How Much Is Jesus Actually Worth?

TO START

Have you ever spent money or time or some other resource in a way that seemed wasteful to others but was meaningful and worthwhile to you? Share with the group.

 

TO READ

This Sunday, our guest preacher, Zach Carstens, led us in a reading of John 12:1-11, pushing us to ask ourselves, “How much is Jesus actually worth?”

Re-read the text together. Identify the main players in the story.

  • What do we learn about Jesus here?
  • What do we learn about Judas here?
  • What do we learn about Mary here?

Is there anything in this story you don’t understand? Anything you find interesting or challenging?

Why do you think this story is in the Bible? What’s important about it? What do we need to see/know/do?

 

TO DISCUSS

Zach said on Sunday that church in America is on a reservation. He said, “We're tolerated but we need to stay in our place and not get in the way.” Has that been your experience? What does it mean to be a Christian in America right now? Is it hard? Is it inconvenient?

We said that in this story Mary's love matches Jesus' worth, and Judas' love (for money) contradicts Jesus' worth.

  • Is there anything you love that contradicts Jesus’ worth? Anything competing for your attention, loyalty, or devotion?

Consider the following questions from Zach:

  • What is Jesus actually worth to you?
  • Does your love for him match his value?
  • Does pouring out a year's wages as a gesture of your love seem insane to you?
  • Does letting Jesus have his way, even if it leads to war with Rome, seem insane to you?
  • Does trusting him blindly, taking your hands off the wheel and your eyes off the bank statements, seem insane to you?
  • Does going to war with our wicked culture seem too risky, too costly, to you?

Do any of those questions make you feel uncomfortable? Which one(s)? Why?

Have you ever had a Mary moment--a time when you got to show your love for Jesus in a dramatic and luxurious way? Do tell.

What about a Judas moment? Have you ever let some excuse get in the way of a powerful, heartfelt sacrifice?

 

TO PRAY

Make a list of things you love that are contradicting Jesus’ worth, loyalties getting in the way of you giving God your whole heart. Pray together as a group that God would overthrow those strongholds in your heart.

Be sure to tell Jesus you love Him in the prayer tonight.

 

TO WATCH

If you have some extra time, here’s a monologue delivered from the perspective of Mary about that moment when she washed Jesus’ feet: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hzoUPeac2hA

 

Better Together (part4): Growing Well

TO START

Share a time when a favorite restaurant, product, TV show, etc. changed in a way that made you stop going, buying or watching.

 

TO DISCUSS

This week we talked on Sunday about how to grow well, how to stay with a church when it’s growing and changing.

As our church has grown over the years, what has been your experience? Have you struggled to stay on board? Do you enjoy the energy of growth? Is change taxing? Let’s not use this time to complain, but at the same time, this is a safe place to share some growing pains.

What binds us together as a church? What would be a good reason to leave your church?

Have you ever intentionally put up with something you didn’t like at church because of the promise you’d made to that church? Share.

Consider the following statements from Sunday’s lesson. Pick one that sticks out as challenging, as new information, or as something you’ve observed in action:

  • A growing church has to understand that in many cases, What worked then isn’t going to work now.
  • A church that refuses to grow is a church that rejects the mission of God.
  • Change is hard because people overestimate the value of what they have---and underestimate the value of what they may gain by giving that up.

How does this question strike you: Are we committed to being the church we’ve been? Or are we committed to being the church God is making us?

  • What’s the difference?
  • How can we partner with God in our church’s transformation?

 

TO READ

Read 2 Corinthians 3:18.

  • What does transformation look like?

  • What might ever-increasing glory look like in our church?

 

TO PRAY

Change isn’t just hard on a church, it’s hard on that church’s leadership--the people required to lead our church into change and weather the church’s sometimes fussy relationship to that change. Tonight in your groups pray for our elders and deacons and staff. Pray they’d have the wisdom and courage to lead us where God wants us to go.

You could also pray the prayer we prayed together on Sunday:

God, show us what’s next. Show us who’s next. Remind us that the mission is worth the change. You have a vision for this city. And I know it involves more than 15% of the people here knowing you. Burden us with your vision. And use us in bringing it to fruition. We’re up for whatever that means. We’re so glad you brought us here. And we don’t want it to end with us. And as you work in our midst, help us not just to grow, but to grow well.

 

Better Together (part 3): Look Out

TO START

Have you ever visited someone’s house and felt entirely out of place or uncomfortable? What was so different about being there? Tell the story to your group.

On the other hand, have you ever visited someone’s house for the first time and felt very welcome and comfortable? What did the homeowner do to make you feel that way?

 

TO DISCUSS

This week we’re talking about being focused on our mission to reach the people in our community who don’t yet know God.

On Sunday we said, “If we’re going to be the church, we’ve got to be focused on engaging people who aren’t yet a part of the church.” In the words of Acts 15:19, “we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.”

  • How does a church focused on engaging the people who aren’t members differ from a church focused solely on its members? What do they do differently? How do they speak differently? What are their priorities? What aren’t their priorities?

Consider this quote from minister and author, Carey Niewholf:

“If you don’t have a friend on your arm and you fail to fight this with all you’ve got, you’ll end up evaluating your church through selfish eyes. People who don’t invite friends almost always evaluate their church through selfish eyes. You begin to run everything through a simple filter: do I like it? You judge songs and worship leaders based on your personal preference and make emotional decisions on whether you like a particular preacher or a series or a topic. You’ll look at everything from architecture, to dress, to style, to kids ministry to things as intangible as vibe as the basis for your decisions.”

  • Have you noticed this is to be true?
  • Do you find it convicting?

Are you regularly looking for people to invite to church?

What holds you back from inviting people to church?

What could make it easier? Knowing there are people who aren’t yet in a relationship with Jesus in our church building every Sunday, how do you feel like you could contribute to making them feel welcomed? Make a list of things we can personally do to reach them.

 

TO READ

Read I Corinthians 14:23-25.

  • Were there outsiders attending the worship of the first century church?

  • Why is prophecy the preferred gift for communicating to outsiders (as opposed to tongues)?

  • Can this kind of reaction happen in our church today when the word of God is spoken? Consider the letter from Denise Werner Justin shared on Sunday. What did she experience at our church?

 

TO PRAY

To do tonight: As a group, put together a list of people you could invite to church (If you can't think of anyone, let your group help you think of someone). Then pray over the names, asking God to open hearts and provide opportunities.

Prayer homework:

You might consider coming to church early one Sunday to pray over the seats. Walk up and down the aisles, maybe touching the seats, asking God to reach each person who sits in one. Pray that God would be present and working that Sunday, reaching those who need Him.  

 

Better Together (part 2): Gifted and Talented

TO START

Name one of your favorite gifts you've ever received.

Did you ever receive a gift only to find out you'd be expected to share it--with a sibling? with your classmates? with your spouse? How'd you feel? Do tell.

 

TO PRAY

Tonight you'll be exploring your spiritual gifts as a group. Before you jump into discussion, ask God to help you see clearly as you strive to identify your gifts and find ways to use them in the context of the body to His glory. 

 

TO DISCUSS

We said on Sunday, when God gives you a gift, it's not just for you. Share a time when you saw someone using a gift God had given them for the good of the church and the glory of God. 

Do you sometimes find it hard to identify what gifts God has given you? If so, why do you think that is? What prevents us from being more confident in our gifting?

How might we go about growing our gifts and getting more confident in our ability to use them? What should we do if we think we might have a gift but know we need help developing it?

On Sunday we shared a list of possible spiritual gifts. Consider the list (attached to the bottom of today's discussion guide) together as a group (read through it together). Have each member share one gift they're sure they have, one they might have and one they definitely don't.

Next, encourage one another by identifying gifts your fellow members might have. When have you seen them using that gift? What potential do you see in them? Lift each other up and affirm the work God's doing. 

Now, consider your gifts, and brainstorm ways you could use them to bless others and glorify God. What should you be doing daily to put your gift into practice? What should you be doing at RRCOC? 

Consider the gifts you definitely do not have. What would it be like to be in a body with zero of that particular gift? 

 

TO READ

Read 1 Corinthians 12:12-27.

  • How does this text contribute to our understanding of spiritual gifts and their use in the church? 
  • Are there any insignificant gifts?
  • Do you ever wish the body had fewer of the weird parts? Do you ever feel like a weird part? 
  • Share an example of a time when you saw the truth (that we're better together) in action.

--

Consider this (not-at-all exhaustive) list of spiritual gifts, trying to identify which gifts you might have and which you definitely do not. Beside each gift, scribble one of these symbols:

  • !    This is 100% me. I’m great at this.
  • ?    This might be me. Either I haven’t had enough experience to know for sure, or I’m not very confident in my ability. Let me ask my friends…
  • :/     This probably isn’t me.
  • X     Nope.

Leadership

I am good at seeing what’s possible and inspiring other people to go there. The gift of leadership is the ability to influence people at their level while directing and focusing them on the big picture, vision, or idea.

Mercy

I feel compassion and empathy for people who are suffering. The gift of mercy is the ability to care for those who are hurting in any way.

Hospitality

I enjoy opening up my home and my life to other people. The gift of hospitality is the ability to create warm, welcoming environments for others. People with the gift of hospitality are flexible and able to embrace other people even when it’s inconvenient.

Friendliness

I want to make friends with new people. The gift of friendliness is the ability to connect with strangers quickly and meaningfully.

Administration

I am organized and enjoy figuring out logistics. The gift of administration is the ability to organize multiple tasks and groups of people to accomplish these tasks.

Creativity

I can’t help thinking of new ways to do things. The gift of creativity is the ability to imagine a multitude of possibilities and see beyond what’s been done before.

Service

I love to help. The gift of serving is the ability to do small or great tasks in working for the overall good of the body of Christ, often aiding in the achievement of another person’s vision.

Teaching

I regularly study the Bible and enjoy sharing what I learn with others. The gift of teaching is the ability to study and learn from the Scriptures, capably sharing insight that brings understanding and depth to other Christians.

Courage

I don’t shy away from doing or saying hard things. The gift of courage is the ability to do what needs to be done despite potentially harmful consequences to oneself.

Wisdom

People often come to me for advice. The gift of wisdom is the ability to understand and to bring clarity to situations and circumstances through applying the truths of Scripture in a practical way.

Wealth

I have more money than I need. The gift of wealth is the abundance of financial resources. Paired with a desire to be generous, this gift results in enabling the work of the church and the well being of its less fortunate members.

Peacemaking

I’m good at resolving conflict. The gift of peacemaking is the ability to bring people who disagree into agreement or harmony.

Craftsmanship

I like to work with my hands. The gift of craftsmanship is the ability to plan, build, and work with your hands in construction environments (or crafting).

Evangelism

One of my favorite things is to tell people the good news about Jesus. The gift of evangelism is the ability to help non-Christians take the necessary steps to follow Christ.

Prayer

I have a steady and healthy practice of meeting God in prayer. The gift of prayer is an ability to petition God on the behalf others. People who are gifted at prayer feel comfortable talking to God no matter the circumstance.

Encouragement

I affirm others and cheer them on. The gift of encouragement is the ability to strengthen, comfort or urge others to action through the written or spoken word and Biblical truth.

An additional filter for understanding how you might best bless this church:

I love to be around and work with (underline one or two of the following categories of people)...

Children        The elderly        The grieving        Those who’re in prison    

The poor        Teens            Young adults        Widows & widowers

Single mothers        Men            Women            Those don’t yet know Jesus

 

Better Together (part 1): One Another

FAMILY BUSINESS

Before you jump into discussion this week you might take some time out to do three things (these three things could potentially take up all your time together):

  1. If you haven’t been meeting over the summer, this week is a great chance to check back in and see where everyone is. Is everyone okay? Healthy? Stable? Consider doing “pits and peaks.” What were the highest and lowest moments of your summer?

  2. Make small group goals. What do you want to accomplish together this year? Do you want to meet more regularly? Do you want to pray for each other more? Do you want to serve together outside of group? Do you want to be more vulnerable with each other? Make a list of goals and consider steps for achieving them.

  3. Discuss our church’s need for small group leaders.Take a minute to say we’re looking for leaders and offer yourself as a resource to anyone even a little bit interested (as a small group leader you’re encouraged to mentor potential leaders. Our Connections Minister can provide you with resources). Leaders, if you would, share one reason you enjoy leading your group.

 

TO START

This Sunday we started a new series called “Better Together.” Justin said, “There are things we do together that we can’t do alone, and there are things we become together that we can’t become alone.”

To begin your discussion, separate into two teams: men and women. Set a timer for two minutes and write down as many answers to this question as you possibly can. Longest list wins. Share your answers.

What’s something you can’t do alone?

 

TO DISCUSS

Some social scientists argue that modern America is the most individualistic society ever to live. Have you seen evidence to support that? We said on Sunday, “We’ve found so many reasons and ways to put distance between ourselves.” Share some examples.

What do you think we’re missing in our efforts to distance ourselves from one another? Do you personally feel like you’re in need of more, deeper community? Do you notice people around you/coworkers/family struggling in isolation?

The New Testament is chock full of instructions on how and why to be together. Choose a few of these passages about how we treat “one another” to read aloud.

  • What’s significant about the high number of passages on this topic?

  • Why do you think God requires us to be together? What doesn’t following God alone work?            

  1. “...Be at peace with each other.” (Mark 9:50)

  2. “...Wash one another’s feet.” (John 13:14)    

  3. “...Love one another...” (John 13:34)                    

  4. “...Love one another...” (John 13:34)                            

  5. “...Love one another...” (John 13:35)    

  6. “...Love one another...” (John 15:12)    

  7. “...Love one another” (John 15:17)    

  8. “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love...” (Romans 12:10)    

  9. “...Honor one another above yourselves. (Romans 12:10)                

  10. “Live in harmony with one another...” (Romans 12:16)    

  11. “...Love one another...” (Romans 13:8)                            

  12. “...Stop passing judgment on one another.” (Romans 14:13)    

  13. “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you...” (Romans 15:7)        

  14. “...Instruct one another.” (Romans 15:14)                             

  15. “Greet one another with a holy kiss...” (Romans 16:16)

  16. “...When you come together to eat, wait for each other.” (I Cor. 11:33)            

  17. “...Have equal concern for each other.” (I Corinthians 12:25)

  18. “...Greet one another with a holy kiss.” (I Corinthians 16:20)

  19. “Greet one another with a holy kiss.” (II Corinthians 13:12)

  20. “...Serve one another in love.” (Galatians 5:13)                

  21. “If you keep on biting and devouring each other...you will be destroyed by each other.”    (Galatians 5:15)

  22. “Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.” (Galatians 5:26)

  23. “Carry each other’s burdens...” (Galatians 6:2)                         

  24. “...Be patient, bearing with one another in love.” (Ephesians 4:2)            

  25. “Be kind and compassionate to one another...” (Ephesians 4:32)

  26. “...Forgiving each other...” (Ephesians 4:32)

  27. “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.” (Ephesians 5:19)

  28. “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:21)            

  29. “...In humility consider others better than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3)

  30. “Do not lie to each other...” (Colossians 3:9)

  31. “Bear with each other...” (Colossians 3:13)    

  32. “...Forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.” (Colossians 3:13)

  33. “Teach...[one another]” (Colossians 3:16)

  34. “...Admonish one another (Colossians 3:16)

  35. “...Make your love increase and overflow for each other.” (I Thessalonians 3:12)

  36. “...Love each other.” (I Thessalonians 4:9)    

  37. “...Encourage each other...”(I Thessalonians 4:18)    

  38. “...Encourage each other...” I Thessalonians 5:11)    

  39. “...Build each other up...” (I Thessalonians 5:11)    

  40. “Encourage one another daily...” Hebrews 3:13)    

  41. “...Spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” (Hebrews 10:24)    

  42. “...Encourage one another.” (Hebrews 10:25)    

  43. “...Do not slander one another.” (James 4:11)

  44. “Don’t grumble against each other...” (James 5:9)

  45. “Confess your sins to each other...” (James 5:16)

  46. “...Pray for each other.” (James 5:16)

  47. “...Love one another deeply, from the heart.” (I Peter 3:8)

  48. “...Live in harmony with one another...” (I Peter 3:8)

  49. “...Love each other deeply...” (I Peter 4:8)

  50. “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” (I Peter 4:9)

  51. “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others...” (I Peter 4:10)

  52. “...Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another...”(I Peter 5:5)    

  53. “Greet one another with a kiss of love.” (I Peter 5:14)

  54. “...Love one another.” (I John 3:11)

  55. “...Love one another.” (I John 3:23)    

  56. “...Love one another.” (I John 4:7)

  57. “...Love one another.” (I John 4:11)    

  58. “...Love one another.” (I John 4:12)

  59. “...Love one another.” (II John 5)

Share a time when you personally benefitted from the togetherness of belonging to a church family. Be specific. Tell a story.

This week we read from Hebrews chapter 10. Verses 24-25 read, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

  • What are we supposed to not give up doing?

  • When does our church “meet together”? Is it your habit to join in that meeting and encourage others? Do you make church attendance a priority? Why might that be hard/inconvenient/not a priority for you?

  • What kinds of sacrifices have you made in order to “meet together” with your church? What kinds of sacrifices might God be calling you to make?                                     

 

TO PRAY

Consider the list of “one another” passages above. Pray them together. Add the words, “Help us to.”

For example:

God, help us to bear with each other.

Help us to encourage one another.

Help us to love one another.

Help us to live in harmony with one another.

Etc.

 

TO DO

Brainstorm as a group something good you could do together that you couldn’t do alone. Make plans to do it.

The Hero's Journey (part 6): Bringing It Home

Like we said last week, the arrival of summer signals a change in our small group format. From now until school starts back in August we won’t be providing small group discussion questions. We do, however, encourage you to keep meeting and deepening relationships.

If your group is NEW, we encourage you to continue meeting weekly and engaging through discussion. Contact Dan Burgess at dburgess@rrcoc.org for resources.

If your group is SEASONED, you are encouraged to pursue whatever you think is the best path for your group (though we’d definitely encourage you to meet). You might study a book together, use video curriculum or simply use the summer as an opportunity to grow closer through fun and fellowship.

Whether your group is NEW or SEASONED, we ask that all group leaders would contact Dan to discuss their plans. Thanks so much!

 

TO START

Have you ever come home after a long time away? How did it feel? What was good? What was weird? Did home feel different now that you were different? Explain.

 

TO DISCUSS

We said this week that the last step in the hero’s journey (and the final phase of our transformation) is to return home having been changed. We said, when a character returns, they inhabit their familiar world with a new energy, perspective, awareness, confidence, gravity, or joy.

Can you think of any examples of this in your favorite stories? What do those epic homecoming moments look like?

Justin said on Sunday, “All of Christian behavior is living into our identity as people resurrected by Christ and living in him. It’s being people who have been changed as a result of the journey they’ve been on.”

Do you feel like you’ve been changed by your journey with Christ? How so? What’s different about you today as compared to twenty years ago? Two years ago? Last month?

  • What do you think are the biggest changes God’s brought about in your heart and behavior?

Because we come home at the end of our journey, our transformation affects more than just ourselves. Is your transformation changing your relationships at all? Is it making you feel more comfortable at “home” or less comfortable? Have the people around you noticed a change?

  • What can you do to allow the positive change happening inside you to glorify God?

  • What does it look like (practically speaking) to allow our light to shine in places where we were previously dark? Give examples.

We ended this series with the call to be who we are. After the long journey of becoming the person God made us to be, how terrible would it be to shrink back from our destiny and new identity? What does it look like to be the person God’s making you into? Personally, what do you feel like God’s calling you to do or not do? Share an example of something you’re striving to step into right now.

 

TO READ

For this series’ small group scripture readings we’re looking at some of the hero’s journey stories in the Bible.

This week, read Luke 8:26-39.

  • What was the change that happened in the man they called “Legion”?

  • What did Jesus tell him to do when he begged to follow Jesus to the next town?

  • Why do you think Jesus wanted him to go home?

  • Imagine someone from your town became possessed with 1,000 demons and you witnessed it happen. How would you react to that? Then, what if they returned entirely cured? What would your reaction be? What would you want to know?

 

TO PRAY

This week pray Colossians 3:1-17, turning commands into requests. Try something like this:

God, our Father,

Since we have been raised with Christ, set our hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at your right hand. Set our minds on things above, not on earthly things. For we have died, and our life is now hidden with Christ in You. When Christ, who is our  life, appears, let us also appear with Him in glory.

God, empower us to put to death whatever belongs to our earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.

We used to walk in these ways, in the life we once lived. But now help us rid ourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language. By your Spirit, we vow not lie to each other, because we have taken off our old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in Your image, Creator God.

God, we are Your holy people, dearly loved by You. Clothe us with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Enable us to bear with each other and forgive one another, to forgive as You forgive us. Wrap us in love and bind us all together in perfect unity.

Let Your peace rule in our hearts, since as members of one body we are called to peace.

Thank you God. Empower us to thank you more.

Let Your message dwell among us richly.

In Jesus’ powerful name we pray, amen.

The Hero's Journey (part 5): The Cost of Discipleship

Like we said last week, the arrival of summer signals a change in our small group format. Beginning June 4th and running until school starts back in August we won’t be providing small group discussion questions. We do, however, encourage you to keep meeting and deepening relationships.

If your group is NEW, we encourage you to continue meeting weekly and engaging through discussion. Contact Dan Burgess at dburgess@rrcoc.org for resources.

If your group is SEASONED, you are encouraged to pursue whatever you think is the best path for your group (though we’d definitely encourage you to meet). You might study a book together, use video curriculum or simply use the summer as an opportunity to grow closer through fun and fellowship.

Whether your group is NEW or SEASONED, we ask that all group leaders would contact Dan to discuss their plans. Thanks so much!

 

TO START

What is the most expensive thing (besides a car or house) you’ve ever purchased? If you don’t want to share that, think of the first legitimately expensive thing you ever bought. How did you feel about it? Was it worth the sacrifice?

 

TO DISCUSS

We said on Sunday, summarizing the hero’s journey, “You don’t start where you end. You don’t end where you start.” Does that truth give you hope or make you nervous? Or both. Share how you feel about the inevitability of the journey.

There comes a time in most stories when the character is confronted with the reality that gaining what they want most will require them to sacrifice something dear.

  • Think of a moment in a movie or book you love when the hero is called to give up everything for the sake of the thing she most wants. Share with the group.

  • As you’ve followed Jesus He’s repeatedly asked you to give things up. What’s been one of the hardest things you’ve sacrificed in following Christ and taking up your cross?

What kinds of things might God call us to sacrifice? Make a list together. Include the things you’ve already shared as personal examples.

Sometimes the things God calls us to sacrifice are very, very important to us (our lives, for example). Are you afraid of what God might call you to give up in following Him? If so, share a little about that. What in particular are you afraid of? How might you conquer that fear? What do you need to know, what do you need to see more clearly, and what do you need to do to get over your fear?

Because following where God leads will definitely take you further than you “want” to go, what do you do with the tension between your priorities and God’s priorities? Where are your priorities different than God’s? Give specific examples. How can we better align our priorities with God’s priorities?

On Sunday Justin paraphrased Jesus’ words to his disciples, “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it,” this way:

You’re going to be so concerned with getting the most out of life--and so you’re going to work more than you should and keep as much as you can so that you have as much money as you want. And you’re going to sleep with whoever you want so that you enjoy as much pleasure as you want. And you’re going to lie so that you don’t get into trouble; And you’re going to be selfish with your spouse because you want to make sure that you get taken care of; And you’re going to compromise your morals so that you fit in and people like you.

And the whole time, you’re going to be doing it to “save your life”--to get the most out of life...and it’s going to be such a cruel irony: that very effort is going to produce the opposite of what you want. You’ll end up losing your life--missing out (now and later) on the best.

  • Did this touch you or convict you or move you in any way? Share.
  • Do you think you’re doing this, sacrificing the reward to come (and the reward offered here on earth) on the altar of your desires and urges? Are you losing your life trying to save it? Take this opportunity to reach out to your group for help.

Though it will cost you everything to follow Christ, following Christ pays more than it costs. Make a list of the rewards of following Jesus.

 

TO READ

For this series’ small group scripture readings we’re looking at some of the hero’s journey stories in the Bible.

This week, read Deuteronomy chapter 34.

  • What must it have been like to be Moses? As he was about to die, what do you think went through his head? What scenes from his life played on the movie screen of his closed eyelids?

  • What did Moses give up to obey God? Think through everything God called him to sacrifice.

  • Do you think it was worth it?

 

TO PRAY

Things to pray for:

  • What you’ll do as a group this summer, that it would be a blessing to you and would draw you closer to one another and to God.

  • About your willingness to give up everything. Ask God to grow trust in you. Ask Him to make you a willing living sacrifice. You might also pray through your fears, sking God to lift them, naming them.

  • Thanksgiving for the many ways God gives us life when we’re willing to give up our lives. Refer to the list you made earlier in the discussion.

The Hero's Journey (part 4): Finally Found

TO START

Summer is coming soon! As we do not provide summer curriculum for small groups, you’ll need to begin to think about what you’d prefer to do together this summer. Next week we’ll offer you some suggestions, but this week we’d simply like to encourage you to keep meeting. Changing up what you normally do is a great idea. Parting ways for three months--not so much. Take some time tonight to look at one another’s summer schedules and figure out a way to prioritize group.

 

TO DISCUSS

Have you ever wanted something, worked to get it, and discovered when you received it that it wasn’t what you really needed (or needed most)? Share any examples that spring to mind.

Why did you originally turn to God? What would you say was the reason you were baptized? Take a minute and have each member think back to their baptism and share.

  • As a group leader, be sure to validate those reasons. Just because there’s more to life in Christ than we realized, doesn’t make what we wanted back then small or insignificant.

Now that you’ve been a Christian for a while, have you discovered more than you anticipated? What are the treasures of life with God that you didn’t know you’d receive back when you first signed on?

Do you feel like you have a “relationship” with God? What does that relationship involve? What’s so good about it?

  • If you don’t feel like you have a relationship, what do you think you’re missing and why do you think you’re missing it?

  • What does it really mean to be in a relationship with God?

Paul says in Philippians 3:8, “What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”

  • What does it mean to “know” Jesus? Offer specific examples.

 

TO READ

For this series’ small group scripture readings we’re looking at some of the hero’s journey stories in the Bible.

This week, read John 1:35-51

  • What were Andrew and Nathanael looking for? Did they find it?

  • What didn’t they realize they would find in finding Jesus?

  • Consider what you know about where Jesus led Andrew and Nathanael (the journey they would take with him as His apostles). What “treasures” are Andrew and Nathanael still to discover? What do they have wrong about what they’re looking for? What will they realize later about what they really need?

 

TO PRAY

This week ask God to open your eyes to the full measure of the gift of life in Christ and thank Him for the gifts you’ve discovered. You might each offer one reason you’re thankful to love and be loved by God.

You might also pray for people you know who’re seeking God and still need to find Him.

 

THE HERO’S JOURNEY (part 3): Refined

TO START

Think back to high school. If someone made a hero’s journey movie about your time in high school, what one scene would best represent the hardship or suffering that made you the person you became by the end of senior year.

 

TO DISCUSS

This week we talked about “the road of trials,” arguing that hardship is one of the most effective ways to help a hero become who she’s supposed to become.

What do you think about this sentence Justin shared on Sunday: “God likes suffering”?

  • How does that make you feel?

  • Is it true? In what way might it be true?

  • Why might God like suffering?

  • Have you ever seen God use suffering to transform a person? Share what you observed.

  • Has God used suffering to shape you? Give an example.

Read the following passages about suffering:

James 1:2-4,

Hebrews 12:7-12

  • What does God intend to do to us in hardship and suffering?

  • How does viewing hardship through this lens change the way you approach/endure it?

Joseph says to his brothers in Genesis 50:20, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good.”

  • Have you ever been hurt by another person and watched God use that hurt/offense to make you better? Share.

Knowing what we know about hardship, why do you think we so often avoid suffering? What would it look like to embrace suffering?

In addition to hardship, another way God transforms us on the “road of trials” is through a mentor or guide. Consider your favorite hero stories and make a list of mentors or guides (if you’re struggling consider these stories to get you started: Harry Potter, Hunger Games, Star Wars, Moana or watch this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7_NgqiCECIg).

  • What is the purpose of the mentor or guide?

  • Does the hero usually embrace the mentor or guide immediately?

What mentors or guides has God used to grow or shape you? Who were they? How did they influence you? Did you want their help from the start? What caused you to embrace what they had to show you?

 

TO READ

For this series’ small group scripture readings we’re looking at some of the hero’s journey stories in the Bible.

This week, read Genesis 16:1-15

  • Who, in this story, is walking “the road of trials”?
  • What exactly does she have to endure?
  • What good seems to come out of this hardship?
  • Who perpetrates the evil against Hagar? Is that hard to understand? What does this chapter reveal about what it means to be human? Think about that through Hagar’s eyes, Sarah’s eyes and Abraham’s.

 

TO PRAY

Because suffering is a big part of our journey, you can be sure that your group members are going through some tough stuff. Tonight, share the difficult things you’re up against right now and pray that God would equip, empower and shape you in the midst of it.

 

TO WATCH

Watch this compilation video of “road of trials” moments:

 

  • What do all these moments have in common?

  • What are you fighting these days? Where are you encountering opposition?

  • How might God use that to shape you?

Lots of movies about heroes in the making include a training montage. Watch this one from the movie Rocky 2:

  • What might be in your training montage?

The Hero's Journey (part 2): Crossing the Threshold

TO START

What’s your favorite movie “threshold moment” (a moment when a character must finally make a choice to go down a path or step through a doorway, probably one that seems scary or mysterious)? Consider the movie clips Dan showed on Sunday and add your own to the list.

 

TO DISCUSS

This week we talked about threshold moments. What is a threshold? How do you know when you’re in a threshold moment? List a few threshold moments common to most people.

Generally speaking, what kinds of adventures does God call us into? What specific fears might prevent us from going?

Think of moments in your own life when you felt like you were being called to set out on a holy adventure. Share with the group. (You might have each person write down one moment when God presented them with an opportunity to set out on a journey. Then, have each person answer the questions below on their paper before sharing their responses with the group.)

  • What made you feel compelled? Was it a person? A book? An experience? A tension or problem?

  • How did you decide to go?

  • What barriers stood in your way?

  • What influences helped affirm your decision? Were you met with support and encouragement or ridicule and criticism?

Do you struggle with fear? Do you feel like fear sometimes keeps you from the adventures God has for you? If so, share with the group.

What can we do to overcome fear? What does God tell us about fear?

Share a time when it would have been more dangerous to stay where you were than to strike out on a journey? Did you know that at the time or only from hindsight?

Have you ever ignored a call to go by resolving to stay in your situation? How did that play out?

 

TO READ

For this series’ small group scripture readings we’re looking at some of the hero’s journey stories in the Bible.

This week, read Joshua 1:1-9 and 3:7-17.

  • For whom is this story a threshold moment?

  • What is the call to adventure? Who issues it? Who responds?

  • What does God indicate could stand in the way of Joshua answering the call?

  • How does God respond to Joshua’s bravery?

 

TO PRAY

This week, pray your fears. Have each group member share one fear that’s standing in between them and doing what God’s calling them to do. Pray God would make them brave.

 

TO WATCH

Here are a few more Crossing the Threshold scenes from movies to get you inspired:

True Grit

Lord of The Rings

Frozen

The Hero's Journey (part 1): How It Begins

TO START

This week we said classic stories begin with a character who’s in a zone of comfort, but they want something.

  • Make a list of movies that start this way. If your group isn’t a big movie-watching crew, make a list of books.

 

TO DISCUSS

If you happened to hear the sermon this Sunday, how did it strike you? Does this hero’s journey framework seem interesting, confusing, exciting, compelling or weird? Share.

Would you say you’re in a zone of comfort right now? Is it possible God wants to lead you out?

What more, better or different are you desiring lately? Share with your small group to check and see if your desires are holy and provoked by God or perhaps unholy and simply discontent.

Donald Miller writes in his book A Million Miles In A Thousand Years,

“If you watched a movie about a guy who wanted a Volvo and worked for years to get it, you wouldn’t cry at the end when he drove off the lot, testing the windshield wipers. You wouldn’t tell your friends you saw a beautiful movie or go home and put a record on to think about the story you’d seen. The truth is, you wouldn't remember that movie a week later, except you’d feel robbed and want your money back. Nobody cries at the end of a movie about a guy who wants a Volvo.
But we spend years actually living those stories, and expect our lives to be meaningful. The truth is, if what we choose to do with our lives won't make a story meaningful, it won’t make a life meaningful either”

● Is it possible the things you want aren’t big enough things? What wants are too small to make a good story? What wants make great, holy stories?

Without Jesus, you are not what you were made to be, and only He can help you become that. Do you feel like you’re not what you were made to be? Do Paul’s words in Romans 7 resonate with you ("I do not do what I want to do but what I do not want that I do")?

  • Share one way with your group. Offer up an area in which you desire growth and could use some accountability.

Justin said on Sunday that for most of us, when we realize we want something more or better or different, we either...

  1. Try Harder OR

  2. Rationalize our behavior and shift the categories (meaning, we just decide we’re

    already what we want to be by measuring ourselves against a less strict or

    ambitious standard)

Have you done either of those things when you started to feel stirred toward disrupting the status quo?

Have you ever ignored God’s call to adventure? Give an example and share how that went.

We said on Sunday that the hero’s journey begins with a character who wants something and eventually the want reaches an apex and leads to a moment of disruption.

● Have you ever experienced a moment of holy disruption? When have you seen your life upended in a way that led you on transformative journey?

We said Sunday that God’s goal for you is that you would be transformed. Does that make you nervous or excited? Explain. Do you want to be transformed? Do you want it enough to do something dramatic to get it?

● Share something you want that you’re not willing to sacrifice for (maybe to be a good piano player, to retire early, or to lose weight).

 

TO READ

For this series’ small group scripture readings we’ll look at some of the hero’s journey stories in the Bible.

This week, read Acts 9:1-9.

  • Who is the person experiencing a call to adventure and a disruption of the status quo?

  • What was Paul’s zone of comfort before Jesus disrupted him?

  • Do you relate to Paul’s story at all? If so, share how so.

 

TO PRAY

Earlier in the discussion group members shared their holy wants and the ways in which they desire more, better or different. Pray over these desires. Take them to God and ask Him to accomplish them. Ask for strength for the journey and, if necessary, a holy disruption. Go one by one through your group, praying for one person at a time.

 

TO WATCH

Check out this easy, entertaining summary of the story structure of “the Hero’s Journey.” It’s animated! :)
https://youtu.be/Hhk4N9A0oCA

You can also check out this compilation of Disney “I want songs”:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aa23K79spt8 

EASTER: Hope Rises

TO START

Share how you chose to celebrate Easter. You might share three delightful blessings from the day. If Easter was hard for you, share why it was. What were you struggling with?

Is Easter a big holiday for your family or is it kind of a minor holiday? Do you celebrate Easter as a religious holiday or not so much? What Easter traditions do you have?
 

TO DISCUSS

Hope is “confidence that what will be is better than what has been.”

  • Does hope come easily to you? Or do you have to work at it? Why do you think that is?
  • What can we do to intentionally grow/strengthen our hope? Give practical examples, action items.

Flannery O’Connor writes in Mystery and Manners, ”Those without hope don't take long looks at anything, because they haven't the courage.”

  • What does that mean?
  • Have you ever avoided really taking a long look at some part of your life because of a lack of hope? Did you know it was a lack of hope in the moment or have you only realized that in hindsight?

What does Christ’s resurrection mean to you? Why is Christ rising from the dead a big deal?

On Sunday Justin said,

“My resurrected Lord teaches me to keep investing, because there’s hope for broken relationships. My resurrected Lord teaches me to keep trying, because there’s hope of the parts of me still bound by sin. My resurrected Lord teaches me to keep encouraging, because there’s hope for wounded children. My resurrected Lord teaches me to keep following him and trusting him, because there’s a time coming when I won’t be sinful or exhausted or sick or weak or dying anymore.”

  • What hard thing are you dealing with that requires hope?
  • Give an example of a time hope helped you get through something you couldn’t have endured without it.
     

TO READ

This week let’s read some delicious and delightful Heaven promises from Revelation 21:1-5 and Revelation 22:1-5.

  • What do we know about Heaven from these two descriptions?
  • What will definitely be in Heaven?
  • What will definitely NOT be in Heaven?
  • How does this picture of Heaven make you feel?
     

TO PRAY

This week, pray for the hopeless. Who needs hope and doesn’t have it? Pray for them. Pray, too, for those of us who should have unshakeable hope but sometimes don’t. Pray that our hope would be strengthened.

If you have group members going through very trying seasons, be sure to pray that they would persevere in hope.
 

TO SING

Want to sing together this week? People with hope are singing people. You might look up some favorite old school Heaven songs and have a sing-a-long.

If you’d rather learn some new songs, here are two that reinforce Sunday’s message:

Feast People (part 3): Celebration 101

TO START

How many times do you think the word “celebrate” appears in the NIV Bible? Have everyone guess. Closest to the correct answer wins a prize. (You’ll need a prize!)

The answer is (48+30-10)+68) divided by 2  (just in case you wanted to guess too, we figured we wouldn’t make the answer flagrant).

Have you ever attended a really great party? Tell your group about it. What made it so great?

How’s your feast planning coming? Discuss what you’re planning.

 

DISCUSSION

What did you learn about Passover during this week’s sermon? What is it? Why did Israel celebrate it? What were some of the ways they celebrated it? What did that celebration teach Israel about God? Why/how might it have been effective at shaping them into holier, more God-like people?

How might it be helpful to know communion first occurred in the context Passover? What do the two feasts have in common? Where does the story of communion overlap with the story of Passover?

What are we “celebrating” at the communion meal? Personally and corporately?

This Sunday we asked, if we’re to be Feast People who cultivate joy by gathering regularly to celebrate the work and blessing of God, what does that look like and what are some ways can we do it on purpose?

  • What kinds of things can we celebrate? Make as long a list as you can.

  • Now go back over your list of reasons to celebrate and imagine how you might celebrate each of those things in a practical way.

 

SCRIPTURE

Read 2 Chronicles 5:2-6; 11-14; 7:1-10 (You might also skim Solomon’s prayer in chapter 6)

This passage describes one of the biggest (if not THE biggest) celebrations in Israel’s history.

  • What are they celebrating?

  • How are they celebrating?

  • Use some adjectives to describe this event. Can you imagine doing something like this today to celebrate some good thing the Lord has done? Why or why not?

 

PRAYER

This week ask God to open your eyes to things that should be celebrated. Perhaps you might also do a round of “Look what God’s done! We love it! Thank you, God!” having each member share one “look what God’s done!” and the group responding in prayer with “We love it! Thank you God!”

 

FOR FUN

Watch this video to remind you of all you have to celebrate in light of God’s identity as giver of good gifts (ignore the Christmas theme): http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=19C1CJNU

  • You might encourage your group to text one another throughout the week with “over the top” exclamations at what God’s done. :)

Feast People (part 2): Ode to Joy

TO START

Describe a strong person. What do they look like? How do they act? What do they wear? You might have everyone draw and label a picture of a person who’s strong.

  • What makes this person strong? Write a list of things that contribute to this person’s strength.
  • If you hadn’t heard this week’s lesson would joy have been on your list? Does the person you drew (or described) look or seem joyful? If not, why do you think that is?

 

DISCUSSION

Last week we began a discussion of celebration as a spiritual discipline. Just to be clear, which kinds of parties are NOT spiritual exercises?

The kinds of parties and celebrations that “count” as spiritually filling, challenging, and shaping are celebrations of Who God is and what He’s done. They fundamentally glorify God. (Other parties are fun and totally worth doing, but not what we’re talking about in this series.)

What characterizes the kinds of celebrations we find in the Bible? What are they like? What do people do?

This week our sermon was rooted in Nehemiah chapter 8. If your group members mostly heard the sermon you can have a member summarize the text. If members didn’t hear the sermon, consider reading a portion of the text.

  • Had you read this story before? If not, how did you feel reading it or hearing about it?
  • What’s interesting to you about this passage?
  • What’s challenging or compelling?

Our bottom line from Sunday was: If you want to be strong, you’ve got to cultivate joy, because “the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

  • What does that mean? What does joy have to do with strength?
  • Brainstorm ways that purposefully pursuing joy might strengthen you.
  • When has the joy of the Lord been your strength?

Have you ever practiced feasting or celebration intentionally in order to help yourself stoke the fire of joy in your heart? When did a feast or celebration lead you into deeper, more stable joy?

Brainstorm some potential sorts of celebrations you might host for the purpose of growing and exercising joy.

In your experience, what are some other ways, in addition to feasting or celebrating, to cultivate joy on purpose?

 

SCRIPTURE

Read the following passages. Have a member summarize each one in his or her own words. What does it mean and what does it mean to us?:

  • I Chronicles 16:26-28
  • Psalm 21:1
  • Isaiah 58:14

 

PRAYER

Does anyone need strength? Pray for joy. Go around the room and have each member share one way in which he or she needs strength in the following week. After each person shares, pray these words together out loud: God, make Your joy our strength. It’ll be a blessing to say those words over and over.


TO DO

Just checking in. Have you planned your feast? Be sure to make it special and God-focused.

Feast People (part 1): Welcome Home

TO START
To get in the spirit of things, watch these videos of folks celebrating...enthusiastically. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OlteEPh6G2s https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7aA4_CGzmFw

Do you remember celebrating anything as a child? Could be a personal celebration or a family celebration, spontaneous or planned. Share with the group.

 

SCRIPTURE

Read Philippians 4:4-7

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

 

DISCUSSION

What are the challenges involved in obeying God’s command to rejoice? Is it hard for you to rejoice right now? Why? Share that with the group. Then consider this together: Why might God insist on our rejoicing, even when he knows that sometimes times will be hard?

What’s involved, according to this passage (Phil. 4:4-7), in this posture of joy? What, according to this passage, does it seem we must pursue to attain joy?

How might you incorporate more intentional celebration into your life?
-Put one thing on your calendar--schedule it for sometime within the next 3 weeks.

 

PRAYER

Make a list of things in your life worth celebrating; list as many as you can in 2 minutes; share highlights.

Take a few moments to thank God together as a group for those things.

 

TO DO

Plan a feast together as a group. Figure out ways to make it meaningful. Remember, celebration doesn’t require extravagance. It’s more about purposeful cultivation of joy and communal reflection on what God’s done than it is about anything else.

What will you celebrate?
What will you eat?
What will you intentionally discuss? How do you make sure that happens? What will you wear? 

Signs (Part 3): Clean

TO START

Have you ever been unclean and made someone or something else unclean by association? We’re not looking for lofty metaphor here. Have you ever been literally unclean (dirty) and tracked your mess into someone else’s clean house or bedroom or nice white shirt? Tell your group a funny story.

 

DISCUSSION

Heads up: This week’s discussion guide looks a lot like last week’s (and like the week before’s). You haven’t got them mixed up. And if you don’t much like the way we’re encouraging you to read the text together--no worries; this is the last week in the series. :)

Also, as we’ve been saying, this series works well as an opportunity to let kids join the group discussion.

This week we were in Matthew 8: 1-4. To start small group this week we strongly encourage you to do a meditative reading of the text together (just like you did last week and the week before), encouraging members to use their imaginations and try to enter the story as if they were present.

  1. Read the Gospel passage twice so that the story and the details of the story become familiar. Read it once, then read the questions below (#2), then read it a second time.

  2. Close your eyes and reconstruct the scene in your imagination.

 -What do you see? Hear? Smell? Feel?

-See what’s going on and watch the men and women in the scene.

-What does Jesus look like?

-How do the others react to him?

-What are the people saying to one another?

-What emotions fill their words?

-Is Jesus touching someone?

Explain to the group that they’re welcome to enter into the scene, perhaps as an observer, as as an apostle, as a Pharisee observing (whatever makes sense).

You can construct a movie-like scenario or simply enter the story verbally, reflecting on the scene and mulling over the actions. Vividness is not a criteria for the effectiveness of this kind of meditation. Engagement is and the result is a more interior knowledge of Jesus.)

When you’ve given the group time to do this, come back together to discuss what you saw, felt and understood. (If you decided for some reason not to do this activity, still read the passage together and discuss whatever’s interesting to you. What sticks out as powerful, tender, special or confusing?)

After your time in meditative reading, consider some ideas from our message Sunday:

Justin said in his sermon, “Jesus exercises reverse contagion.” What does that mean? If you weren’t at worship Sunday, consider the text we’ve read and make a guess.

Because Jesus makes unclean things clean, we said, “Rather than driving you away from God, your sin should drive you toward him.”

  • Has this been your experience personally? Do you usually turn toward God when you’re waist deep in sin? Why is it so hard to do?

  • When you have turned to God in your uncleanness what was the result?

Take a moment in your group to enable confession. Do any of your members need to confess a sin that’s consistently getting the best of them, a sin they need Jesus to cleanse them of? Group is a place where people can confess sins and find healing, help and accountability. Remind your group of the way Jesus responds to us when we’re sick with sin.

This week we’ve talked about clean and unclean. These days we don’t call people clean or unclean but we still have ideas about which people are in and which are out, which people meet social standards and which ones don’t. Which kinds of people do you think might be considered “unclean” today?

If Jesus exercises reverse contagion, so should His body, the church. Are today’s “unclean” typically the kinds of people who feel comfortable in a church building? If not, what can we do to make church a more welcoming place for the unclean? Concentrate on things you can do personally to make church more welcoming. What does it look like as a church to help people become clean?

 

PRAYER

Pray Psalm 51:1-4, 7, and 10 together with your group in an effort to appeal to Christ, asking for the cleansing only He provides. Have one member read it and the rest close their eyes and open their palms, as if giving God their sin.

 

EXTRA

Read this poem from Walt McDonald. According to it, what is God like? Is that your understanding of God, too? If so, give an example of a time you’ve seen God “bat on the side of the scrubs.”

“Faith Is A Radical Master”

God bats on the side of the scrubs.

With a clean-up hitter like that, who needs

to worry about stealing home, a double squeeze,

cleat-pounding triples? If nothing else works,

 

take a walk, lean into the wicked pitch

 

careening inside at ninety miles an hour.

At bat, just get on base and pray the next nerd

doesn’t pop up. When someone’s already on, the coach

 

never calls me Mr. October, seldom signals Hit away.

 

If Johnson with the wicked curve owns the strike zone

or the ump, I’ll bunt. No crack of the bat,

no wildly cheered Bambino everyone loves.

 

Lay it down the line like the weakest kid in school,

 

disciple of the sacrifice. Some hour my time will come,

late in the game, and I’m on third, wheezing from the run

from first after a wild pitch, and Crazy Elmore

 

waving like a windmill by the third-base line.

 

Hands on my knees, I’ll watch the pitcher

lick two fingers, wipe them on his fancy pin stripes

and try to stare me dead. I’ll be almost dead,

 

gasping, wondering how I’ll wobble home if someone bunts

 

or dribbles a slow roller and the coach yells

Go! But there, there in the box is God,

who doesn’t pound home plate like an earthquake

 

but slowly points the bat like the Babe toward center field,

 

and all my family in the clouds go wild, all friends

I’ve loved and lost, even the four-eyed scrubs

in the dugout slugging each other and laughing,

 

tossing their gloves like wild hosannas, and why not–

 

it’s bottom of the ninth, two outs, a run behind

and a hall-of-fame fast baller on the mound,

but I’m on third and leaning home, and look who’s up.

 

If poems aren’t your thing, follow this link (http://ecdu.dionc.org/dfc/newsdetail_2/2350072) to read a story called “The Ragman,” another metaphor/parable to explain what God’s like. Ask the same questions you asked for the poem: According to it, what is God like? Is that your understanding of God, too? If so, give an example of a time you’ve seen God “take old rags.”

Signs (part 2): Moved With Compassion

TO START

This week we’re talking about compassion. Compassion is “concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others.” The thing about compassion is that you can’t have it unless you’re a person who NOTICES other people. Are you good at noticing other people or do you get too caught up in yourself? To test yourself, think back through your last conversation with another person. How many questions did you ask about them? How much did you talk about yourself?

Share with the group if you feel like you have room to grow. Think through some things you could do to be more aware of and interested in other people.

 

DISCUSSION

Heads up: This week’s discussion guide looks a lot like last week’s. Don’t worry; you haven’t got them mixed up.

Heads up #2: This entire series works well as an opportunity to let kids join the group discussion.

This week we were in Matthew 20: 29-34. To start small group this week we strongly encourage you to do a meditative reading of the text together (just like you did last week), encouraging members to use their imaginations and try to enter the story as if they were present.

  1. Read the Gospel passage twice so that the story and the details of the story become familiar. Read it once, then read the questions below (#2), then read it a second time.

  2. Close your eyes and reconstruct the scene in your imagination.

 -What do you see? Hear? Smell? Feel?

-See what’s going on and watch the men and women in the scene.

-What does Jesus look like?

-How do the others react to him?

-What are the people saying to one another?

-What emotions fill their words?

-Is Jesus touching someone?

Explain to the group that they’re welcome to enter into the scene, perhaps as an observer, as as an apostle, as a Pharisee observing (whatever makes sense).

You can construct a movie-like scenario or simply enter the story verbally, reflecting on the scene and mulling over the actions. Vividness is not a criteria for the effectiveness of this kind of meditation. Engagement is and the result is a more interior knowledge of Jesus.)

When you’ve given the group time to do this, come back together to discuss what you saw, felt and understood. (If you decided for some reason not to do this activity, still read the passage together and discuss whatever’s interesting to you. What sticks out as powerful, tender, special or confusing?)

After your time in meditative reading, consider the bottom line from our message Sunday:

Jesus is moved with compassion.

  • Does this trait of Jesus’ affect the way you feel about him? How so?
  • Can you think of other times in the Bible Jesus is compassionate? Make a list of at least five examples.
  • Has Jesus been compassionate to you? What does that look like?
  • What does it look like for us to imitate Jesus’ compassion? Give several examples of action inspired by compassion.
  • Can compassion exist without action? Why or why not?

Consider the following quote from John Holmes:

“There is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up.”

  • Do you think this is a good definition of compassion?

  • When have you witnessed someone reaching down and lifting another person up? Share a story.

What gets in the way of you feeling compassion for other people?

 

PRAYER

Tonight ask God to give you hearts easily moved by compassion, ask for eyes to see the people who’re in need of compassion and hands eager to serve in compassion.

After you pray, share someone in your life who’s calling out in need of your compassion, and ask the group to hold you accountable in responding to their need.

 

AN OPPORTUNITY

In case your group isn’t familiar, Compassion International is an amazing organization “reaching down and lifting people up.” Compassion pairs one poor child in a developing nation with a financially blessed supporting family. You pay a small amount per month and correspond with the child via letters and emails. The money you pay provides for your child’s unmet physical needs and their instruction in a local Bible school. Watch this video together to see if you might be interested in partnering with them to help lead the developing world toward Christ and out of poverty.

https://youtu.be/VqZntNNBMe4

 

EXTRA

Make a pitch for ShareFest! Let your group members know what it’s like, and encourage them to sign up to help. You might even make time for people to sign up on their phones during group.

 

 

 

Signs (part 1): Interrupted

TO START

For some people this question will be ridiculous, but it’s likely a few people in your group have a very passionate response: Do you have an all-time favorite Billboard or sign? Describe it to the group.

You might want to visit this lovely collection of church signs: http://www.beliefnet.com/inspiration/funny-church-signs

  • What do these outside signs tell you about the church inside?

Changing directions, do you have a favorite Bible miracle? Which one? Why do you like that one so much?

 

DISCUSSION

(Heads up: This is a great week to include the older kids (6+) in your group discussion if you'd like.)

This week we were in Mark 5:21-43. To start small group this week we strongly encourage you to do a meditative reading of the text together, encouraging members to use their imaginations and try to enter the story as if they were present.

1. Read the Gospel passage twice so that the story and the details of the story become familiar. Read it once, then read the questions below (#2), then read it a second time.

2. Close your eyes and reconstruct the scene in your imagination.

-What do you see? Hear? Smell? Feel?

-See what’s going on and watch the men and women in the scene.

-What does Jesus look like?

-How do the others react to him?

-What are the people saying to one another?

-What emotions fill their words?

-Is Jesus touching someone?

Explain to the group that they’re welcome to enter into the scene, perhaps as an observer, as one lining up for healing, or as one helping others to Jesus (whatever makes sense).

You can construct a movie-like scenario or simply enter the story verbally, reflecting on the scene and mulling over the actions. Vividness is not a criteria for the effectiveness of this kind of meditation. Engagement is and the result is a more interior knowledge of Jesus.)

When you’ve given the group time to do this, come back together to discuss what you saw, felt and understood. (If you decided for some reason not to do this activity, still read the passage together and discuss whatever’s interesting to you. What sticks out as powerful, tender, special or confusing?)

After your time in meditative reading, consider the bottom line from our message Sunday: Jesus is in charge.

  • Is that an easy truth to accept or a hard one? Had you been present for those miracles do you think you’d a have more solid sense of Jesus’ authority? Why or why not?

How does knowing Jesus is in charge shape the life you’re living?

 

LISTEN

Consider the following two song representations of this miracle (both of these links are videos with lyrics):

“One Touch” by Nicole C. Mullin:

“Hem Of His Garment” by Sam Cooke:

  • Which one do you think captures the essence of the miracle best? How so?

Don’t like songs? How about a cartoon version?

 

EXTRA

As our church is in the process of looking for new elder candidates you might take some time in your group to discuss what that means and see if any of your members have questions (about the process or about elder qualifications).

Songs About God (part 4): "Where Are You?" Songs

TO START

As a kid, did you ever get lost, lose your parents in a store, get left behind accidentally? How'd it feel? Tell your small group the story. It’ll help you forgive your parents (and it’s cheaper than therapy).

 

SCRIPTURE READING

Read Psalm 10.

  • How does it make you feel?
  • Do you relate to the Psalmist at all?
  • Why do you think this is the Bible?

Consider the psalmist’s words:

“Why, Lord, do you stand far off?

   Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?”

  • Have you ever wanted to pray these words to God?
  • Share a time when you wondered why God seemed so far off.
  • Did you turn to God during that time? If so, do you think that was a good choice? Why or why not? If you turned away from God, how did that go? What finally got you turned back?

 

DISCUSSION

On Sunday we said it’s important to bring our pain and questions to God for two reasons:

  1. He wants that because that’s how you have a relationship with someone.

  2. He wants it because he wants you to know him better.

How would bringing our doubts, sadness and confusion to God in prayer enable those two things? Have you seen those two things happen when you talk to God honestly in prayer? Explain.

Justin said on Sunday that it’s a good idea when you’re feeling far from God to make two lists: “Here’s what I don’t know” and “Here’s what I know.” Have you ever done something like this? What’s the value in mapping and categorizing your thoughts, feelings, and convictions?

Has this series inspired you to talk to God in a different way? Have you noticed any changes taking place in your prayer life? Have you tried writing a Psalm? Tell us about it.

 

PRAYER

Make a list of places, circumstances, relationships where it seems like God is far off. Make another list of things you know about God. Fill in this prayer (based on Psalm 10) with your lists:

Why, Lord, do you stand far off?

Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?

Times like these when ________________________ and ______________________ and

_______________ and ____________________ …

Arise, Lord! Lift up your hand, O God.

Do not forget the helpless.

The Lord is King for ever and ever;

You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted;

you encourage them, and you listen to their cry,

You are _______________ and _________________ and ____________________ and_______________ ...

God, be close to us and hear our prayer.

 

WATCH

A spoken word “Where Are You?” psalm (and imagined answer) by Joseph Solomon: https://youtu.be/QeY8lndPsdE

Songs About God (part 3): Angry Songs

If your small group meets on Sunday nights, please consider attending Plus 1 together. Don’t cancel group! Just change the location. :)

 

TO START

Have you ever done something really stupid when you were angry? Share with the group! This is a safe place. It’ll be fun. :)

 

SCRIPTURE READING

Read Psalm 69.

How does it make you feel?

Do you relate to the Psalmist at all?

Why do you think this is the Bible? Would you have put it in the Bible if you were in charge?

 

DISCUSSION

Have you ever been really and truly angry? What made you so upset? How did you handle your anger? Did you talk to God about it or run away from God because of it? Do you think you handled it well or poorly? Share with the group.

What’s valuable about turning toward God in our anger as opposed to turning away from Him? Think of relationships you’ve had with people--which is better, 1. to ignore and avoid someone when you’re angry with them, 2. to stuff your anger and pretend you’re fine, or 3. to face your anger and share it with the person who’s hurt you? Give an example if you have one.

On Sunday Justin asked, “Have you ever been so angry, you actually wished pain and suffering on the person who wronged you?” Then he said, if so, “What do you do with that?”

Well, what do we do with that? After considering these angry Psalms, what have you learned about dealing with vengeful anger in the presence of God?

If you’re not a person who gets angry, do you think you should get angry more? Is it possible you’re not getting angry because you’re not passionate about holiness, goodness, justice, etc.? What should you be angry about?

What can the church (remember, that’s you!) do to make more room for righteous anger? In our gatherings, in small groups, in personal relationships… Think of practical examples.

 

PRAYER

In the sermon, Justin said the psalmists have good reason to be angry. They’re angry about real injustice. What real, hard, hurtful or terrible things are you angry about? Share them together. Make a list and then pray it together. Say, “God, we’re angry about _______________.” You can also go on ahead and say what you wish would happen to those people/forces you’re angry at (so long as you do it in submission to the will of God).

 

DIGGING IN

So far in this discussion we’ve focused on expressing anger in God’s presence as being okay. What about what David does in the Psalms we’ve referenced--praying for the people who oppose him to be damned eternally? Is that something a Christian can do? Is David’s example permission (or more than permission, perhaps an invitation?) Consider this quick answer from John Piper: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eA7B9Qk9Tbo

Is Piper right or wrong? Or right and wrong? Discuss.