Defying Gravity (part 2): Washed

As it's Thanksgiving week there's a good chance your group won't be meeting. If you do, here are a few ways to spend your time together in a meaningful way:

1. This week we talked about baptism as the moment in which God washes us of our sin. Have group members each share their baptism story.

  • What lead you to make that decision?
  • Where were you?
  • How old were you?
  • Who helped lead you to that moment?
  • What do you remember remarkably clearly?
  • What can't you remember?
  • How has life been different since that moment?

If you have group members who haven't been baptized, be careful not to ostracize, but remember that telling these stories is a powerful tool for helping them understand the blessing of a relationship with God. 

2. Throw a Thanksgiving feast! Do a big potluck meal. Go around the table and ask, "What new thing are you thankful for this year?" Or maybe "What hard thing have you found reasons to be thankful for this year?"

3. Spend your week in prayer for one another.

  • Try and remember some of the things you've asked God for as a group over the past months or years. What prayers has your group seen answered? Thank God for those answers, reminders of His work and presence.
  • Pray a few of the thanksgiving Psalms. Read them aloud together and address them to God. Consider this list: https://www.personalcreations.com/blog/psalms-of-thanksgiving

 

Defying Gravity (part 1): Insidious

TO START

This week we’ll be talking about sin, our arch enemy. 

Make a list of superhero/villain or good guy/bad guy pairings. For each one, list both the villain’s most powerful weapon and the method the good guy (girl) uses to defeat it. Look for pointers in your battle against sin.

 

TO DISCUSS

Sin is your worst enemy. Justin said in this week’s sermon, “We need to see sin the way God sees it--as a hated oppositional force, an arch enemy.” Perhaps you haven’t always thought of it like that. 

  • Who or what might you have considered an enemy in the past? 
  • Have you ever thought of sin as a friend? What kind of friend did sin turn out to be? 
  • What could we do to help ourselves remember that sin is our enemy and not our friend? Think of some practical suggestions for re-aligning yourself.

Do you take sin seriously? Or are there sins you don’t see as dangerous and choose to keep close/undeterred? 

Do you struggle to buy into this idea of “sin”? Share with the group why you think that might be. What might be preventing you from seeing sin as serious?

Sin is bigger than you making an isolated bad choice. Sin is a force that’s courting you and seeking control over you. Does that affect the way we should react to it or prevent it? If so, how?

Does seeing sin as immensely powerful change the way you understand personal guilt, temptation, or even salvation? Discuss.

On Sunday we said sin bullies, consumes, kills and condemns. 

  • Give an example of sin bullying you. What does that look like in real life?
  • Have you ever seen sin consume a life? How did that play out? 
  • In the end, the wages of sin are death. Think through this physically AND spiritually. How might sin lead to death?
  • Finally, we said sin condemns us to Christ’s judgment. Next week we’ll consider how Christ has made escape from that judgment possible. But for now, have you ever had to bear the weight of that condemnation? What does it feel like?

 

TO READ

If your group is up for it, take a look at these passages, all summaries of the reigns of Israel’s kings after Jeroboam, son of Nebat. What’s going on here? 

  • Is sin something we inherit? 
  • In what way is sin bigger than decisions in a moment? 
  • How might your sin affect the people who come after you? 
  • How might you be affected by the sin of the people who came before you?

I Kings 15:1-3

“In the eighteenth year of the reign of Jeroboam son of Nebat, Abijah became king of Judah, and he reigned in Jerusalem three years. His mother’s name was Maakah daughter of Abishalom. He committed all the sins his father had done before him; his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his forefather had been."

1 Kings 16:26 

“He followed completely the ways of Jeroboam son of Nebat, committing the same sin Jeroboam had caused Israel to commit, so that they aroused the anger of the Lord, the God of Israel, by their worthless idols.”

1 Kings 16:31 

“He not only considered it trivial to commit the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, but he also married Jezebel daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and began to serve Baal and worship him.”

1 Kings 22:52 

“He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, because he followed the ways of his father and mother and of Jeroboam son of Nebat, who caused Israel to sin.”

2 Kings 3:3 

“Nevertheless he clung to the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit; he did not turn away from them.”

2 Kings 10:29 

“However, he did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit—the worship of the golden calves at Bethel and Dan.”

2 Kings 13:2 

“He did evil in the eyes of the Lord by following the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit, and he did not turn away from them.”

2 Kings 13:11 

“He did evil in the eyes of the Lord and did not turn away from any of the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit; he continued in them.”

2 Kings 14:24 

“He did evil in the eyes of the Lord and did not turn away from any of the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit.”

2 Kings 15:9 

“He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, as his predecessors had done. He did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit.”

2 Kings 15:18 

“He did evil in the eyes of the Lord. During his entire reign he did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit.”

2 Kings 15:24 

“Pekahiah did evil in the eyes of the Lord. He did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit.”

2 Kings 15:28 

“He did evil in the eyes of the Lord. He did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit.”

 

TO PRAY

In some Baptist churches, those who’ve been separated from God by sin pray a prayer they call “The Sinner’s Prayer.” While we don’t see this moment in prayer as the place at which sins are washed away, we do believe in acknowledging our sins and asking God to lift them. Consider praying this portion of the sinner’s prayer (lines that are always applicable to our lives here on earth) together as a group: 

“Father, I know that I have broken your laws and my sins have separated me from you. I am truly sorry, and now I want to turn away from my past sinful life toward you. Please forgive me, and help me avoid sinning again. I believe that your son, Jesus Christ died for my sins, was resurrected from the dead, is alive, and hears my prayer.”

 

TO DO

Homework: Look for the sin in your life. Where do you think the forces of sin and death might have taken territory in your heart? Make a list of your own, identifying places you’re most likely to give in to temptation, AND consider asking a friend or two to cast light on the sins you might be coddling or overlooking. You may decide to share one or two of these sins with your small group next week and have them pray for your freedom.

Adopted

TO START

This Sunday we talked about being the adopted children of God. Before we talk about what it means to be God’s children, what does it mean to you to be your parents’ child?

What are the perks/blessings of being the son or daughter of your physical father?

What kind of inheritance do you have (this could be material or in personality/character)?

 

TO READ

Read John 14:15-31.

Here, Jesus says he won’t leave the apostles as orphans. What does He mean by that?

What can we learn about our relationship with Jesus, the Father and the Spirit from this passage?

 

TO DISCUSS

Justin started his sermon this Sunday with a string of questions. Have you ever asked yourself any of these:

  • Do I belong?
  • Do I matter?
  • Am I truly loved?
  • Am I safe?
  • Is there hope for me?
  • Is my past always going to follow me?
  • Does what I’ve done make me unlovable?
  • Is everything really going to work out in the end?

Share which question you’re most likely to ask. Why do you think this question sticks in your teeth?

As you consider the idea of adoption, try as a group to list the benefits of having a family (vs not having one). List at least ten reasons it’s good to have a family.

Now consider reasons it’s good to be adopted by God. What benefits do you find in joining God’s family? Share your personal experience. You might revisit our list of questions above. How does adoption answer those questions?

Have you ever looked for belonging outside of God? Where have you gone looking? What makes belonging hard?

What does God do to help/enable belonging in His family?

We said on Sunday, “God can’t welcome you into his family unless you let Him.”

How do we let Him? What practical steps do we need to take?

End your discussion this week with a consideration of the call to be like our Father and adopt those in need of love, belonging and security.

Is there anyone in your group who might/should/could consider adopting a child? Do you know someone you should encourage to adopt?

What are the reasons why a person might adopt?

Are there legitimate reasons not to adopt? Which of our reasons are legitimate and which reasons represent excuses?

What is your group doing (in a personal or collective way) to take care of orphans?

 

TO PRAY

This week, pray for the four orphans our church has committed to pray for: Natalie, Jake, Nelly and Abe. Pray that they would find a home and a family.

Too, pray that God would soften hearts in our church family and lead a couple (or a couple couples) into a decision to adopt.

 

Skeptics Welcome (part 4): Self-ish

TO START

Give each group member a piece of paper and some crayons or markers. Have members draw a picture of themselves. Around the picture have them answer the question: Who am I?

Share your pictures.

How do we as humans determine our personal identity? What were some different ways your group chose to define themselves? How might you have defined yourself differently in middle or high school than you do now?

 

TO DISCUSS

We began our discussion of identity (from both a secular and spiritual perspective) by identifying two ways humans have historically defined themselves: in the context of community and through personal expression. Consider the following questions you answer every day.

  • What do I wear?
  • What do I eat?
  • What words do I say and not say?
  • What stories do I tell?
  • What do I drive?
  • What do I watch?

Do you make these decisions out of community identity or out of individual expression? What makes you come to that answer? Do you feel like one answer is more honorable or respectable than another?

If culture right now is saying, “What I want is who I am,” what might be problematic about that approach to identity?

  • Have you ever wanted something but decided it wasn’t who you were? Share.
  • Have you ever gotten confused and followed the path of identity in personal pursuit of wants and desires? Share with the group.

Identity is all about self-assertion. As Keller articulates it, “You are your individual dreams and desires, and your self-worth depends on the dignity you bestow on yourself.” Is that true? Does it work?

Consider Matthew 11: 28-30.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

What is a yoke? (Answer: a wooden crosspiece that is fastened over the necks of two animals and attached to the plow or cart that they are to pull).

If Jesus is asking us to accept a yoke to what is He comparing us?

How are we like oxen?

If we take Jesus’ yoke, how does that affect our ability to exercise personal expression? How much choice do oxen have in where and how they’ll plow?

What is the result of taking Jesus’ yoke? Have you had that experience? Share a time when you were under Jesus’ yoke (doing something you didn’t necessarily want to do personally) and yet discovered an "easy and light" manner of life.

 

TO READ

Read I Chronicles 17:16-27.

  • Who is Solomon according to this passage? How does he define himself?
  • What would it look like for Solomon to pursue his own self-actualization based on His understanding of what determines identity?
  • What can you learn about your own identity from this passage?

 

TO PRAY

Make a list together of unhealthy places you’ve sought identity. Then, pray this prayer of confession and realignment, inserting your list into the blank:

Lord, I pray that I would stop trying to find my identity in anything other than being Your child, a child of the King and a citizen in the Kingdom of God. Thank You for this amazing grace in my life! Lord, help me see the minute I start placing my identity in something else, like ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Help me in those moments to remember that nothing brings me peace and fulfillment  me the way You do. Help me rebuke my desires and remember to Whom I belong. In Jesus’ Name, Amen!

 

Skeptics Welcome (part 3): Hold the Magic

TO START

If God came down today and told you that one story in the Bible wasn’t actually true (honestly He couldn’t believe you’d ever actually bought it), which story would it be? Which is the “craziest” story in the Bible?

 

TO DISCUSS

In the sermon Sunday Justin mentioned that some of us have a very sensitive “magic meter”--meaning, some of us are quickly skeptical of things that don’t align with the rules of the natural world or our own personal experience.

  • Outside of the Bible, have you ever been in a situation when your magic meter went off, when a circumstance or conversation or TV show or entertainer or friend’s story lost you because it was too “magical”? Share with the group.
  • If you don’t have a particularly sensitive magic meter, why do you think that is? Is it ever a problem to be so open?

Have you ever personally been derailed (or tripped up) in your pursuit of Christ by the weirder, more miraculous/supernatural parts of the Bible? Share a Bible story or detail that got to you. Why was that so hard to believe?

As humans, we often feel like if we can’t explain it, it doesn’t exist. Does that make sense? Why or why not?

  • Make a list of things you personally can’t explain the inner workings of (but enjoy using or relying upon). Examples: wifi, gravity, Diet Coke

We said in the lesson, there is no Christianity without the supernatural. There is no God without the metaphysical. Is that true? Can’t we just take some Jesus and not the weird stuff? If not, why not?

What would it look like to live your life in a way that presumed (even required) the existence of the supernatural? How would you act differently than someone who didn’t believe in the supernatural?

How does it make you feel to know SO much is going on in realms outside our ability to perceive? Why do you think science might be more attractive than religious faith?

 

TO READ

Read Col. 2:8-15

“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ. For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you[d] alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”

  • What did Jesus triumph over on the cross? Is the cross a “magical” or “enchanted” or “supernatural” event? Is it possible to embrace the cross without embracing the supernatural?
  • What might “the elemental spiritual forces of this world” be? “Human tradition”? “Deceptive philosophy”?
  • Is Christ head over the natural world according to this passage? What does that mean, practically and specifically?

 

TO PRAY

So often we’re tempted to embrace the world as culture tells us it exists: reality is what we can see with our eyes. Tonight, with your group, commit to embracing a world bigger than the one we can see by praying 2 Corinthians 4:18. Just say these words together:

God, our Father, fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

You might decide to repeat them until you’ve got them memorized or have everyone write them on an index card. Encourage the group to pray this prayer every day this week.

 

Skeptics Welcome (part 2): Just One Rule?

TO START

Share a time when you were in High School and you and your parents/guardians disagreed over whether or not you deserved a certain freedom. What did you want to do? Why didn’t your parents want you to do it?

Do you feel differently about freedom now that you’re an adult?

Do you feel differently about freedom for you than you do about freedom for others?

 

TO DISCUSS

During this series Justin has encouraged us not to think in terms of “proving God” but rather “doubting our doubts.”

Which are you more likely to doubt--faith or culture? Do you find yourself applying the same standards for truth to both arenas?

Consider the following quotes from our lesson this week:

  • “Most of us in America believe a few simple propositions that seem so clear and self-evident they scarcely need to be said. Choice is a good thing in life, and the more of it we have, the happier we are. Authority is inherently suspect; nobody should have the right to tell others what to think or how to behave.” -Alan Ehrenhalt

  • “Let me be me, or let me be.”

  • “Let each person do their own thing, and ...one shouldn’t criticize the other’s values, because they have a right to live their own life as you do. The [only] sin which is not tolerated is intolerance.” -Charles Taylor

  • “Today as a culture we believe freedom is the highest good, that becoming free is the only heroic story we have left, and that giving individuals freedom is the main role of any institution and of society itself. It is, we could say, the baseline cultural narrative of our Western culture. It has always been important, but now it is ultimately important. It is the one truth that relativizes all other doctrines and beliefs.” -Tim Keller

Are these ideas familiar to you? Do you feel like any of those quotes represents the truth? In your gut, do you want them to be true--as in, do you ultimately want the freedom to dictate your own life?

Look back over your life, if you’d had ultimate freedom to do what made you happy, would you have made any big mistakes? Like what? Share a specific example.

Have you ever bumped up against someone else’s freedom (causing them to resent or attack you) OR had the consequences of someone else’s freedom bump up against you (inconveniencing or hurting you)? Share with the group.

Perhaps you’ve exercised freedom in a way that ultimately hurt others or separated you from meaningful community. Share that, too.

Why does doing what we deem to be right (and using that as the ultimate filter for behavior and decisions) push us away from others? Think through the consequences of a society based on that principle.

We ended Sunday by saying, “True freedom, and the joy that comes with it, awaits when you submit your will to God.”

  • Has that been your experience?

  • How can obedience bring freedom? Think of a specific example.  

 

TO READ

Read Psalm 119:33-48.

What, according to the Psalmist, are the benefits of adhering to God’s precepts and commands? Make a list.

 

TO PRAY

This Sunday we looked at Jeremiah’s prayer in Jeremiah 10:23-24,

“Lord, I know that people’s lives are not their own;

   it is not for them to direct their steps.

Discipline me, Lord, but only in due measure—

   not in your anger,

   or you will reduce me to nothing.”

  • Where do you want God to discipline you? Is there an area of your life where you’re exercising unhealthy freedom and self-direction? Confess it to your group and pray together for discipline.

Skeptics Welcome (part 1): Who Needs God?

TO START

A skeptic is “a person who questions the validity or authenticity of something purporting to be factual or a person who maintains a doubting attitude, as toward values, plans,statements, or the character of others.”

Have members share whether they’re skeptical of the following polarizing statements by a show of hands. Raise your hand if you’re skeptical:

  • Aliens exist.
  • University of Texas football is poised to make a big turn around.
  • Forgiveness is always the right choice.
  • Miracles happen today.
  • Most politicians are genuine, honest, and have dignity.
  • You could win a car if you’d take the flyer you got in the mail saying you’d won a car to the local dealership. 
  • Essential Oils actually cure ailments.
  • Fracking pollutes water supplies. 
  • Modern societies will never engage in nuclear warfare.
  • Doing flashcards with your baby will make her smarter. 
  • Ice cream is bad for you.

In general, why are we skeptical of some things and not so skeptical about others? 

Would you say you’re naturally skeptical, gullible, or somewhere in the middle?

 

TO DISCUSS

On Sunday we said culture teaches us, “Christians are people living by blind faith, while secular individuals or those who don’t believe in God are grounding their position in evidence and reason.” 

  • Have you heard that before? Share an encounter.
  • Has that been your experience? Would you say you have blind faith? Have you had blind faith at any point?
  • What would you say your faith is built on?

Are you personally experiencing a season of skepticism when it comes to your faith? What are you questioning? Where do you find doubts creeping in? (As a group, try not to dismiss anyone’s doubts. Seek to first understand and empathize.)

In this first installment of the Skeptics Welcome series we considered the oft repeated statement: “You don’t need God to have a full life of meaning, hope, and satisfaction.” 

  • Is that true? Why or why not?
  • What would you say to someone who believed it? 
  • How does this perspective differ from the way a Christian understands meaning and satisfaction?

On Sunday we contrasted “Discovered Meaning” and “Created Meaning.”

  • What’s the difference?
  • Why is one better than the other?  

Have you ever created meaning? Tell the group about it. 

Have you ever discovered meaning? What was that like? 

What does a life of meaning, hope and satisfaction look like for the Christian? 

  • How does a Christian pursue it? 
  • What does he do, say, invest in, seek? 
  • How does she spend her time and money? 

 

TO PRAY & READ

Tonight, pray Psalm 27. As you read, change the text from talking about God to talking to God. 

 

TO WATCH

Consider this 10 minute interview between renowned atheist Richard Dawkins and comedian Ricky Gervais on the meaning of life.

  • What do you think about this perspective? 
  • What do you find compelling?
  • Where do you see inconsistencies?
  • Where do you have questions or opposition? 

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. :)