Mission

Life in the Church (Mobile)

This chapter covers the last step of the Gospel presentation: Living out a relationship with Jesus in the life of the Church.  


UNDERSTANDING

WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THIS PASSAGE?

Read Acts 2:37 – 42

Goal

The goal of this chapter is to present the last step of the Gospel: living out a relationship with Jesus in the life of the Church.

 

Context

Friendship

Think of your best friend. What is it that makes your relationship with him or her so meaningful? The answer to this question likely includes several things: spending time together, sacrificing for each other and sharing important parts of your lives. These are the requirements of real friendship, and these same things apply to our relationship with God as well.

Last week, we looked at the story of the Prodigal Son and how we are invited back into relationship with God. This week, we are going to look more specifically at how to live in a relationship with Jesus in the Church. It isn’t enough to simply begin a relationship with Jesus. Accepting Jesus’ invitation and repenting are great first steps — but like any good friendship, so much more is required for the relationship to really develop.

One of the best friendships in the Gospels is Jesus’ relationship with St. Peter. Peter is one of the three Apostles who are closest to Jesus during His ministry, and he is the one appointed as the head of the Church. Despite all this, Peter betrays Jesus during His most important hour: His passion and death. Peter denies Jesus. He runs away. He goes into hiding. But in Acts 2, we see a huge change in Peter’s life. Fifty days after Jesus’ resurrection, Peter stands before thousands of people in Jerusalem and tells them about the death and resurrection of Jesus.

What happened? Where did Peter get this sudden courage and apostolic zeal? By encountering Jesus after His resurrection and receiving the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, Peter’s life has been completely changed — so much so that he not only repents himself, but calls others to “Repent, and be baptized” (Acts 2:38). St. Peter and the early Christians model for us what conversion looks like.

The word for conversion in Greek literally means “to turn and walk in another direction.” This doesn’t mean we have to be perfect before we can become Christians, but it does mean that we resolve to change our lives and allow Christ to help us overcome our sins so that we can live in a relationship with Him.

 

Climax

Encounter

Acts 2:42 describes how St. Peter and these new members of the early Church lived out their relationship with Jesus: “…they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” This passage is like a road map for the Christian life, highlighting four essential habits we need if we want our relationship with Jesus to continue to thrive, deepen and grow: teaching, fellowship, the breaking of bread (an early Christian term for the Eucharist) and prayer. Of all the things the Bible could have listed, it underscores these four as the crucial practices of a disciple.

Why are these four elements so critical for a relationship with Jesus? The simplest answer may be that these are the places where we encounter Him. To be a Christian is to follow a person — to be where Jesus is, to talk with Him and to love Him.

Pope Francis himself invites all Christians to this moment of encounter every day:

“I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day. No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her, since ‘no one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord’” (Evangelii Gaudium para. 3).

We can’t go back in time and watch Jesus walk the earth, but we can encounter Him personally today through prayer, the sacraments, His teachings and fellowship with other committed disciples. And when we encounter Jesus and make Him the center of our lives, He “rubs off on us,” so to speak, and we become more like Him.

If we love someone, we will want to know more about them. By studying the Apostles’ teaching, we learn more about Jesus and come to love Him more. Christian fellowship allows us to see God in others. Because we are brothers and sisters in Christ, we remind each other that we have a relationship with our Father in heaven. The Eucharist is Jesus Himself, and when we receive Him in Holy Communion, we are united with Him in a way that is deeper than any other relationship we may have. Finally, every good relationship requires communication; in prayer, we share our hearts with God, and we get to listen to His loving words.

 

Application

Life in the Church

Let’s get practical here. Once you know these four key practices of a disciple, how do you actually live them out?

 

The Apostles’ Teaching

Being a Christian requires thinking differently about the world. Scripture states, “Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom 12:2). The world often tells us the opposite of the Gospel: that God doesn’t exist; that we are just fine and don’t need to be healed of our brokenness; that the Church really doesn’t matter. Jesus knew this would be the case, and that’s why He provides us with clear teaching. We aren’t left to own devices to figure it all out. In the Church, we are given the teaching of the Apostles so that we know how to follow Jesus more closely.

The best place to start developing our understanding is reading the Bible, or sacred Scripture. Practically speaking, we should take a little time each day to develop our understanding of the faith. Even a few paragraphs a day from Scripture, the Catechism (a compilation of the Church’s teaching) or some other book can be a great help in learning more about the faith.

 

Fellowship

Friends can make a huge difference in our lives. Scripture tells us, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Prov 27:17). Let’s be honest: It’s hard to be a Christian by yourself. We know we need good friends. They go a long way in helping us embrace a committed Christian life.

Are our current friends helping us become the people we are supposed to be? Scripture says, “Bad company ruins good morals” (1 Cor 15:33). This doesn’t mean we abandon our non-Christian friends, but it does mean that we need to be prudent regarding how we spend our time with others. Besides, if we really care about people, we will help them follow Christ. But we can’t do that if we are falling into sin when we are with them. Be sure to help the people in your group have Christian fellowship that will build them up rather than lead them astray.

 

Breaking of Bread

The “breaking of the bread” is an early Christian term for the Eucharist. These first Christians had a sacramental life: “The sacraments are efficacious signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us” (CCC 1131). Our sacramental life begins with baptism. If someone in your group has not be baptized, encourage them talk to your pastor for next steps (the same is true if they haven’t been confirmed).

While there are seven sacraments, Confession and the Eucharist are usually the ones we receive most frequently, so let’s discuss those specifically.

Eucharist: Receiving Jesus in the Eucharist is the closest we can be to Him on this earth. “The Eucharist is ‘the source and summit of the Christian life’” (CCC 1324). It is Jesus Himself, in the form of bread and wine. If we have a relationship with Jesus, Mass is where we will want to be. If your participants are not going to Mass on Sunday, inviting them to attend with you and explaining the meaning behind the Mass is a great way to help them start building this habit.

Confession: When we have sinned and feel the weight of our brokenness, we have the sacrament of confession. This sacrament can be difficult sometimes. It can be intimidating to share our sins with a priest. But anyone who receives this sacrament regularly can tell you how confession has transformed their life. We need to be forgiven: Deep down, we know that is true — but we are often hesitant to admit it. Confession is a freeing experience where we encounter God’s mercy and receive grace to help us overcome our sins.

 

Prayer

The biggest advice we can give someone about prayer is this: Start. There is so much that can be said about prayer, but you don’t want to overwhelm your group. Give your participants a few basic tips to get started, and once they understand the basics, the best thing you can do is hold them accountable to taking time each day to talk with Jesus.

Usually 15 – 20 minutes a day is a great place to start. It isn’t enough to simply talk to God here and there for a minute or two throughout the day. How well would any of our other relationships develop if we only took a few minutes here and there to talk? And what if you were the only one doing the talking? This is not how real relationships develop.

Help those in your group dedicate a specific time each day to having a conversation with Jesus in prayer. And, if possible, go with them. You may need to change your schedule, but holding them accountable to prayer can make a huge difference.

 

Summary

These four practices are essential to living out our relationship with Jesus in the life of the Church. You don’t have to cover all of these practices in this study, but you do want to introduce them to your group. You will have additional opportunities later on to help your group understand and live these four practices of a disciple.

 

Additional Resources

Apostles’ Teaching: Catechism of the Catholic Church; Catholic Christianity by Peter Kreeft

Fellowship: True Friendship by John Cuddeback

Breaking of Bread: A Biblical Walk Through the Mass by Dr. Edward Sri

Prayer: Time for God by Fr. Jacques Philippe; Meditation and Contemplation by Fr. Timothy Gallagher

Find other good resources at focusequip.org, catholic.com and lighthousecatholicmedia.org.

 

 

DISCUSSION

DISCUSSION GUIDE FOR YOUR BIBLE STUDY

Acts 2:37 – 42

 

Notes to the Leader

• Reminder to the leader of the goal for this chapter: The goal of this week’s chapter is to present the last step of the Gospel, living out a relationship with Jesus in the life of the Church.

• How to lead this chapter: This chapter can be led in a few different ways depending on the needs of your group. If the members of your group are already committed Christians, you can dive into each of the four practices of a disciple and help your group commit to those things. If your group is not yet fully committed to Christ, help them see how these practices are not just things that you have to do if you choose to be a Christian, but rather amazing blessings that those in the Church get to experience. Hopefully, this will increase their desire to come to know Jesus themselves. Be sure to check out the resources at the end of this chapter for more information about each of the four areas.

• Challenge check-in: Last week, the challenge was to pray with the passage of the Prodigal Son outside of study. Discuss how this went for your group.

• Next steps: After completing “The Crux,” we recommend using FOCUS’ “Story of Salvation” Bible study as the next resource for your group. At the end of this week’s study, be prepared to discuss or share with your group what you will be studying next.

 

Opener

1. How do you become good friends with someone?

 

Context

(Share aloud with your group.)

Last week, we looked at the story of the Prodigal Son and how we are invited back into relationship with God. This week, we are going to look more specifically at how to live out a relationship with Jesus in the Church. It isn’t enough to simply begin a relationship with Jesus. Accepting Jesus’ invitation and repenting are great first steps — but like any good friendship, so much more is required for the relationship to develop. Let’s look at Acts Chapter 2 to learn how we live out a relationship with Jesus in the Church.

 

Read Acts 2:37 – 42.

 

(Share aloud with your group.)

One of the best friendships in the Gospels is Jesus’ relationship with St. Peter. Peter is one of the three Apostles who are closest to Jesus during His ministry, and he is the one appointed as the head of the Church. Despite all this, Peter betrays Jesus during His most important hour: His passion and death. Peter denies Jesus. He runs away. He goes into hiding. But in Acts 2, we see a huge change in Peter’s life. 50 days after Jesus’ resurrection, Peter stands before thousands of people in Jerusalem and tells them about the death and resurrection of Jesus.

 

2. Knowing that Peter denied Jesus during His hour of greatest need and now seeing his transformation in Acts 2, do you believe that this type of change is possible in your life?

Allow the group to discuss.

 

3. The people then ask Peter, “What shall we do?” and Peter answers, “Repent, and be baptized.” Why are these steps necessary if we want to have a relationship with Jesus?

Allow the group to discuss. Repentance or conversion is essential for following Him. The word for conversion in Greek literally means “to turn and walk in another direction.” Also, baptism provides the grace that removes sin, unites us with God and makes us members of His family, the Church.

 

Climax

4. This passage ends with a description of the Christian community, emphasizing four key practices of a disciple in the early Church: the Apostles’ teaching, fellowship, the breaking of the bread and prayer. Considering everything Scripture could have listed, why do you think these four are specifically mentioned?

Answer: There are many reasons; however, in each of these things, Christians encounter Jesus. Pope Francis himself invites all Christians to this moment of encounter every day: “I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day. No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her, since ‘no one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord’” (Evangelii Gaudium para. 3).

 

5. How do these four habits deepen our friendship with Jesus?

Allow the group to discuss. If we love someone, we will want to know more about them. By studying the Apostles’ teaching, we learn more about Jesus and come to love Him more. Christian fellowship allows us to see God in others. Because we are brothers and sisters in Christ, we remind each other that we have a relationship with our Father in heaven. The Eucharist is Jesus Himself, and when we receive Him in Holy Communion, we are united with Him in a way that is deeper than any other relationship we may have. Finally, every good relationship requires communication; in prayer, we share our hearts with God and we get to listen to His loving words.

 

Application

[Note to the leader: You may want to focus on only one or two areas for application in questions 6 – 9 instead of all four. Try to determine what is most important for your group.]

6. “Teaching of the Apostles”: Why is it important to know what the Church teaches? What do you need to do to grow in your understanding of the faith?

Allow the group to discuss.

 

7. “Fellowship”: Why is having good friends important, and what happens when we don’t have friendships that build us up? What changes might you need to make with respect to how you spend time with friends?

Allow the group to discuss.

 

8. “The Breaking of Bread”: Why is Sunday Mass important? How can you grow in this area?

Allow the group to discuss.

 

9. “Prayer”: Why do we need to pray? What prevents us from praying?

Allow the group to discuss.

 

10. We are now at the end of this study. What was the most impactful thing you learned?

Allow the group to discuss.

 

Summary

(Share aloud with your group.)

This week, we studied the last step of the Gospel: living out a relationship with Christ in the Church. We highlighted the need for to grow in our relationship with Christ and the four key practices of a disciple.

 

Challenge

(Share aloud with your group.)

Pick one of the four practices and commit to growing in that area as a group. This could include many things like reading a book together, going to Mass together, meeting for prayer once a week or spending more time together to grow in fellowship.

 

Next Steps

Discuss or share with your group what you will be studying next in Bible study. (As a reminder, we recommend FOCUS’ “Story of Salvation” Bible study.)

 

Additional Resources

Apostles’ Teaching: Catechism of the Catholic Church; Catholic Christianity by Peter Kreeft

Fellowship: True Friendship by John Cuddeback

Breaking of Bread: A Biblical Walk Through the Mass by Dr. Edward Sri

Prayer: Time for God by Fr. Jacques Philippe; Meditation and Contemplation by Fr. Timothy Gallagher

Find other good resources at focusequip.org, catholic.com and lighthousecatholicmedia.org.