Biblical Rationale for Sermon Based Small Groups

This is a section in my doctoral dissertation on the biblical proof for the principles or resurfacing a preaching idea in a small group after the message. What do you think?

Extending the Message in Acts

In the early church, the main leader was the pastor. The pastor’s message and ministry were important for the church to accomplish its mission. The pastor, being such a high priority leader, had to live his life above approach. A pastor whose character honored God was respected and heard by his listeners. Christians in the church met in homes for transformational times of discipleship. The last question to consider theologically is what was the method and model of content delivery in the Book of Acts? Is there a correlation between the public messages preached in Acts and what happened after the message in the homes of the Christians in Acts?

The Book of Acts records principles that demonstrate there was a direct link between the public proclamation of the gospel and the personal application in smaller groups after the message. In the Book of Acts proclamation happened in two ways. In the Book of Acts, proclamation was demonstrated through the preaching of the gospel and power healings.

Acts records eight examples of where proclamation took place in a public place or large crowds and then was explained further or applied after the message in a smaller group. Below is a list of the examples. The first list gives direct examples. The second list provides indirect examples. Below both lists is and expanded explanation of the examples. One example in the gospels is provided to show how Jesus used this method at times with his disciples. Another example connects the gospels with Acts.

There are five passages that directly give biblical support for to the use of small groups who studied and applied a previously preached message.

Person Public Proclamation Personal Application

Jesus Luke 8:4-8                        Luke 8:9-15

Parable of the Sower               Parable Explained

Jesus      Matthew 6:33             Acts 1:3-4, 8

Kingdom Assignment                Assignment Explained

Peter      Acts 2:14-36                 Acts 2:37-47

Pentecost Sermon            Response and Application of Sermon

Phili     Acts 8:26-28                 Acts 8:29-40

Ethiopian Reading                     Philip Explains Text, Ethiopian

Scripture After Worship            Saved and Baptized

Paul/Silas   Acts 17:10            Acts 17:11-15

Preaching in Berea                        Examination of Preaching

An examination of the details helps bring the public proclamation and personal application into view more clearly. Jesus spoke the parable of the sower in a crowd of listeners in Luke 8:4-8. He afterward took His followers, the disciples, aside to explain only to them the meaning and application of the parable.

Jesus also spoke the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 in a large crowd. He specifically told His followers to “seek first the kingdom of God…” (Matt 6:33). He often spoke of the kingdom of God in the gospels. After His resurrection, He spent forty days explaining what the kingdom was to the apostles in Acts 1:3-4 and verse 8.

In Acts 2:14-36, Peter preached his first sermon at Pentecost. The purpose of the sermon was evangelistic and the main idea is found in verse 36 conveying the priority that Jesus whom they crucified was both Lord and Christ. After preaching to the crowd, some within the crowd said, “Brothers, what shall we do?” (v.37). Peter then, “With many other words…exhorted them…” (v.40). The application of the sermon came when the respondents were baptized and assimilated into the biblical community (Acts 2:32-47).

In Acts 8:26-28, an Ethiopian Eunuch was trying to understand what he heard in the worship service he had just attended. He was pondering Isaiah 53:7-8. His public experience was still influencing him after he left worship. In Acts 8:29-40, God set up a divine appointment for the Eunuch. Philip the evangelist followed God’s leading by going to Gaza to meet with the Eunuch. Upon arrival, Philip explained the text that the Eunuch heard in worship. The Eunuch professed Christ as his Savior and was baptized.

In Acts 17:10-15, there is a record of one of the most direct examples of a sermon idea being studied and applied in a smaller group afterward. In verse 10, Paul and Silas went into a Berean synagogue. Obviously some kind of preaching or teaching happened. After the message given in the synagogue, verse 11 states, “They [the Bereans] received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” The results were people professing Christ as Savior. It also caused trouble with those who did not believe. This encounter still mobilized the church to strategize where to make disciples next (v.1-15).

There are four indirect examples of where the principle of small group discipleship is present after a preaching encounter. These examples are not as influential, but are beneficial to the study of small groups and biblical discipleship.

Person Public Proclamation Personal Application

Paul  Acts 13:13-41                                    Acts 13:42-43

Sermon at Antioch Pisidia            Jews and Devout Converts Receive

Explanation of Sermon

Paul   Acts 18:5-6                           Acts 18:7-11

Evangelistic Preaching            Follow up, Discipleship in

In Synagogue  House Next to Synagogue

Apollos  Acts 18:24-26a                        Acts 18:26b-28

Preaching in Ephesus                        Aquilla/Priscilla Explain

More Accurately

Paul  Acts 19:8                                    Acts 19:9-10

Preaching in Synagogue            Application in Hall of Tyrannas

Acts 13:13-41 records a sermon Paul preached at Antioch Pidisia. The purpose of the sermon was to exhort Jews to consider the claims of Christ being the Messiah as true (v.36-41). After the message, the people asked that “these things” (v.42) be proclaimed to them again. Paul and Barnabas spent more time with those who wanted more answers as to what was preached (v.42-43).

In Acts 18:5-6, Paul preached an evangelistic message in a synagogue at Corinth. The message was not well received. Paul left that synagogue saying, “Your blood be on your own heads. I am innocent! From now on I will go to the Gentiles” (v.6). As he left, he went to the home of a man named Titius Justus whose house was next to the synagogue (v.7). Crispus, who heard Paul’s message in the synagogue, became a believer (v.8). Others believed and were baptized (v.8). Paul stayed there for a year and a half developing these new believers.

Acts 18:24a-26a tells of Apollos preaching eloquently in Ephesus. Apollos was a good communicator of the Scriptures. His weakness was that his message was somewhat incomplete because, “…He knew only the baptism of John” (v.25). After the message, Pricilla and Aquilla, having noticed something was missing in his message, took him aside and “…explained to him the way of God more accurately” (v.26).

In Acts 19:8 Paul preached at Ephesus for three months. The content of the message was the kingdom of God. Some at the synagogue became irritated with Paul and his message. Paul left that synagogue only to take some of his disciples with him to the Hall of Tyannas. Paul stayed there two years developing and applying the message of the gospel with the people in the church (v.9-10).

The Book of Acts clearly reveals a pattern of public proclamation that, at times, resurfaces in smaller groups after the message. The proclamation was sometimes preaching and at other times a power healing encounter. The message was extended into peoples’ lives for further explanation and application in various ways. The amount of time the smaller, more personal application took place varied also. Sometimes it was a few days and at other times it was for up to two years. The basic fact is that, at times, a proclamation idea would be the idea that surfaced later for personal discipleship in believers and non-believers lives.

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One Comment on “Biblical Rationale for Sermon Based Small Groups”

  1. Chatchai Charuwatee Says:

    Dear Pastor,

    I teach a course on how to run small group ministry at Bangkok Bible Seminary (BBS) in Thailand. I enjoyed reading this portion of your dissertation and was wondering if it would be possible to have a copy of your dissertation?

    BBS has just started offering a course on small group ministry last year; it’s still new and under development. I am certain that your research paper will be a great help for us to develop this course into a useful one for the church in Thailand.

    If it is OK with you to let us have a copy of your dissertation, would you please e-mail a digital copy to ireadbible@gmail.com? Thank you very much.

    Regards,
    Chatchai Charuwatee

    Dean of Men
    Bangkok Bible Seminary


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