Probably the most cited passage regarding small groups and Sunday School I hear of today is found in Acts 2:42-47. I think I have heard this passage referenced at just about every small group conference I have attended. And it is a great passage. Seriously… who wouldn’t want to be a part of a church like this one.
I was recently doing some study from the book of Acts and realized that we may be interpreting this passage incompletely. A more holistic overview of the entire book of Acts reveals something else… The early church really did not comprehend its missional focus until Acts 10 (Peter’s dream and preaching to Cornelius). This was followed closely by the growth of the church in Antioch.
But things really become missional in Acts 16-18. In these chapters the early church, primarily through the mission efforts of the Apostle Paul, extends the Kingdom into foreign cultures. Until this point in time, the Gospel had primarily been shared with Jewish cultures. In these three chapters, the Gospel breaks through and soon becomes a Gentile movement.
So what is the implication for small groups and Sunday School classes. Primarily this:
Are your groups focused on people who are similar to themselves; (Acts 2)
Are your groups focused solely on the group and their own needs? (Acts 2)
or are your groups extending the Gospel to unreached people groups? (Acts 16-18)
For the most part, I think most of our groups have adopted the Acts 2 model as their standard for ministry, and it looks something like this:
Bible study? Check!
Therefore, we must be a biblically functioning group!
I would encourage groups to add the Acts 16-18 model for a more complete biblical model for small groups.
Gospel shared with unreached people groups?
New groups started often?
People of many races and economic backgrounds reached with the Gospel?
Christ proclaimed in the marketplace?
The Acts 16-18 emphasis moves the group from an attractional model to a missional model. My opinion is that incorporating Acts 2 with Acts 16-18 will provide a more complete biblical model for small group ministry and allows the group to be both attractional and missional.