Our gracious God atones for your sins, justifies you, regenerates you and adopts you as His child. But He doesn’t leave you alone in this world, He places you as a member of a body of believers we call The Church. When The Church is functioning as God intended it is a beautiful, unified body reflecting Jesus, our head. But do we really understand how God intended us to live together? Do we know our mission and our calling? Can we even recognize who is a part of The Church and who is not? Let’s start with a review of how “The Church” got started in the book of Acts.
After Jesus’ disciples received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, Peter preached the Good News of Jesus to the crowds in Jerusalem and many were saved. This passage in Acts shows us how the believers first gathered together as a community.
- As you read this passage, what characterized the early church’s activities, their attitudes and their actions? Which do you still find in the church today and which seems to be missing or at least not easily found?
When we think of “The Church” many of us think of the local community we gather with on Sundays. But there is a much more inclusive group who belong to “The Church”.
- Sometimes we become exclusive in who we recognize as our brothers and sisters. Who is included among those who are saved according to Romans 10:9-13? Are there some in this definition that you haven’t typically considered as part of “The Church”?
- Think of your definition of “The Church” as being in a circle. Does your circle stop at New Life? Nazarene? Protestant? American? If so, you might not have recognized the expanse of the inclusion of Paul’s definition.
In John chapter 17 Jesus prays specifically for His followers. This includes not only the disciples who were with Him at the time, but all who would believe. In other words, The Church. In his letter to the Ephesians Paul echoes His plea.
- What would you say is at the heart of Jesus’ prayer?
- When Jesus’ disciples experience true unity, what is the world’s response?
- In Ephesians 4, Paul urges believers to make every effort to be united in the Spirit. What are the attitudes and actions he highlights in verse 3?
- What do you find tearing away the unity that should exist in The Church today? What do you think this will do to the response of the world to Jesus’ message that God loves them? Are there any actions we can take that will help mend the division we see forming in “The Church”?
So what is the mission or calling of The Church; why do we exist? There are several reasons actually. God placed you in a body of believers so that your unique spiritual gifts and callings can be expressed in a way that will makes disciples, teach, show compassion, work for justice and represent the Kingdom of God to the world. Together we fulfill the mission of God for His church.
- How does 2 Cor 5:19-20 tell us God uses us to make His appeal through us? In what situations do you see yourself representing God to others?
- Mathew 28:18-20 is often referred to as ” The Great Commission.” But it is not only an individual assignment, it is also the collective assignment of The Church. How do you see The Church fulfilling this mission and what part do you have individually in doing so?
- Together we are so much stronger than we are individually. One of the blessings of being a part of The Church is the support of other believers. What do you notice about the dynamics between us and God, and between us with other believers. How is God working both directly and indirectly in building up His Church? What does verse 6 tell us will be the result of living in harmony with each other?
God not only calls us to build one another up spiritually and emotionally, but physically through the prayer of faith for the healing of the sick. When Jesus sent out His disciples He commanded them to heal the sick (Luke 9:2 NLT – 2 Then he sent them out to tell everyone about the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick.) As the early church was formed God’s power was seen in signs and wonders. One way this was demonstrated was in the healing of the sick. There was an immediate recognition by the people that the God of these disciples was a God that healed their diseases. They didn’t just come to profess faith in Jesus, they brought their sick to be healed.
- During His time on earth Jesus healed in many ways; a touch, a word, mud in the eye! As wonderful as divine healing is, it is only temporary in our mortal bodies. When Paul wrote to Timothy he advised a little wine for his stomach problems and Paul himself was denied healing of his “thorn in the flesh”. There is certainly no single formula by which we are healed. What personal experience have you had with praying for healing, or being prayed for by others?
- God has chosen to include us in the healing of the sick. In his letter to the scattered church, James tells believers what to do when suffering hardship, when experiencing joy, and when they are sick. What are some things you notice about an effective prayer? What is the ultimate source of healing found in verse 15?