Grow

 

IMG_8327

*This was a recent sermon preached at SSFBC and the sermonic elements remain.

Introduction

It is becoming popular to have pet sharks.  This is especially true among the rich and famous.  I recently read a Wall Street Journal article detailing how famous recording artists and actors are installing elaborate fish tanks in their homes and filling them with exotic sharks.

You can place a small shark in a confined space and it will stay a size proportionate to the aquarium in which you place it.  Sharks can be six inches and yet “fully matured.”  You could turn that same shark loose in the ocean and it would grow to eight feet.

If you looked at the church, I wonder how many six-inch Christians we have swimming around?  I wonder how many eight-foot Christians we have swimming around?

Yet, Christians are unlike sharks.  We actually grow when things get small.  But I’m getting too far ahead of myself.

Join me in reading Acts 11:25-26. (We are in a series on the discipleship strategy of SSFBC.  In the first week we discussed the need to make disciples.  Last week we looked at the specific strategy of gather.  We now come to grow.)

 

Grow to be like Jesus.

Barnabas and Saul worked in Antioch for a “whole year.”  Our passage mentions two main activities.  First, they “met with the people.”   We discussed the gathering of the church last week.  If the meetings in Antioch looked like the meetings of the Jerusalem church from our passage last week, these meetings included the teaching, fellowship, sharing meals, meetings needs, and making disciples.

Second, Barnabas and Saul taught a large number of people.  You would have to assume that this was inside and outside of church activities.  They taught believers and non-believers alike the good news of a Savior who died for the sins of the world.

Acts then records that the disciples in Antioch were the first to be called “Christians.”

The expression “were called Christians” likely suggests that the name was given to believers by outsiders.  The title is only used here and two other places in the New Testament. The term mixes the Greek for “Christ” and the Latin ending for a group.  The church in Antioch preached Jesus so much that they were identified with Christ.  The church acted so much like Jesus they were identified with Christ.

The book of Acts refers to the church as disciples, saints, brothers, believers, those being saved, followers of the way.  In our passage this morning, those outside the church look at those inside the church and call them Christians.

To bring the conversation from Antioch to Sulphur Springs, I ask the question:  How are we identified?  How do those outside the church see us?

Would they call us Christians?  Are we identified with Jesus the Christ? Would you be called Christian?  Perhaps you don’t like the answer.  Perhaps you want to know “How do I grow to be like Jesus?”

How?  Small groups.

We actually grow when things get small.  You are part of a large church.  We had 830 people in worship last week and 980 in Bible study.  We worship in three services.  It is very easy to come to our church and feel as if you are a part of something without ever being a part of something.

You grow when things get small.  We want you to be a part of a smaller group than the Sunday morning corporate worship gathering.  We want you a part of a Bible Study Life Group and/or a New Life Journey class.  We want you to gather with church members in your home for dinner, game nights, fellowships.

You are not held accountable in the corporate worship gathering.  You are held accountable in small groups.  You grow in small groups where you know people and people know you.

Jesus had crowds of thousands follow him.  Remember the feeding of the 5,000?  At one point he commissioned a group of 70 for a mission trip.  Of course, you are familiar with the 12 disciples.  Yet, even within the 12, Jesus often traveled with a smaller group of three: Peter, James and John. Jesus saw value in small groups.

You need to be surrounded by Christian community.  I’ve said this a handful of times since I’ve been blessed to stand behind this pulpit but it needs to be said again:  Many church goers are fooled into believing they live in Christian community:  “I go to church! Of course, I live in Christian community!”

Here is the true test of Christian Community: If you make a decision that is clearly unlike Christ, do you have anyone in your life that will call you on it?  Is there someone in your life that will look across the table and say, “What in the world were you thinking?”  Will someone call you up and speak truth.

We actually grow when things get small.

In small groups … Grow to think like Jesus.

In small groups you are exposed to Christ-like thinking and your non-Christlike thinking is challenged.

Jessica often let her poor self-image drive her thinking.  She was often trapped in her own thought spirals.  She believed a lot of lies about herself.  Until she voiced this to a New Life Journey Class.  They joined her in prayer.  They talked her through difficult moments.  They filled her with encouragement, truth, and Scripture.

The outsiders in Antioch looked at the church and called them Christians.  Based on your thinking … how should you be labeled?

 

In small groups … Grow to speak like Jesus.

In small groups you are exposed to Christ-like words and your non-Christlike words are challenged.

John had a foul mouth and told course jokes.  He knew it but it was encouraged at work and among his friend group.  He went to church every week but never had to speak! Until he joined a Bible Study Life Group.  He realized it was hard for him to speak without let out something rude or crude.  He heard people speak words of truth, love, and encouragement.  He decided enough was enough.

To outsiders in Antioch looked at the church and called them Christians.  Based on your speech … how should you be labeled?

 

In small groups … Grow to act like Jesus.

In small groups you are exposed to Christ-like behavior and your non-Christlike behavior is challenged.

Jenna and Jake survived marriage for 10 years.  Their marriage wasn’t great, but it wasn’t terrible.  It wasn’t until they joined a small group that they realized their faith should impact the way they treat each other.  It wasn’t until they joined a small group that they realized their faith should impact their marriage.  In a small group they were surrounded and encouraged by committed Christians and Christ-honoring marriages.

To outsiders in Antioch looked at the church and called them Christians.  Based on your actions … how should you be labeled?

 

Conclusion

It is very easy to come to our church and feel as if you are a part of something without ever being a part of something.

You grow when things get small.  We want you to be a part of a smaller group than the Sunday morning corporate worship gathering.  We want you a part of a Bible Study Life Group and/or a New Life Journey class.  We want you to gather with church members in your home for dinner, game nights, fellowships.

You are not held accountable in the corporate worship gathering.  You are held accountable in small groups.  You grow in small groups.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s