There are specific points in my life that I can point you to where I don't know what I would have done without Christian community. The regular routine of doing life with other likeminded believers has profoundly changed and shaped my life. Moving to a city where I knew no one, losing my first child, and having my first child are all huge times in my life where I've had the joy of people being the hands and feet of Jesus to me.
Yesterday I had the privilege of preaching from Acts 2:42-47 to our church. In this passage we see a picture of how the early church lived together, a lofty goal for how we should live with other Christians, and what I think should be the characteristics of church small groups, life groups, Sunday School groups or whatever you'd like to call them. I think we see five characteristics that our groups should embody and I'd love to share them with you.
Devotion (vs. 42)
When I think of devotion, I think of commitment. I think of someone who has my back in good times and even more so in bad times. We need devoted people in our lives and we need to be devoted people to others. Specifically, in Acts 2:42 we see believers devoted to Jesus' teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayer. We show devotion to God, but also to one another.
Unity (vs. 44)
We should be of a like mind. This verse says they had all things in common. Obviously, this doesn't mean they had every one of their preferences in common, but that they were all unified in Christ with the same ultimate desires and goals: namely, making Jesus famous. We need to encourage one another when we're down. We need to spur one another on to finish this life well.
Care (vs. 45)
They were selling their possessions and meeting the needs of their members. We do care for people when we provide for their physical needs, but I'm sure they also met one another's emotional needs. We can and should counsel one another with the gospel during hard times such as sickness, hurt, and sin. In the times I faced losing a baby and having a baby, I have great experienced the care of other believers.
Fellowship (vs. 46)
They worshipped together and were in one another's homes. There is vulnerability and a trust that has to happen when we let one another in our homes. In public, we try our best to try and appear like we have it all together. When we let people see life in our homes, we let them see the mess. They get to see the real us. We find common bond in this fellowship because we realize we are all sinners in need of the same grace that is only found in Jesus.
Public Witness (vs. 47)
If we are truly living in a way communally that shows devotion, unity, care, and fellowship then that should be attractive shouldn't it? Verse 47 says these believers were living in a way that they had favor with all the people. Their lives made others realize they were missing out on something beautiful. Their lives were consistent with their words (testimony of Christ) and God used this to save more and more people (daily He added to their numbers those who were being saved).
If we're honest, we all want to experience these things described above. We all are looking for that community (and when we find it, we don't want to let it go). Our God is a communal God who experiences perfect community within Himself in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The Christian life is not an easy one and God knew we would need each other. The church was His idea. Jesus entered into the mess. He had good friends and He invested His life into twelve men while He was here. In the end He gave His life so that He could bring sinners back into relationship with God. He purchased a people for Himself and He commands us to go and bring others into that community.