Can You Imagine GroupLife in the First Century?

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I’ve been thinking about this a lot in the last few days.  What was grouplife in the first century really like?  We can learn some things and draw some conclusions from the New Testament.  Although the Book of Acts and Paul’s letters are packed with references to what was happening in houses everywhere, the key passage might be Acts 2:42-47:

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 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, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”  

How’s that compare with your small group?  I’m increasingly absolutely certain that grouplife in the first century was substantially different than most of us ever experience in the 21st century.  Here are just four ways:

  • The ratio of ordinary life conversations to spiritual conversations was probably reversed.  They were people, so they still talked about the stuff of ordinary life (i.e., who won the chariot race, the emperor’s new clothes, global warming, etc.), but their proximity to the power of God coupled with brevity of life had to have an impact on their conversations.
  • The sense that they were in it together and dependent on each other had to be always present.  They shared what they had, for the most part without holding back.  Acts 4:32-37 and Acts 5:1-11.
  • There had to be an eager and near desperate interest in including a neighbor, friend, or family member.
  • No DVDs or study guides, rarely a scroll or a copy of a letter, they listened intently to “the apostles teaching” and then had long discussions (sometimes all night) about what it all meant.  Acts 20:7-12

Sound like your group?  Or not?  It may be a good time to wonder whether your group might be a zombie.  It might also be time to actually design your group meeting for life-change.  See also, Can You Tell If Your Group Might Be a Zombie and Skill Training: Design Your Group Meeting for Life-Change.

What do you think?  Have something to add? Want to argue?  You can click here to jump into the conversation.

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