STUDY | Spend the week studying Acts 1-4. Consult the commentary provided and any additional study tools to enhance your preparation.
DETERMINE | Determine which discussion points and study questions will work best for your group.
PRAY | Pray for our pastors and this week’s message, the upcoming group time, your group members, and their openness to God’s Word.
LANDING POINT | God calls me to carry on a legacy of faith to future generations.
Remember the 4 Rules for Small Group Discussion
- Confidentiality. What’s said in the group stays in the group.
- No cross-talk. Be considerate of others as they share. Refrain from side conversations and texting during group time.
- No fixing. We are not in the group to fix each other. Jesus does that part.
- Sharing. Be sensitive to the amount of time you share. Don’t talk too much or too little. Every person brings something valuable to the group.
As your group time begins, use this section to introduce the topic of discussion.
A CAPTIVATING STORY
How’d we get here? You could answer that question with point-by-point directions of how you literally arrived at group tonight. But think deeper. Think spiritually. How did we all, with our varied backgrounds and paths we took in life, get to be where we’re at today? Isn’t it remarkable that, despite the detours and dead ends along the way, we ended up here—a group of imperfect people who have been radically changed by Jesus?
God has been telling a story through His Church for over 2,000 years. So, how’d we get here? How did God’s story unfold to bring each of us to this moment? This week your group will look at Church history from its beginnings to right here in Mississippi.
Let God’s story captivate you. Let the lives of the faithful men and women that came before you inspire you to see and live your life differently. Let their testimony give you courage, make you grateful and point you to Jesus—the reason we’re all here.
Q: Why are stories more moving than facts and statistics?
Q: What are the benefits of understanding the past?
Select 2-3 questions to discuss as a group.
CALLED TO REMEMBER
Throughout the Old Testament, God called the Israelites to remember. He wanted His people to look back and remember His character and what He did for them. They were told to pass on stories about figures like Abraham and events like the Passover so future generations wouldn’t forget their own story.
Jesus did the same thing on the night of His arrest. The bread and wine of communion are symbols that remind us of who Jesus is and what He has done for us. Every time we observe communion, our mind goes back to the cross, back to the gospel, that saved us.
Q: What happens when we forget the past?
Q: What are some practical ways to remember what God has done for you through Jesus in your life?
A BRIEF OVERVIEW
Let’s take a brief overview of the events that led us to where we are today:
The Age of Jesus and the Apostles (6 B.C.–A.D. 70) – Jesus comes as the fulfillment of God’s promise to His people to send a Messiah to rescue people from sin. His death and resurrection change world history. During His three-and-a-half-year ministry, Jesus equips disciples to carry on His ministry after Him. The early believers in the Church begin to spread the gospel throughout the Roman Empire.
The Age of Catholic Christianity (70–312) – As Christianity expands, the Church confronts a number of heresies like Gnosticism, Marcionism and Montanism. Christians are also heavily persecuted for their faith, and many suffer as martyrs. Christians respond to the cruel treatment they received with radical love and compassion, which made the Church thrive and grow.
The Age of the Christian Empire (312–590) – Constantine receives a vision of Christ and before the fourth century ended Christianity becomes the official religion of Rome. This age is known for a number of important councils that established the doctrines of the faith.
The Christian Middle Ages (590–1517) – During this period, we see the rise of the papacy in Rome. Over the centuries, a number of popes slowly “convert” an entire continent and call it “Christendom” (or “Christian Europe”). The Church becomes an empire politically, militarily and financially. But this leads to corruption. Early reformers preach against corruption, and many are burned at the stake for speaking out. The printing press allows the Bible to be distributed to common people, and fresh winds of revival and spiritual renewal begin to blow.
The Age of Reason and Revival (1648–1789) – Secularism spreads through Western societies during the Enlightenment. Christians follow the example of the apostles with prayer and preaching. What results are a number of evangelical revivals like the First Great Awakening, which spread from Great Britain to the Thirteen Colonies.
The Age of Progress (1789–1914) – Christians struggle against secularism and Christianity is eventually pushed out of public life in the West. The same problem Christians faced then is the same one we face today: How can believers have influence in a society where many do not share their beliefs about God and reality?
The Age of Ideologies (1914–1990) – Different ideologies like Nazism, Communism and American Democracy are pitted against one another in a fight for supremacy in two world wars. God raises up new leaders in the Third World, especially in Africa and Latin America. Orthodox and liberal theologies are debated within denominations. Many desire for the Church to return to its first century roots.
Pinelake (1971–Present) – A group who shared a dream for unity and passion for people to experience hope in the gospel in their communities begins meeting in a small chapel on Spillway Road in Flowood, Mississippi. In 1999, Chip Henderson becomes head pastor at Pinelake and builds a team of leaders to lead the congregation into the next century. Over the years, Pinelake grows from a small chapel to five campuses throughout Mississippi, each filled with people seeking gospel change one heart at a time.
Q: Many believers endured great hardship during these periods. How would you describe the kind of faith necessary to endure hardship?
Q: Recall a time when God helped you through a difficult time.
Select 2-3 questions from this section to answer.
STANDING ON THE SHOULDERS OF GIANTS
Many faithful men and women of God have come before us. We benefit so much from the countless people who chose Jesus above all else. Those believers were convinced that the Good News of Jesus had the power to change lives and communities. They had a passion to see God’s kingdom grow and a great hope for the future. They chose to love first—even if that cost them their reputation, their livelihood or their life.
God continues to write His story today in the lives of His people. God wants His Church to be both safe and dangerous. It should be a safe place where people are welcomed to find new life and purpose in Jesus. But the Church should also be dangerous—in a good way. We fight against the darkness with the light of Christ. We enter the mess and chaos of life with courage. We step into brokenness, into failure, into addictions and into injustice with a message of hope: the gospel.
read: Acts 2:42–27 and 4:32–37. In what ways does the current Church fit the descriptions of the first-century Church? How are they different?
Q: What would need to change for your church community to be more like the one in the first century?
A FAMILY, COMMUNITY AND MOVEMENT
The Church is a family. It’s a home where people feel loved, valued and accepted. It’s a family with a different set of values. It’s a family where people celebrate the good in life and mourn the hardships of life together. It’s a family where you can find encouragement, accountability, sacrifice and service to others.
The Church is also a community. It’s a community marked by unity and diversity. We are united in our beliefs about the person and work of Jesus Christ. We may disagree about the particulars, but we must agree on the essentials. We are a diverse community. Each of us comes from a different background. We also share different perspectives and opinions. We gather regularly to observe the same traditions of those that came before us. We pray. We praise. We teach and learn from God’s Word. We remember. The glue that bonds us together is God’s Spirit. He unites and guides us as we live and move forward in our story, together and as individuals.
The Church is also a movement. It’s a life-changing movement. Jesus frees you to live the life God intended for you. This is the message we are to take to others. In Jesus, you discover God’s truth, find freedom and get direction in life. The Church is a movement of disciple-makers. We carry on the teachings of Jesus and the hope of the gospel to future generations. The Church is a culture-making movement. We desire to have influence in our culture. We want to be salt and light for others to experience God’s love in a new way. We live, work and play in such a way that others see the gospel story lived out in our lives.
Q: How have you experienced the Church as family in your life?
Q: What’s one thing you can start doing to influence God’s movement in your relationships?
Select 1 question from this section to ask your group.
You get to carry on the legacy of faith of so many before you. Each of you has the opportunity to bring Christ into your home, workplace and neighborhood. God expands His kingdom and grows His Church through the common, everyday faithfulness of His people. It’s not complicated. God simply wants you to love Him and love others where you are. Receive His love with gratitude, respond to it with praise and let it radiate out to others as a witness. Remember His grace, be thankful and share the Good News through word and deed.
Q: What would keep you from carrying on a legacy of faith to future generations?
Q: How does receiving, responding to and radiating out God’s love change you?
Praise God for His faithfulness in all generations. Thank Him that He has a plan for His Church and is working it to completion. Ask God to help your group be a family, community and movement that impacts our society in Mississippi.
Midway through this week, send a follow-up email to your group with some or all of the following:
• Read Hebrews 11. Reflect on the faith of past believers before you and what it would look like to have that kind of love for Jesus in your life.
• Ask the group to share any stories or lessons learned where they see God at work in their lives.
Praise in Community Praise was a key theme throughout Luke and Acts. See Acts 3:8–9; 4:21; 11:18; 13:48; 16:25; 21:20; Luke 2:20; 5:25–26; 7:16; 13:13; 17:15, 18; 18:43; 19:37; 24:53. “The arrival of God’s end-time salvation is a time for joy and praise.”
Unity in the Spirit “For the Christian community, fellowship and unity of purpose are salutary only when rooted in fellowship with Christ and in the unity of his Spirit. The structure of Acts should remind us of this—the unity of the Christian community derives from and is guided by the gift of the Spirit that lies at the heart of its life together.”
One Identity and Purpose Acts describes early believers as “united, unselfish, and unafraid. Looking back at the prayer, we see its fulfillment in their power for witness and their clear focus of that witness—the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Unlike so many congregations today, these early Christians knew their identity and precisely what God expected of them. They moved forward with courage to achieve their goals.”
1. Adapted from Bruce L. Shelley, “Church History in Brief,” Church History Institute, accessed November 13, 2019, https://christianhistoryinstitute.org/maga- zine/article/church-history-in-brief.
2. D. A. Carson, “The Gospels and Acts,” in NIV Zondervan Study Bible: Built on the Truth of Scripture and Centered on the Gospel Message, ed. D. A. Carson (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015), 2221.
3. John B. Polhill, Acts, vol. 26, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 121.
4. Kenneth O. Gangel, Acts, vol. 5, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 64.