Last week I read that Nashville was growing by 100 people per day. This rate of growth has been taking place for the better part of a decade. The suburbs of the downtown area have been most effected by this growth as new home developments are springing up all around us. Williamson County is just behind Rutherford County as the main area that new transplants are moving to. Ladies and gentlemen, it appears we have a city that is in its booming days! That’s right, the fields are ripe for a harvest in our own backyard.
There are people moving in to this town every day who are in need of connection. They are looking for friends. Some are even looking for family. My desire is that people would be connected to New Hope’s church body and feel the love and grace that so many people have felt.
When my family and I moved to Nashville in 2006 we had no family in the area. We needed a church where the relationships we formed with people went beyond the normal worship service meeting time. We needed friends who became like family to us. And that is exactly what New Hope provided. I LOVE our church for many reasons, but the warmth, compassion, and genuine relationships that my family was able to form with so many people in those early days is probably my favorite attribute of the church. That is exactly the strong connecting legacy I would like us to build on and offer to the new folks moving to the area.
In the church in Acts, we see a group of new believers giving us the building blocks of what it means to connect to a church.
Acts 2:42-47 (NIV)
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 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, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
The church faced some heavy obstacles in the early days. Roman and Jewish opposition didn’t end when Jesus was crucified. Those forces were hard at work trying to exterminate the Jesus movement that followed His resurrection. But all their efforts were failing. The moving of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost brought 3,000 new converts into the fold. Those 3,000 took the message of Jesus home with them and shared it with their friends. This movement became known as The Way. It spread like wildfire. The Romans tried persecution, which was like blowing air on the fire. The Jewish religious leaders went after the disciples. Which was like adding wood to the fire. It couldn’t be stopped.
The apostles, new disciples, and new believers had found a common bond, a relationship with Jesus. And they CONNECTED over it. A relationship with Jesus is the strongest bond you can ever have, and they knew it was the only way they were going to survive. Not only did they survive, they GREW!
They grew because they listened to the Apostles teaching (v. 42), then they had fellowship and discussed what they learned (v. 42), they connected to each other and had everything in common (v. 44), they met each others needs through the group (v. 45), and they met in their homes during “non-church hours” (v. 46).
The main thing that stands out to me is how the early church exploded because ALL the people did the work of ministry. The Apostles taught, the people ministered. “And the Lord added to their number daily.” Acts 6 actually details how the disciples laid out the plan for the people to raise up leaders among them to start the first “small group” ministry for church. Small groups are biblical? Who knew?!
The disciples knew that they could not be all things to all people in the church. If the church was going to grow and reach people with the message of Jesus, then the disciples couldn’t be the teachers, caregivers, shepherds, meeting coordinators, meal planners, and event organizers all rolled into one. So they delegated. Everyone was given a ministry according to their gifts. The responsibility became a shared one.
As New Hope moves forward, connecting people to small groups will become a priority. That is where a large part of our ministry will take place. The senior pastor, pastoral staff, elders, and deacons will share the responsibility of ministry with the entire church. We are in this together. We will REACH people for Jesus together, and CONNECT them together.
It’s not only biblical…it works!