“To the angel of the church in Pergamum write: These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword. I know where you live -- where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city -- where Satan lives. Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality. Likewise you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it,” [Revelation 2:12-17]
A Christian is called a “Christian” because of his or her allegiance to Christ. Jesus requires devotion from His followers that is consistent with the Name they bear. When a new convert is dedicated to Christ, a remarkable change takes place. The Spirit of Christ dwells within the devotee and prompts him or her to live out the very Nature of God. This Nature dwells in us, transforms us and draws the lost to the Light and Life of God. The Character of God brings perfect unity and peace, manifesting the “fruit” of His Spirit. This is why new converts are often bursting with life and immediately express good works with an outlook that had been previously unknown to them. They hunger to help, they long to learn, they love to be with other Christians and they love to commune with God in prayer. Though our culture has often trained us to think in terms of “me” (individualism), the new Christian lovingly and enthusiastically embraces a sense of “us” (the body of Christ) in the Spirit.
The first century Christians automatically devoted themselves to some things through the Spirit’s influence. The word used in Acts 2 for “devoted” means to “give continuous and unbroken attention to” something. The idea is that Christians, at any given time on any given day of the week could be found gathered somewhere throughout the city devoted to these four things. They were getting together wherever, whenever as often as they could. And they loved meeting house-to-house. They devoted themselves to the teaching of the early Church. They learned it so that they could live it. It didn’t make sense to simply learn it. They learned the Word so that they could live it out. And living it out was not so much organized as it was spontaneous: Is someone in need? Do I have something that you could use? How can we pray together so that God’s will may succeed on earth through us?
The early church learned and lived for Christ. They devoted themselves to the Word of God (the Apostles’ teaching –the New Testament), to the fellowship (I am devoted to all of you, even as much as I am devoted to Jesus Christ), to the breaking of bread (we share what we have to eat together, called a “love feast,” which included taking the Lord’s Supper and rejoicing at the thought of sharing with His Body while remembering how His body was broken for us) and they devoted themselves to pray (we pray together for one another that Christ’s will might be manifested through His Kingdom here on earth). The Christians were devoted to Jesus Christ and to one another. The power of the Church was in the assembly of the Church, which always translated into service for Christ. The deep and wonderful love of Christ to the world was obvious, spontaneous and natural. And the world was drawn to Christ because Christians were one –they were all devoted to four principles: 1)Word, 2)Fellowship, 3)Bread, 4)Prayer.
One of the reasons the Church was so dynamic in Acts 2 is because they met from house-to-house. The usual size of a group was normally around 10-15 people. During any given age, people have always gathered in groups of varying size, depending on the occasion. For discipleship, evangelism and powerful spiritual growth, God designed groups of 2-3 (notice how many times the Word mentions groups of 2-3 and what the occasion is. God also designed “family-sized” groups (notice when these groups gathered and what the occasion was –Jesus and His disciples being an excellent example; this is the best “teaching and shepherding-sized” group). There are also other enumerated groups mentioned in the Bible of fixed sizes, given to specific occasions. God is a God of order, and He has even ordered how we fellowship and socialize. We may order things a certain way ourselves, but time always eventually proves that God has ordered things for His purposes.
The “2M” groups that we are discussing after second service at church this Sunday are “family-sized” groups of 12-15. The intent is to experience an “Acts 2” sense of Church where the family of God is engaged at a different level. These groups are not curriculum-based as small groups have often been but are instead simply “Devoted to 4” –the four principles to which the early Christians were devoted. Each “family” must take on a life of its own. In essence, we are simplifying church and allowing each family to decide together how they will be devoted to the “4.” There is no specific agenda except for the four principles. No details have been hammered out. And while there will be elders in the families, it’s the Spirit of Jesus who will lead. How each “family” decides to live out the “4” is between the family and Jesus: He has made us to be a Kingdom of priests to serve Him and one another.
Let’s beware of the spirit that was present at the church in Pergamum. Many Christians in Pergamum were devoted to Jesus –to a point. They remained Christians –even when they were persecuted. But many of them also tried to live a dual life. They were lording power over one another. They were enticing one another to sin. They were Christians but didn’t want to be accused of being “too serious” with their faith. In essence, they were “marrying” Christ with the world –which Jesus hates. It was at Pergamum that the Church started to copy the imperial form of government; control was a watchword. It was here that the church began to move from being a “Kingdom of priests” to becoming a “cast society church” where clergy ruled and “lower people” (laity) obeyed. And, unfortunately, many years of Church history tell us that most churches have some of Pergamum in them. In many ways, we have over-complicated church rather than allowed it to stay simple. The New Testament form of Church is simple –let’s try to embrace that simplicity. The Spirit of Jesus works the most powerfully through us when we are one, working together as a unit. One person or even a team of people cannot possibly function properly as the Kingdom of God on behalf of everyone else. But participation becomes less problematic when we think in terms of family-sized groups. Participation becomes less overwhelming when we think about 10-15 rather than an entire large group.
Embrace the simple. Embrace Church at a different level. Allow the Spirit to lead you -and enjoy the journey. Questions will be answered after second service on 10/30/11, but in all honesty, you will determine what this will become. You will determine together when you will meet (day of week, time of day). And I believe with all of my heart that Jesus is calling us together for “such a time as this.” His Spirit is moving at KCC and He is calling us to keep in step with Him. Many have noted that something greater than all of us is working among us to bring about a glorious result. God is convicting us. God is maturing us. God is calling us. Let’s try to keep in step with Him.
Love in Jesus,