When I was about 12 years old, I went out with some family and friends for a lazy Saturday floating the river; I had on those goofy water shoes, embracing the opportunity for my white arms and legs to see the world. A friend of mine flipped over my tube and as I was about to dart up to inflict my revenge, I found myself trapped in a netting of roots from a tree near the riverbank. In that moment every fiber in my being was on fire, my brain was screaming out: BREATH, BREATH, BREATH! I can still remember the relief that set in when finally I was able to get loose and broke the plain of the water gasping for that first breath, greedily sucking up as much air as my lungs would allow. Stories like mine happen every day, some end tragically—others end up inspiring change. USA Today told the story of a young lady who had the tools necessary to respond when getting a breath was a matter of life and death. www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2014/10/03/inspiration-nation-6th-grader-saves-life-with-cpr/16649841/ What a great story when a classmates can keep a birthday party from turning into a funeral processional. CPR made all the difference.
Maybe you’ve seen what it looks like when the church struggles to breath—Paul describes the church like a body—sometimes it is church buildings that have been repurposed into banks, awkward shaped houses, bars or community centers. The Francis A. Schaffer Institute crunched the numbers and found that each year 4,000 churches close their doors for the last time, gradually fading away, and only 1,000 open to replace them. There is a need for spiritual CPR. Oftentimes, this is more than a statistic it is a reality that we have lived—seeing people slowly trickle out the back door of the church—gasping for new leaders, new direction, and new hope. There is a need for Spiritual CPR.
I promise you that Spiritual Resurgence/revival doesn’t come in the form of something new and trendy, but instead comes through scripturally in a form that is powerful and consistent. Roll back the clocks of the 1st century church and the hope for fresh air can be seen in Acts 2: 46 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, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. Spiritual vitality didn’t come solely through a Sunday morning; it came also through a small group. Maybe small groups sound like just another thing to add to your schedule, another burden or thing to make you feel guilty, but I want you to hear today how they have the potential to be a breath of fresh air in your life rather than just something else to leave you breathless. An essential part of your faith journey rather than an extra part!
Why small groups? Small groups act as Spiritual CPR because they begin with the heart of Jesus prayer in John 17: My prayer is not for them alone (not just my current disciples) I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe you have sent me.
Small groups offer us C-Community—a unity with each other based on our shared unity with Christ. He pushes us to unity which isn’t universal agreement, all voting alike or dressing alike, but unification around the act that universally changed the world—as he prepared for his death on the cross. Jesus goes further though linking community with evangelism. He knew that this world can quickly become divided, fragmented, factions can form, but in the midst of that authentic community would be appealing and impactful. If you took a survey of the NT you’d find that the Bible gives lots of concern to our everyday and paints a picture of Christians LIVING LIFE TOGETHER—there are over 55 commands which cannot easily be completed on Sunday morning—“encourage one another day after day,” “confess your sin to one another,” or “love your neighbor as yourself.”
A 3rd grade teacher at Doull Elementary School in Denver, CO tried an interesting experiment with her class. She wanted to build a sense of community so she had each student finish this sentence: “I wish my teacher knew…” Some of the responses were humorous such as “I wish my teacher knew how to do a backflip.” Others were heart-wrenching, “I wish my teacher knew I don’t have a friend to play with at recess.” “I wish my teacher knew how much I miss my dad because he got deported to Mexico. I haven’t seen him in 6 years.” “I wish my teacher knew sometimes my reading log isn’t signed because my mom isn’t around a lot.” Schwartz commented that from allowing her students to share in a safe environment something unexpected developed, “Not only can I support my students, but my students can support each other.”
I wonder what the sentences would look like if we had to complete the thought: I wish my pastor knew…or I wish my elders knew…or I wish the people sitting next to me knew…We had a great greeting time today, they always remind me of what I’ve seen of the running of the bulls on television, fun, energetic, and a little dangerous, but think with me for a moment: Did you get a chance to hear about the other person’s week, about their promotion at work, their problems with their kids, the answers prayer, or lingering spiritual question? We need Sunday mornings, but we can’t be content with Sunday mornings alone!