than ourselves, and realize the urgency with which we should be spreading the gospel to all people!
Pray for your role in the body of Christ to be revealed to you, and for opportunities to play that role. Pray for opportunities to stretch your comfort zone, to live out the fact that everyone in the world is deserving of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Step Up: So That Others May Know!
We seek to encourage our church in reading, studying, and living out Scripture in our daily lives. This study guide is designed to correspond to Sunday’s sermon (Nov. 12th) [Listen Here]. Read through this lesson on your own or with a small group.
The story about the sending of the 72 missionaries in Luke 10 holds a special place in the heart of Harvest Christian Church. This is where we get our name from, when Jesus explains to the men he is sending that “the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.” We have the mission of the church right in our name!
The Pacific Northwest is a region notoriously averse to Christianity. While our harvest is certainly plentiful, its roots are deeply planted, and it will take a lot of work from the workers to get them free. This week, we take a look at Jesus’ mission briefing to the laborers he sent out in to the fields to take a harvest.
- When sending His people out to spread His gospel, Jesus sent them in pairs. Why do you think He chose to do it this way?
- At the end of verse 1, the author makes a note that all of the places that Jesus sent the missionaries were places He Himself was about to go. What is the significance of this?
Jesus then begins to give the missionaries some concrete advice for when dealing with people on their mission- what to bring, who to talk to, how to handle rejection, etc. It is clear that Jesus knew how his people would be received among those they sought to bring into God’s Kingdom. However, rather than save them the pain of rejection or even the possible legal backlash of preaching the gospel of a man considered to be a heretic, he chooses to instead equip them with knowledge on how to handle it.
- Who are the two groups discussed in verse 2- the harvest and the laborers?
- Notice that Jesus tells them to pray to the “Lord of the Harvest.” If the harvest is made up of those who have not accepted Jesus, why is he described as their Lord?
- Jesus tells the seventy-two to rebuke those that reject their message, with what could be considered pretty harsh words. Does this conflict with the gospel of peace and grace that Jesus came to preach?
- Sometimes Christians run the risk of surrounding themselves with only other Christians, and have few opportunities for evangelism. How can we avoid this problem?
- What are some “wolves” that we face today?
- Jesus advises the missionaries to seek out “son[s] of peace” when arriving at a house; someone who may not know the gospel, and may not even respond in the way the seventy-two desire, but would be willing to listen to what they have to say. Who is someone you know that could be described as a “son (or daughter) of peace?”
- What does it look like, in practicality, to “shake the dust off your feet” in real life?
It is the mission of the Church to bring the gospel of Jesus to the world. Sometimes we feel like we can’t be a missionary unless we dedicate our lives to some sort of disenfranchised people group on some other continent. Or that maybe we don’t know scripture well enough, or have too many personal sins to deal with before trying to convince others to become Christians.
The truth is, there is absolutely nothing that excuses us from reaching out to the world that desperately needs the hope that we have. We are the doctor handing the cure to the sick. We are not the cure, nor are we are not the one who created it. We are simply the conduit through which those in need can be healed. We are the laborers standing before a field ripe for harvest. It’s time to get to work.
Take some time to ask God for wisdom in how to approach the harvest that has been set before you. Ask for opportunities to show courage in your evangelism and to be able to handle rejection when it comes your way. Pray that we will not let any excuse stop us from getting into the field and reaping the harvest that is waiting for the light of God.
Step Up: So That Others May Know!
We seek to encourage our church in reading, studying, and living out Scripture in our daily lives. This study guide is designed to correspond to Sunday’s sermon (Nov. 5th) [Listen Here]. Read through this lesson on your own or with a small group.
We, as the human race, have a tendency to get stuck in our ways. When we discover a way to do things or a way of thinking that we agree with, it is often difficult for us to break away from those methods. It isn’t hard to understand- predictability is comforting.
Take, for example, a school bus route. Every morning, the students wait out at the bus stop at the same time, because that is when their ride to school will show up to collect them. If the driver changed what time he got their every day, the students would not be able to know when to meet them and would probably be late to class- or not even get to school at all!
It’s easy to see why we like our routines. However, there is a danger in becoming too comfortable in those patterns. When that pattern ceases to be efficient or effective, then we probably should learn to change, lest we start to find the ritual more important than why we take part. This was a major issue for the Jewish people. In fact, their inability to break from their long-practices traditions and rituals is what led to the execution of Jesus!
Let’s take some time to examine what is truly important to God, and how we have gone astray from it.
- What parallels can you find between the different stories?
- Why would Jesus rapid fire several stories that lean toward the same underlying meaning?
- Which story speaks to you more? Do you have any personal experience that seems like it could have been used as one of Jesus’ examples of seeking that which is lost?
- The Jews had long assumed that they were God’s chosen people. But when Jesus came onto the scene, he began revealing that His grace is for all, not just the select few. How do you imagine the people in Jesus’ audience would have reacted to these parables when they heard them?
- Compare this passage to modern-day church activity. Do you feel as though we do things differently?
- Notice that this passage does not mention whether or not the believers were going out of their way to evangelize to others. That being said, what would make the church so attractive that they were growing on a daily basis?
- If you were to condense this passage to a simple phrase, like a slogan for the church, what would it be?
- What is something that gets in the way of you trying to keeping evangelism at the heart of your ministry?
- How can we, as a church, try to recreate the feeling of the believers in Acts 2? Is that something we should attempt to do at all, considering the differences in our cultures?
- Who is someone that you can introduce to Christianity, despite their “unworthiness?” Remember, ALL of us have fallen short of God’s glory.
Often, a danger that we may stray into in our evangelism is trying to convince others that they are doing things wrong, and that Christianity is the right way to live. While absolutely true, we must recognize that the early church attracted vast numbers to their group by simply living in a way that created a better world for those involved. They provided when someone was in need, spent time in each other’s company, and, most importantly, worshipped and studied the scriptures one body, yearning to know God better.
We have an opportunity to seek and save the lost, bringing the world to the foot of the throne of God. However, that will not happen until we put our own personal preferences and desires last, and choose to pursue that which is most important to God.
Take some time to pray that we as a church can always strive to keep only that which is important to God at that heart of our ministry to others. To be able to understand that seeking and saving the lost is the heart of the Father, and, therefore, should be the heart of the church, too.
In our eighth and final week of studying the “I am” statements of Jesus in the book of John, we are adding a “bonus” statement to the traditional seven. Typically, the passage in John 18 in which Jesus says “I am He,” is not included in what is studied. However, we felt it was a great passage to add to our series, because it gives us great insight into who Jesus is, specifically, I think, that He is both our Lord and our Savior.
If you have been baptized at some point in your life, you were probably asked a few questions during the ceremony. Usually one of these sounds something to the effect of the following:
“Do you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?”
Sounds pretty standard, right? The Christian believer accepts Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior through the ritual of baptism to publicly announce that this is how they will now be living their life.
In his sermon on Sunday morning, youth pastor Steve Valdez talked to our junior high and high school students about Jesus’ interaction with the Roman guards in the Garden of Gethsemane. If you would like a refresher, open up to John 18, and read verses 1-11. Jesus actually makes the statement “I am He” twice in the conversation, but with very different intentions each time, demonstrating both his Lordship and the saving grace he extends to humanity.
Verse six informs us that there was a powerful after effect of Jesus’ first declaration of His identity. They “drew back and fell to the ground.” Now because we are given no other information as to what may have caused this sudden toppling, it is clear that it is a result of Jesus’ innate power as God emanating from within Him. In this moment, Jesus is Lord. He is demonstrating his Godhood and telling the soldiers that they do not have power over Him, that his arrest is only happening with his submission.
6 When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. John 18:6
However, the story continues. After the soldiers get up and brush themselves off, Jesus asks them again, “Who are you looking for?” When they respond the same way as before, so does He. With one caveat, Jesus adds to his second declaration of identity a command to allow his disciples to go free, and to just take Him away.
8 Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. If you are looking for me, then let these men go.” John 18:8
In this moment, Jesus is Savior. With full knowledge of the events that would transpire as a result, Jesus emphatically asserts that he is who he is. While doing so, he creates a path for those with him, who are also guilty of blasphemy and Sabbath-breaking, to go free. Jesus takes on the full extent of the punishment himself.
So how do we respond to this amazing moment in scripture? We reclaim Jesus as both our Lord and Savior. While they may seem like a no-brainer, I want to challenge you to honestly examine your attitude toward Him. I believe that most people tend to follow Jesus as either one or the other. Some of us tend to see Him as just our Lord. We follow his commands, doing the things he did, and generally can check off the boxes of the physical acts of obedience that we carry out as our way to be faithful. While that is certainly not a bad thing, we often start to see those things we do as what saves us from hell. Like the Pharisees, we start to view the rules and traditions we follow as our savior, rather than the One who instructed us to do them.
On the other hand, many of us tend to simply allow Jesus to be our savior. We gladly accept his grace and forgiveness at our baptism, but then live life in ways that tends to gratify ourselves. Our behavior does not reflect the claim that Jesus is our Lord, the one whom we have given our devotion and on whose words we set our ways.
We will all fall into these categories at some point. You probably identify as one of them right now. Take time to repent and pray. Ask God for forgiveness and realign your thinking with the great I Am.
Is Jesus your Lord?
Is He your Savior?
Or is he who you claimed he was, both Lord of your life and Savior of your soul?
Missed Sunday’s Sermon? Listen to the I AM Series [here].
Here at Harvest, every small group we start has 5 tasks to accomplish throughout its life: fellowship, study, provision, worship, and evangelism. All five of these are taken from the last few verses of Acts 2, but I want to take some time to expound on each one of these tasks. Today, we’re going to continue the series by exploring the idea of studying the Bible.
This one is a little weird to discuss, because it seems a little unnecessary to talk about how important it is to read and study scripture. But I believe there is a risk within the small group atmosphere, and sometimes even the temptation, to veer into the realm of simply becoming a social club. Friends meeting together to eat and talk for a couple of hours and then go their separate ways. While there is nothing inherently wrong with this, there is so much potential growth to be had by incorporating Bible study as a core element of the small group routine. We often talk about the benefits of corporate worship, that is, worshiping our God in unison with others, but can we apply the same idea to the inspection of God’s Word?
“The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand, we are obliged to act accordingly.”
The give-and-take nature of a small group is absolutely necessary to the process of Biblical study. When we read it on our own, while an admirable thing to do, we cannot help but apply our own presuppositions to the text. I am not saying we should refrain from individual study, but if we, at the same time, neglect to present the results of that study to others, we risk running into the issue of twisting scripture into simply the most personally pleasing form we can imagine. We should be doing all we can to avoid becoming one of the “scheming swindlers” that Kierkegaard discusses. We need to have others hold our understanding if scripture accountable, and provide motivation to act in accordance with that correct understanding.
Having a group Bible study helps us to expand the realm of our insight into the subtleties and possible interpretations of scriptures. It is inevitable that the people in your small group will open your eyes to different ways to read a particular passage, or make a connection between two seemingly unaffiliated verses that changes the way you read both of them.
Take, for example, God is often given the description of being a father. While it is a pretty simple title, our experiences with earthly fathers can differ wildly. He who never knew his father may find comfort in the fact that God is there to guide and take care of him, while the woman whose father was abusive may shirk from having to contend with another father figure in her life. Simple ideas like this can cause our interpretation of such a complicated and intricate work of literature like the Bible to begin to take a different path from our neighbor’s. We should seek to understand how others come away from the text and, in turn, see how we are applying our own experience to what we have read.
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.”
The Bible does not easily lend itself to a quick and easy understanding. It is not a book we can simply read through once, take the main point it is trying to make, and then move on with our lives. No, investigating God’s word is a lifetime-endeavor, filling our days with a desire to gain an ever-deepening understanding of the history of God’s people, the life, death, and life of Jesus Christ, and what it truly looks like to live a life reflecting His word.
We should be investigating the Bible on our own, with our families, and even when in social situations. In the small group setting, we not only have the chance to read and understand the words of scripture better, but will have opportunities to live out what we have learned when chances to support and provide for others arise. The impact of scripture needs to extend beyond the simple consumption of the text. It should cause us to go and turn it’s words into actions.
I have been involved in lots of different youth groups for about 10 years now, and something I have tried to convince students of, time after time, is that their faith and Biblical knowledge is nobody’s responsibility but theirs. This extends into adulthood as well. If you are a relying on a Sunday sermon every week to feed you the entirety of your knowledge and understanding of scripture, then you are missing out on the true depth to which scripture reaches into the human experience, and the change in world view that a personal and well-traveled interrogation of God’s Word can bring.
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”
2 Timothy 3:16-17
Interested in getting involved in a small group? Email Kyle Fox for more information.
“Friendship is a lot like food. We need it to survive. What is more, we seem to have a basic drive for it. Psychologists find that human beings have fundamental need for inclusion in group life and for close relationships. We are truly social animals.” Hara Estroff Marano, Psychology Today
Here at Harvest, every small group we start has 5 tasks to accomplish throughout its life: fellowship, study, provision, worship, and evangelism. All five of these are taken from the last few verses of Acts 2, but I want to take some time to expound on each one of these tasks, and talk about why it is included, Biblical examples of what they each look like, and how we can incorporate them into the small group atmosphere. Today, let’s start with “fellowship.”
It’s hard to imagine that anybody would disagree that spending quality time with others is a necessary part of the human experience. Whether they are part of the church or not, people inevitably seek out others for friendship and support. Isolation has been shown to Of course, the followers of Christ are no different, we may simply have a grander reason for doing so; that is, to mimic the desire of unification that God is shown to have in scripture.
Indeed, the concept of “fellowship,” through the lens of the church, is far more than simply spending time with each other. Friendship is only the beginning. So let’s take a look at some passages of scripture that discuss fellowship, and see if we can glean wisdom from them.
The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”
From nearly the very beginning of human history, it has been decreed by the Creator itself that it is not good for us to be alone. Now, it is important to mention the specific context here: God then created Eve, who was a very specific kind of counterpart to Adam. But we cannot remove the fact that God did not say “it is not good for man to not have a wife,” or “it is not good for man to not have to do all the work by himself.” God simply says that it would be detrimental if the man that was created to remain by himself. As created beings of God ourselves, it is probably safe to say that the same concept applies to us: we should not be alone.
“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”
The book of Proverbs is an interesting section of the Bible. Nothing else is quite like it, in that it is simply a book of wise advice from Solomon, handed down to his sons. It is full of pithy statements, that, give us some kind of wise truth. It is important to note that any given idea from Proverbs will not always be true, for we all know that sometimes we can find that we are not sharpened by other people. Not every friendship has a positive effect on our life. But we can, without a doubt, say that, in general, if we have good intentions and reflect the love of Christ, the fellowship we have with others will result in stronger relationships and stronger faith.
Have you ever thought about what it actually means to sharpen something? When you sharpen a pencil, you are removing pieces of that pencil until you have left a refined point with which you can produce a finer line when you write.
I believe that it is also true with us. As we seek to refine our faith, we remove the sin that entangles us. We leave behind our misconceptions about scripture. We even often discontinue relationships that do not have a positive effect on us.
Strong fellowship is a part of this. When we regularly meet together and grow more intimate relationships with one another, we have an opportunity to provide accountability to each other, to teach and learn from each other, and to provide emotional support and prayer for one another.
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
God, in an utterly gracious and often perplexing act of charity, has given us permission to share in the task of bringing the earth and its inhabitants to a place of reconciliation with Him. The author of Hebrews claims, in the tenth chapter, that fellowship is a part of this process. We have the opportunity to encourage each other in carrying out the work of love that Jesus modeled for us in his ministry. We should continue to meet together on a regular basis, in order to carry this burden of evangelism as one.
Additionally, Hebrews’ author gives us what, in literary terms, would be called “the ticking clock.” He reminds us that we don’t have the rest of eternity to bring all of God’s creation back into the fold, as we sometimes want to believe. The author refers to the “Day,” the day when Jesus will return and His righteous judgment will come to pass. With such a large task to accomplish, it is imperative that we not cease to meet together and encourage each other on in our faith.
So, in this brief cruise through scripture, we have learned that fellowship was deemed necessary for humans by the very being that created them, that fellowship helps us to improve ourselves and those we are spending our lives with, and that meeting together regularly for encouragement is absolutely necessary if we are to make progress in the task that our Creator has given us.
This week, take time to consider the concept of fellowship. Take time to ask yourself if the time you spend in the company of others is going beyond just simple companionship or if you could be doing more to continue the example of close and intimate relationships that we see in the lives of Jesus and his disciples. There are many more words of wisdom regarding fellowship that can be found in scripture. Below, there is a space for comments. Add to the conversation by telling us about some of your favorite moments of unity and relationships in scripture!
I think it is a safe thing to say that a well-cultivated church atmosphere would be a comfortable and inviting place for people to relax and be open with what they are feeling and the things with which they are struggling. A core component of Christian community is recognizing that we are all different, with differing backgrounds, preconceptions, and opinions. And if we keep our Christian life to just a Sunday morning service, this isn’t much of a hurdle to overcome. To be frank, these are things that are easy to avoid for an hour and a half on the weekend. We can come in, greet each other, ask about how things are going, get a coffee, worship, enjoy the sermon, and leave without ever needing to express our views on scripture or have in-depth conversations on how we interpret the Word of God.
But I believe that the free exchange of ideas, theories, and opinions is extremely important to the process of discipleship. The disciples of Jesus lived in a time when their cultural homeland was ruled by Rome. The first century church was spread across a world teeming with alternative viewpoints, other religions, varying political systems, and all other manner of voices at odds with both their own personal beliefs, and the teachings of scripture. Acts 2 tells us that three thousand people were added to the church after a single sermon from Peter! It is hard to believe that the early church wasn’t full of people who help a wide range of opinions. Sure, they all accepted the gospel, and were baptized into the Christian faith, but we all know that their are still a multitude of ideas that can differ from one person to the next, even in the same congregation.
A great opportunity to create this forum of discussion is within a small group. An intimate setting in which the members can feel free to present their ideas and opinions without feeling as though they need to align to a certain thought process. A place where simple and honest conversation can happen between people with different backgrounds and worldviews. A place where one person may be able to impart wisdom to another.
Because that is the companion thought to this whole idea. Not only should we be allowing others to present their ideas and opinions, but we also have a responsibility to accept teaching, correction, or advice from others. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says that “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” The Christian should be the one with the humility to accept that their interpretation of a Biblical passage or opinions on a certain topic may not always measure up to the truth of scripture. Not only should we allow others to teach us, we should crave that correction! For then we will be that much closer to the “thoroughly equipped servant of God” that 2 Timothy claims we have the opportunity to be.
The truth is, the church should be a place where viewpoints, opinions, and ideas should be able to be shared freely and without fear of ridicule or belittlement. If we want to change how we are viewed by the outside world, then we should probably make sure that we are being truly accepting and accommodating within our community. Allow others the opportunity to share their interpretation of scripture or their viewpoint on how we should respond to a certain political situation.
So here is my blog-post-challenge (I’m making it a thing.) to you: don’t shy away from honest and open discussions about things with which others may disagree, and don’t hesitate to allow others to impart wisdom to you. After all,
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”
It often feels like creating an authentic community is a little bit like going to the gym: we see the need, we see the benefit, and it really isn’t difficult to get there and workout. However, when we consider the amount of time and dedication required to see those results and benefits come to fruition, and understand the amount of times we will have to get in the car and go to the gym to workout, the task can become a little daunting.
Whether we realize it or not, we all crave authentic and intimate relationships that can come with a tight knit community of believers, but the long-term Communal life can often be difficult to maintain. That is why, for the small group network here at Harvest, we have come up with a basic structure within which we will frame everything we do.
To the left is a visual representation of how we are approaching the creation of a small group network that sustains itself. At the top is the small group itself, (kind of like an upper room, heh heh heh), supported by what we are calling the 5 Pillars of Community. These principles come straight from the example of Christian community we see in Acts 2:
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” Acts 2:42-47
- Fellowship (v. 42-47)
To create a communal life together.
- Study (v. 42)
To gain a greater understanding of scripture and how we are to live out the teachings of Jesus Christ.
- Provision (v. 44-45)
To provide for the needs of one another and live sacrificial lives.
- Worship (v. 47)
To give all glory to God and recognize that Jesus’ ways are superior to our own.
- Evangelism (v. 47)
To invite others to share in the communal life of the small group and the church as a whole.
Within our small groups, everything we do has to fall under one of the 5 Pillars, and we need to make sure that all 5 Pillars are a part of what we do. If we are having a great time of fellowship, but not spending time studying the Word, then our discipleship can suffer. If we invite anyone and everyone to our group, but our fellowship is only skin deep, then those new people may not want to stay.
So, when you join one of our small groups, be on the lookout for how you can contribute to supporting the communal life of Christian fellowship. The truth is, what you put into the group is what you will get out of it. If you want to be a part of the personal, intimate, and authentic community of believers that we see in scripture, this is how we start!
Small Groups Pastor
My name is Kyle Fox, and I have recently come on board at Harvest as the Pastor of Small Groups. If you don’t know who I am, let me give you some info about myself. I grew up in Phoenix, Arizona, and moved to Joplin Missouri at 18 to begin school at Ozark Christian College (OCC). During my time completing my degree, I came up to Troutdale and was an intern at Harvest for about 18 months, mostly working with the youth ministry. I graduated from OCC with a Bachelor’s degree in Youth Ministry, and spent a few more years in Missouri. In May of 2016, my wife, Faith, and I were married. We moved to Gresham a month later, and we love living here.
When I have visited Oregon after finishing my internship, and since my wife and I moved back, I have often had conversations with people about the state of Harvest and what steps they felt could be taken to create a stronger congregation and ministry to the community. The answer I received on several occasions was something in the realm of the small group ministry. While there was a great base level of groups that met, it seemed as though the church had the opportunity to expand the network of small groups and to give more people the opportunity to dive into the communal life displayed to us by Jesus and the early church. This was only compounded after the move to the new building and the rapid growth of the congregation.
That is where I come in. My job is to get into the nitty-gritty of forming a network of small groups. To find those interested in the fellowship, study, provision, worship, and evangelism (more on those next time) that are central to living in communion with other believers, and providing the resources to be able to do so. I’ve been in contact with pastors from around the area to gain their insight into the topic and have been reading a few books to learn about some of the most successful small group ministries have accomplished what they have. I am extremely excited to begin this next step in the story of Harvest and the members of the church that gather here.
However, all the planning and resources in the world wouldn’t do us any good if you are not on board and willing to be a part of what is happening. So here is my blog post challenge (that’s a thing, right?) to you: Become a part of a small group. To decide whether or not this is something you want to do, here are a few questions to ask yourself:
- Are you living a life that reflects the community that Jesus modeled and the apostles carried on in the book of Acts?
- Are you striving to see your Christianity go beyond a Sunday morning service each week?
- Are you doing enough to fulfill the basic human need for connection and authenticity that we all have?
If your answers to these questions left you wanting more, I strongly encourage you to become part of what we are starting here at Harvest. I firmly believe that this is the start of something big.