Monthly Archives: October 2012

10/21/12 Weekly Small Groups GPS Guide

(The weekly GPS Small Group Guide can be downloaded in .PDF format from the individual sermon page, found at in Sermon Archives)

“Imagine the Future: Come Dream With Us”

A Grow-Pray-Study guide for small groups
This guide uses the Scripture readings from the daily “GPS” study guide. Group members may read the daily readings before the group meeting, or read the verses aloud when the group meets. The group may subdivide into two or three smaller groups, each discussing a set of the daily readings and the matching questions on page 2, or the entire group may discuss those questions together. We pray that, whatever pattern of study you choose, the Holy Spirit will weave God’s Word into the life and heart of each group member.

1 Peter 2:4-10

The New Testament writers used vivid, timeless images to help us grasp what God is doing in human lives. Peter saw God’s people as “living stones” God was building into a temple, just as the apostle Paul drew on the human body to call the church “the body of Christ” (cf. 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12). Peter said all of us are “a holy nation” called to be “God’s instruments to…tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you” (The Message).

2 Corinthians 5:14-20

Our vision at Resurrection begins with “changing lives.” This is the “DNA” of the church, the body of Christ, from its very beginning. Jesus commissioned his followers to “make disciples” (cf. Matthew 28:18-20), and Paul echoed that in his lyrical call to the Christ-followers in the city of Corinth. They were a “new creation,” with a mission to call others to “be reconciled to God.”

Luke 4:16-21

The second element of Resurrection’s vision is “transforming communities.” In this, too, we follow Jesus’ lead. In his hometown synagogue in Nazareth, Jesus read from Isaiah 61. He said he (and, implicitly, his followers) had a God-given mission to care for the poor, the blind, the prisoners and the oppressed. Later, in Matthew 25:31-40, he presented that as a crucial factor in God’s final judgment..

Ephesians 3:10-21

Finally, Resurrection’s vision is to be about “renewing the church.” Pastor Bill Hybels loves to say that “the local church is the hope of the world,” and the apostle Paul would agree. He wrote that the church is God’s main vehicle to show his wisdom and glory. But “the church” is people—and it’s a fact that we humans can grow tepid spiritually. When that has happened through the centuries, God has called his people to renewal (cf. Revelation 3:14-22).

Ephesians 2:19-22

Pastor Hamilton has often said that “when the building burns down, and the preacher leaves town, what you have left is the church.” Paul’s words in these verses remind us that our physical structures are never “the church.” They are simply tools God can use—God’s ultimate work is building US into “a place where God lives through the Spirit.”

Matthew 16:13-18

When Jesus looked to most people like a poor rabbi with fewer than 100 followers, Peter boldly spoke his belief: “You are the Christ [God’s anointed one], the Son of the living God.” Jesus said Peter had learned that from God. Then he added his bold vision: his church would be so spiritually powerful that not even “the gates of the underworld” [i.e. Hades—the realm of the dead] would be able to stand against it. And he showed that to be true by dying, and then rising from the dead!

To access the Family Activity suggested in this week’s GPS, download the printable GPS from


Heavenly Father, we pray that each of us might be one of your building blocks for the continued growth of faith in our community and in the world. We pray that we, as a group and as a church community, may take part in your ultimate victory over the forces of evil. Bless us as we offer ourselves and our possessions to accomplish your plan. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.


Would America be a better place to live if a lot more people committed or recommitted to Christ and started going to church regularly? What kinds of positive changes would you anticipate if this happened?


  • Read 1 Peter 2:4-10. Can you identify with this imagery? Do you see yourself as a “living stone,” a building block of Christ’s church? Do you believe that God built our local church? What (or who) were his building blocks? Do you see Christians today as “a holy nation”? In what way are we a “holy priesthood”? Do we do a good job of declaring the praises of Jesus? As a church, the body of Christ, what are some of the ways we could do a better job in our own community?
  • Read 2 Corinthians 5:14-20. If we truly have been given “the ministry of reconciliation,” who are we to be reconciling or bringing together? How do we, first, reconcile ourselves to God? Has our church, so far, been a positive influence on individuals, reconciling them to God? Has our church changed lives in terms of an improved Christian experience and stronger faith? What can we do to change even more lives?
  • Read Luke 4:16-21. Jesus returned to his home town and with his statement that he was the Messiah, he turned the entire town upside down. He began the transformation of the community of Nazareth. It also began the transformation of other towns throughout the world and throughout history.  Did Mother Teresa transform the communities in which she lived and worked? Did her work do anything to transform the world? Although we might not be as well publicized, can we, as individuals and as a church, do something to transform the world? Is it even possible that we might do things that are so transformational that people throughout the world might take notice?
  • Read Ephesians 3:10-21. Paul says, “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being…” Has your own experience within our church strengthened and renewed you? What part of you has been strengthened and renewed? Would you like more people to be renewed? Have other churches been renewed as a result of our efforts? Should we stop now, believing we have done as much as we can for other people and other churches? If not, what possibilities do you see for extending our efforts to help renew the church?
  • Read Ephesians 2:19-22. Is it presumptuous to believe that our church, our community of believers, actually is “A place where God lives through the Spirit”? Would any Christian group of believers be presumptuous in saying the same thing? Are we talking about our buildings? Do you feel a sense of belonging as you read Paul’s letter when he says you are “members of God’s household”? Do you feel a sense of belonging to this local church? What part does this group play in that? Would you like more people to share your sense of belonging, or would you rather keep it to yourself? Why? Are you working to continue to build our church? How do you keep Christ at the center of your efforts?
  • Read Matthew 16:13-18. Jesus promised that nothing in heaven or on earth could destroy his church. Looking back on history and today’s news, do you believe this? Is membership growth, one aspect of Christ’s church, threatened in today’s world? Are the members and staffs of existing churches a major weapon against such a threat? Could our own church be a viable and significant weapon in that arsenal?

From last week: Did you prayerfully make an honest list of your priorities, listing them from the most important at the top? Did you limit the list to 4-6 items? If you are willing, tell the group how the list turned out and how you arrived at the priorities.


From Pastor Hamilton’s sermon, October 21, 2012:

Let’s start with three biblical images of the church. Throughout the New Testament the church is referred to as the beloved or the Bride of Christ. Jesus refers to himself as the bridegroom. Paul calls husbands to love their wives as Christ loves the church. Jesus loves the church. We are his beloved, his people, for whom he was willing to die. The church makes known the love of God in Jesus Christ and we, through worship and discipleship, help people grow in, and express their love for him.

A second biblical image for the church is The Family of God. Christians call each other brother and sister. We care for, build up and encourage one another. The entire New Testament presupposes that Christians live out their faith with others. The New Testament word for what is supposed to happen in the church is KOINONIA, often translated “fellowship” or “community.” It is mutual care for one another—building one another up in love. It is a joyous, self-giving relationship we’re meant to share.

A third biblical image for the church is The Body of Christ. Christ ministered for three years, called disciples to follow him, he sought to bring sinners back to God, he healed the sick, he preached the good news of the Kingdom, he fed the hungry, he gave peace to the frightened, he forgave sins, he gave himself for us, and he rose from the grave. The things that Jesus did while he was on the earth are what he has called us the church to now do. We are in the business of befriending sinners, calling disciples, healing the broken, offering forgiveness, clothing the naked and feeding the hungry, and giving hope to the world. You’ve heard me say before that when God wants to do something on this earth he doesn’t send angels, he sends the church….

Millennials, people born between 1980 and 2000, are the most nominally religious generation in history. Though 68% believe in God they are opting out of the church. In the last five years alone the number of Millennials who, when asked their religion, identify it as “none” has increased 33%. What leads them away from the church? According to a GeorgetownUniversity study 58% say Christians are hypocritical, 62% that they are judgmental and 64% say the church is anti-gay.

But you are seen by Millennials as a different kind of church. Do you know that we have 2,618 active members between the ages of 20 and 34? And another 4,100 between the ages of 10 and 19! We’ve got to do great work with children and youth so they don’t leave their faith when they’re older. But our approach to mission, ministry and faith is compelling to a lot of Millennials.

Among our strategies to do this at Leawood has been our Vibe worship service, and New Traditions at 9:00 a.m. Six years ago we also began starting campuses where populations of non-religious or nominally religious young adults live: Resurrection West, Downtown and Blue Springs. These campuses combined had nearly 1,500 in worship last weekend, up 50% to 120% from the same weekend a year ago! You are bucking the trend in connecting with Millennials. We also launched our online campus four years ago. Last Sunday 2,197 people worshiped with us online, up 66% from the same weekend a year ago.

In the years ahead we’ll be looking to launch more campuses where non-religious or nominally religious adults might be drawn to our congregation if we were in their community. We’ll expand our use of technology. We’ll continue to focus on great children’s and youth programs. I believe that, twenty years from now, we’ll have ten campuses, and there will be at least 10,000 people who become Christ followers during that time who otherwise would have remained non-religious or nominally religious. 10,000.

In our ministry to transform communities, our commitment to the schools and the neighborhoods around them is only just hitting its stride. There are 2,334 children who attend the six schools we work with. We’ll likely add a couple of others in the years ahead. In twenty years there will be 10,000 children in Kansas City who will have graduated from these elementary schools with a better chance at a future with hope because of our work together. 10,000 children.

In the area of renewing churches, I’m convinced that twenty years from now there will be 10,000 churches that may have died, but instead will be alive, because of the work we do in renewing churches. 10,000, with an average membership of 100, is 1,000,000 people affecting their communities because of this effort. I see each of these 10,000 new Christ followers, 10,000 children in poverty, and 10,000 churches as a pebble tossed into a pond. The ripple from each of them will touch hundreds of other people over the course of their lives. That is the vision. This is what you will make happen over the next twenty years!


Searching for the Lost Generation

When I first left home for college seven years ago, I was finally able to search for a church on my own. I’d attended a single church up till then, and I was anxious to find a new body of believers. I quickly found a college group at an established church, but I was shocked by how detached the group felt from the rest of the body. In the years since, most of the churches I’ve attended don’t know what to do with my generation, the Millennials. As Millennials leave the church in droves, church leadership scrambles to find ways to retain the few that stay and hope that the rest will eventually return on their own.

The world is becoming more complicated. We’ve given people a cultural vision of Christ, but not the tools to live in this increasingly complex culture. Millennials are coming of age in this new culture, so it defines them in a unique way. While Baby Boomers are constantly astounded by new ways to communicate and access information, Millennials were born connected.

Boomers may have learned about Paul’s tent-making side-job in seminary, but many Millennials fully expect to hold multiple jobs at once and change careers throughout their lives in pursuit of a single calling.

They may not automatically return. Many people assume Millennials who have left the church will come back as they get married and have children. But research shows that people are taking longer to settle down, get married, and have kids than in previous generations. Are we really willing to wait until a young adult is 35 to reconnect? It’s also a bit presumptuous to think that marriage and babies will automatically bring young adults back.

It is different ministering in Jerusalem than in Babylon. As the West continues moving in a post-Christian direction, churches must recognize that our culture is starting to resemble Babylon more than Jerusalem. But Christianity has flourished in many cultural contexts. As we acknowledge the changing world, we shouldn’t fear it.

This generation is creative and entrepreneurial. 52 percent of Millennials are interested in science-related careers. However, when youth pastors were surveyed, less than 1 percent claimed to have taught on science-related issues in the last year. Perhaps this is the type of disconnect that leads many young thinkers to conclude that the church is anti-science.

Millennials seem ready to take great risks for their values. But many may be unprepared for the failure that comes with risk. They want to be heard, and they want to see the impact of their work immediately—just look at their immersion in responsive technologies such as smart phones and tablets. Millennials are far more concerned with the objective worth of their ideas than the value of experience or time-served.

If churches are going to attract young adults, they must connect them with older members. Churches want to involve young adults in meaningful ways. But often churches misfire by either (1) presenting Jesus as a means to an end (to health, to wealth, to better relationships, to the “good life”) or (2) presenting the church as merely about service or mission. If the church can only offer a “benefits package” or service opportunities, then it really doesn’t have anything unique to offer in the cultural marketplace. But thankfully the church has something that no other organization does: Jesus. We should promote relationship with Christ first; fruit and acts of service will flow from this relationship….

Church leaders need to learn about the changing culture: the good, the bad, and the trendy. We shouldn’t dismiss culture entirely, but we also shouldn’t automatically appropriate cultural norms. Thankfully, Jesus is incarnational: his truth transcends, dwells within, and transforms culture. All of the service projects and tech-savvy pastors in the world will prove worthless if they aren’t for the sake of true relationship with Christ.


Final application:

This week, each morning, pray for your local church and for the broader, world-wide church of Christian believers. Pray about how you can be involved in the growth of Christ’s church. Next week, report to the group whatever you thought or felt about this.


10/14/12 Weekly Small Groups GPS Guide

(The weekly GPS Small Group Guide can be downloaded in .PDF format from the individual sermon page, found at in Sermon Archives)

Politics & Religion: “E Pluribus Unum”

A Grow-Pray-Study guide for small groups
This guide uses the Scripture readings from the daily “GPS” study guide. Group members may read the daily readings before the group meeting, or read the verses aloud when the group meets. The group may subdivide into two or three smaller groups, each discussing a set of the daily readings and the matching questions on page 2, or the entire group may discuss those questions together. We pray that, whatever pattern of study you choose, the Holy Spirit will weave God’s Word into the life and heart of each group member.

Matthew 17:24-27, 22:15-22

Citizens of Israel in Jesus’ day reacted in two ways to Roman rule. Some (e.g. tax collectors) went along with it to gain wealth, or at least to avoid trouble. Others hated and resisted it as an insult to them and their God. Seeing only those two options, Jesus’ enemies thought they had him trapped. But he taught a profoundly different way: dual citizenship, honoring legitimate duties to the state, but giving ultimate loyalty to God as king..

John 18:10-11, 33-40

John 6:15 showed that, after feeding 5,000 people (and no doubt at other times, too) Jesus could probably have taken political power if he’d wanted to. But he hadn’t come to create that kind of kingdom. Jesus baffled Pontius Pilate, a typical Roman political climber, who asked him, “So you are a king?” Calmly contained, Jesus asserted his kingship—but said it came from, and ruled over, a totally different realm.

Matthew 5:21-24, 43-48

Using today’s political language, we’d say the Sermon on the Mount was Jesus’ “platform.” In it, he defined his kingdom’s principles. A striking part of that platform, especially when we are being barraged by campaign ads, was the unusual way Jesus taught his followers to relate to enemies. Avoid contemptuous, angry words or attitudes, he said. Instead offer God’s love to everyone.

John 17:20-23

John told us Jesus prayed this prayer the night before he went to the cross. As the Jewish leaders, afraid of losing their human power, plotted his death, Jesus prayed that his followers would have a divine unity not even politics could disrupt. His disciples included a Zealot (a radical Hebrew nationalist) and a tax collector (a Roman agent—cf. Luke 5:27, 6:15). But, in his kingdom, those different backgrounds no longer needed to define or divide them.

Romans 12:9-13:1

First-century Rome was a lot like Washington, D.C.—a city obsessed with politics. So it was especially striking that, in his letter to Christians in Rome, the apostle Paul called them to live as Jesus, their true king, did. They were to seek peace, and overcome evil with good. Like Jesus, Paul virtually ignored human power struggles (Nero was probably emperor when Paul wrote this letter), and focused on living as citizens of God’s invisible yet supreme kingdom.

Ephesians 4:29-5:2

Ephesians 4:15 called on readers to grow in Christ by “speaking the truth in love.” That set the stage for today’s passage, which outlined Jesus’ values. God’s people, it said, can live in unity without anger or insults, being kind, compassionate and forgiving toward each other. That principle wasn’t limited to realm of political disagreements—but it certainly didn’t exempt them, either.

To access the Family Activity suggested in this week’s GPS, download the printable GPS from


Jesus, you have showed us in your life, and taught us with your words, the kind of people you call us to be. We sense your Spirit within us, and yet we struggle against the brokenness that often afflicts us. Strengthen us and help us to find our way back to your path, Lord. Help us to find your love within us and to make it our own. Help us to reflect that love in our daily lives. Amen.


How would America react in the voting booth if a presidential candidate approached campaigning in an entirely new way: one that was considerate of the feelings and beliefs of the opposition, avoided exaggeration, lies and negative advertising, and ignored any negative campaigning by the opposition? (This is hypothetical—do not use current campaigns as good examples of this!)


  • Read Matthew 17:24-27, 22:15-22. In these verses, Jesus avoided the trap by referring to a dual citizenship, honoring legitimate duties to the state, but giving ultimate loyalty to God as king. What do you suppose the Pharisees thought as they hurried away? Do we all tend to have some degree of divided loyalties? When should our ultimate loyalty to God supersede other loyalties? Have you ever made a list of your loyalties, starting with the most important? Where do family and country rank? Where do you rank? Recognizing how important your loyalty to God is, how important is loyalty to yourself? When might loyalty to country or family have to take a back seat to self, or vice versa?
  • Read John 18:10-11, 33-40. The Jewish hierarchy could not contend with the truth of Jesus’ teaching, so they turned him over to the state. At that point, “religion” and politics were at loggerheads. In both readings, Jesus denied his willingness to assume any form of political power even though he could have easily done so. What would have made Jesus a great political leader? Would you have supported him in that role? What qualities do you look for in choosing the people you have and will vote for? How important is character? God choose King David because of his “heart.” Is that the same as character? Would you be willing to reexamine your political choices in light of the standard of leadership God chose, or is that standard too high to be applied to politics today?
  • Read Matthew 5:21-24, 43-48. These verses contain Jesus’ commands about how we should treat one another and, especially, our enemies. How do these words apply to the feelings political campaigns tend to generate? Do we ever feel contempt toward people with political views different than our own? Why do you think this often is true? How would Jesus instruct us in these circumstances? How would you describe Jesus’ ‘platform”? Are you willing to pray for religious and political people with whom you disagree? Why or why not?
  • Read John 17:20-23. In this prayer, Jesus was praying for all believers then and yet to come. He was praying for believers regardless of their background. He was praying for you and for me. He was praying for a holy unity in faith. How do you feel knowing that Jesus was praying for you? How do you feel knowing that Jesus was praying for all of us? Do you feel that all Christians are united by our faith? Is this unity more important than all the issues that might tend to divide us? What can we do to confirm and solidify our Christian unity?
  • Read Romans 12:9-13:1. From this week’s GPS, these verses “…focused on living as citizens of God’s invisible yet supreme kingdom,” a kingdom above all earthly (or unearthly) kingdoms. Paul spoke words for us to live by. Do you think these timeless words speak to today’s intense political wrangling? Within Christianity, how are we doing at “liv(ing) at peace with all people”? How are we doing with, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good”? How much focus to Christians put on these words? Does reading these words cause you to want to live a little differently?
  • Read Ephesians 4:29-5:2. Wow! What a timely message to guide us in dealing with the rampant emotions that seem to flow, almost unbidden, during political campaigns. Do these words also apply to a broader spectrum of our lives? Do these words only apply to how we act outwardly? In what ways can we, especially during the next three weeks, open ourselves to God so that we might behave and feel the way God calls us to?

From last week: Did you consider the richness and diversity of American cultures? Did you focus on the wonderful country that diversity makes us? Did you make it a week of prayer, thanking God for a richness that makes America so special in the world? Describe to the group whatever you experienced in doing this.


From Pastor Hamilton’s sermon, October 14, 2012:

Unfortunately people who call themselves Christians have sometimes been a part of the acrimony and divisiveness in politics.  Some of the least Christian things I’ve heard about this or that candidate have been from the lips of people who claimed to be followers of Jesus.

Several weeks ago I invited you to read the Gospel of Matthew. If you’ve been doing that you’ve already heard much about what it means to follow Jesus. He tells us in the same section where he speaks about being a city on a hill, in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7, that we are not to call others “fool” or we’ll be in danger of judgment. We’re to tell the truth. We’re to turn the other cheek. We’re to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. We’re to not judge others, but instead to take the log out of our own eye before we take the splinter out of their eyes. If this does not have to do with how we conduct ourselves in the political season then when does it relate?!

Our scripture from Paul is a powerful one for the season of politics. One of the themes Paul takes up in Ephesians is the theme of unity, for the Christians he was writing to were divided. Paul was trying to bring together Jews and Greeks, slaves and free, men and women, upper classes and lower classes, into one body, the church. The church was doing, in its day, what America sought to do in its founding–captured by a phrase that graces the back of our national seal, E Pluribus Unum–“out of many, one.”

To deal with the various factions that arose in the churches, and that were present in the society Paul gave some basic guidelines. Listen: “Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.”  This is one of those verses that stand out to me. As I’ve taught you before, the word for “evil” here is SAPROS and it means putrid or rotten. It is the word that describes what you find in a Tupperware of leftovers that were in the back of the refrigerator for six months–you open it and the smell is so horrible you decide it’s better to throw the Tupperware away than to try to clean it out. Paul says, Don’t let that stuff come out of your mouth.

He goes on to say: “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God.” Their disunity was grieving the Holy Spirit. God was pained by the way they spoke to and about one another.

He continues: Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.

In Ephesians 4, Paul described how the Ephesians acted towards others before they came to faith, but he says, “No more!” In Christ there is neither male nor female, Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, and I believe he would say today, “Republican nor Democrat, for all are one in him”….

Let’s recognize that there is truth and goodness and beauty, as well as ignorance and error, on both sides of the political divide. Let’s pray for our leaders. Let’s avoid putrid talk coming out of our mouths but only what is useful for building up. And let’s pull together, Republicans and Democrats, to work and pray, that America might look more like a “city upon a hill.”


Old Testament “Politics” – Why did God choose David to be king?

(1 Samuel 16:1-13; 2 Samuel 5:1-5)

Saul, Israel’s first king, got off to an appalling start. He had scarcely served 5% of his tenure when he was rejected by God. Saul didn’t keep the commandment of God, so “the Lord…sought Him a man after His own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14). Saul had turned back from following God, becoming rebellious and stubborn. Saul was suffering from a common human affliction–he ceased to be little in his own sight. So God took the kingdom of Israel from him.

And God chose David, whose heart was set after God’s. God chose one of the least, knowing full well that he would always remain that way at heart. God chose an obscure server with a shepherd’s heart. God chose a follower with a rock-solid faith and a delicate conscience.

Samuel suffered from another common human affliction–dazzled by the obvious. We get the impression Samuel was almost overcome by Eliab’s manifest eligibility. Samuel was impressed by his physique, but likely more than that, by his bearing and demeanor. Eliab was the firstborn, accustomed to leadership, responsibility, and decision-making. This guy had KING! written all over him. But he didn’t have it written in him, so God refused him.

The peril of the obvious. God doesn’t look for the eloquent, or the personable, or the convincing or the learned or the impressive or the forceful or the theological. Even a person with leadership ability, magnetism, and experience is not necessarily God’s choice for church leadership. We need to humble ourselves and surrender our preferences as did Samuel. We ought to follow the Lord’s leading in the selection of leadership because we will naturally be dazzled by the obvious. Only God knows the heart of a man. Only God knows the end of a man. Let us subject our choices to the careful scrutiny of the Omniscient. We don’t need to know just our surface reasons for choosing someone; we need to know the hidden motives of our hearts. Only God can show us those.

God chose David and allowed ample time to prepare him. Saul still had over 30 years of his reign left at this point. God taught David many lessons as He patiently guided him from being a harp-picking shepherd to being king of the mightiest kingdom in the known world of his day. Patience may well have been the major lesson. Patience is a supreme manifestation of faith. Patience says, “I know God will work; I’ll wait His timing and His way.” Impatience sees only self and passing time. That became David’s major downfall, leading him to presumption (numbering Israel) and immorality and murder (the Bathsheba incident). However, even in these failures, God’s analysis of David proved true. Here was truly a man after God’s own heart. He did not try to justify himself as Saul did. David repented in true contrition.

David’s choices and decisions in his youth determined his usability in later years. And so it is for you, too. One of David’s relatives verbalized this principle many centuries later. “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much” (Luke 16:10). Perhaps carnality, worldliness, materialism, selfishness, and wild oats don’t seem of much consequence right now. Perhaps visitation, serving, studying, devotions, a job well done, and faithful church attendance don’t seem so critical right now. Do not err. Your life now shapes your usefulness later!



Supplemental study guide discussion question, if time permits: Should this story affect the process we use in deciding our vote?

Final application:

This week, prayerfully make an honest list of your priorities, listing them from the most important at the top. Limit the list to 4-6 items. These might include family, country, God, self, close friends, etc. Next week, share with the group how and why your chose as you did and how this affected your thinking and attitudes. Were there any surprises?

10/6/12 Weekly Small Groups GPS Guide

(The weekly GPS Small Group Guide can be downloaded in .PDF format from the individual sermon page, found at in Sermon Archives)

“I Love to Tell the Story”

A Grow-Pray-Study guide for small groups
This guide uses the Scripture readings from the daily “GPS” study guide. Group members may read the daily readings before the group meeting, or read the verses aloud when the group meets. The group may subdivide into two or three smaller groups, each discussing a set of the daily readings and the matching questions on page 2, or the entire group may discuss those questions together. We pray that, whatever pattern of study you choose, the Holy Spirit will weave God’s Word into the life and heart of each group member.

Luke 14:15-24

The image of the “Great Banquet” the Messiah would host for God’s people at the end of the age went back 700 years before Jesus (cf. Isaiah 25:6-9). Most rabbis thought the Banquet would be for them, and for people a lot like them. Jesus’ saw the Banquet very differently. He knew many of the “invited” guests were refusing to attend—and that God wanted the invitation to reach everyone, even “the poor, crippled, blind, and lame” from the back alleys!

Luke 17:11-19

In Jesus’ day, the word “leper” meant a person with one of a whole variety of visible skin diseases. People thought lepers were highly contagious, so they feared and shunned them. Jews and Samaritans also shunned each other. So when Jesus healed a Samaritan leper, his healing and grace extended far beyond two of the biggest social boundaries imaginable.

Acts 2:36-41

Visitors packed Jerusalem for the big Jewish festivals like Pentecost. When the Holy Spirit moved Peter and the other apostles to speak on the historic Pentecost in today’s passage, they spoke to thousands of people. About 3,000 of them (from how many different places and backgrounds?) committed themselves to follow Jesus that day, Luke wrote. Peter and the others were still working out all that it meant, but they’d learned from Jesus. They knew God’s promise was even for “all who are far away—as many as the Lord our God invites.”

Acts 8:26-39

Acts is the story of how the Christian faith grew from a small Jewish sect to a movement that touched the whole Roman Empire. That wasn’t a human master plan, but the direction God kept leading the Christians. Eunuchs were generally not welcome in Hebrew circles, and Ethiopians were both Gentiles and people of color. But the Holy Spirit clearly showed Phillip that this Isaiah-reading eunuch was most welcome with God.

Acts 10:9-29

Even after what happened at Pentecost, Peter retained the reluctance he’d learned all his life when it came to mixing closely with Gentiles. God had to give him a dramatic experience, with a startling vision as one of its highlights, to break down some of those inner barriers. (This is a great story–if you have the time, read the whole thing in Acts 10:1–11:18.)

Galatians 3:26-29

Paul the apostle had been Saul the persecutor, strict and fierce about who was and wasn’t a child of God, willing to kill even fellow Jews who believed in Jesus (cf. Acts 7:57-8:1). Then he met Jesus! He became a great leader in sharing the good news with the very outsiders he had once despised. When he wrote to his converts in the Roman province of Galatia (part of what today is the nation of Turkey), he gave them this dynamic, expansive view of God’s family. Everyone was welcome there—“you are all God’s children.”

To access the Family Activity suggested in this week’s GPS, download the printable GPS from


Lord, help us open the doors of our hearts so that we can be inclusive, not exclusive. Unlock the padlocks that can bind our human nature so that we may be loving extensions of your mercy and grace. Provide us with your holy key so that we will gladly unlock the gates of heaven to all who answer your call. In Christ’s name we pray, Amen.


Is America still a “melting pot”? Is it a “stew pot” (different ingredients keeping their individual identities, but mixing harmoniously in a flavorful dish)? What does either image mean to you? Are we more diverse than most other countries? Does that cultural mix make for a better and stronger America or a poorer and weaker one?


  • Read Luke 14:15-24. Who might be examples today of people originally invited to God’s banquet who offer excuses and don’t attend? Who might be examples of those who were invited later? What kinds of people would you be hesitant to invite, or might never invite to your own home for dinner? If we were more like Christ, who would we invite? Do we ever make excuses to God for not attending to his plan? When do we make excuses? What are some of our excuses?
  • Read Luke 17:11-19. What purpose might have been served when Jesus healed a man who was both a leper and a Samaritan? What kinds of people do we tend to shun today? Only one man of the ten came back and thanked Jesus. What do we need to thank God for every day? How important do you think it is to thank God? When we are sick physically, emotionally, spiritually, financially or otherwise, why should we still give God our thanks? How can we thank God or otherwise show our gratitude for our blessings?
  • Read Acts 2:36-41. If you get to heaven and find yourself standing in a crowd that includes some who were murderers, drug addicts, rapists, adulterers and thieves, will you think you are in the wrong place? Did Christ come for such as these? Why would you be in such a crowd? At what point is a person “righteous enough” to have earned a place in heaven? Does the breadth of Jesus’ grace and forgiveness mean that we should sin all we want? What did Peter mean when he said, “Repent”? If “repent” meant, literally, to turn around and move in a different direction than you had been going, where should each of us be headed? Put another way, what direction should we not be going? How important is it that we seriously evaluate our values, priorities and actions…our direction?
  • Read Acts 8:26-39. What are some of the things this story tells us? What is the significance of the man being Ethiopian? What is the significance of the man being a eunuch? What about the man saying that he couldn’t understand without someone to guide him? Who has guided you in your understanding of the Bible? How important has the Bible been in building your faith? Do you use a good study Bible? Did God choose the eunuch? Did God choose you? What made the eunuch special to God? What makes you special?
  • Read Acts 10:9-29. Did this story nullify, for Christians, all the Old Testament food laws? What was the main point of Peter’s vision? Why did Peter have his vision three times? How does God make people “clean”? Have all faithful Christians been made clean, regardless of the seriousness of their sins? How do these verses speak to any barriers of prejudice? Do you have any relatives or friends whose life would be better if they were to become believing Christians?
  • Read Galatians 3:26-29. Being honest for a moment, are there some people that you would not want to be saved? Are there some whose sins seem so unforgivable that you might resent them being saved? Remember the story of Jonah? He didn’t want God to save the people of Nineveh, so he resisted going there and preaching to them. But God prevailed. How do you feel about God saving those who have wronged you? How do you feel about the salvation of people you might still despise? If God loves them and chooses to save them, how should you feel toward them?

From last week: Did you think of anything you might be able to do that would multiply your gifts, talents and skills by extending them into others? Did you plan how to teach others and lead them to service? Share with the group any ideas you came up with.


From Pastor Chrostek’s sermon, October 6, 2012:

A few weeks ago, members of Resurrection Downtown returned from their very first mission trip to the Appalachian mountains. Hearing their stories reminded me of my most recent mission trip, and a woman named Brenda. We were sent to work on her roof and chimney. We knew Brenda was there, but for the first three days we hadn’t heard from her or seen her. She kept to herself, listening as we worked and joked and served the best way we knew how. On the fourth day, our work took us inside. As we went into her dark, damp house Brenda quickly realized that we were going to be with her for awhile, and she began to open up a bit.

At one point, she heard one of the other adults in the group refer to me as Pastor Scott, and we heard her chuckle under her breath. We looked at her, this was the first sign of emotion or interaction. A bit confused, I asked her what was so funny. She said, “Well, he just called you Pastor Scott.” You see, she thought the other adult was being funny. She thought he was saying “Ok, Pastor Scott,” in a sarcastic, joking manner. She didn’t think I was really a pastor—that hadn’t even crossed her mind. Who was this kid thinking he was a pastor? Clearly, I was unlike any pastor she had ever seen before. It took awhile, but eventually our group convinced her that I was indeed a pastor. Her demeanor changed again. She got really quiet. She went away and hid.

So we went back to work. Four hours later, Brenda had gathered her thoughts and mustered up a little strength…

“What kind of pastor are you?” she asked. “United Methodist,” I said.

“How is that different than a ____________ pastor?” “Well, there are some differences, I suppose…but why do you ask?”

Then it happened. Brenda said, “8 years ago today I lost my 11 year old son in a car accident. He was hit by a drunk driver. The driver was 15 years old. He received 30 days detention in juvenile hall. I see him whenever I’m out and about in town, but that’s not it…You see, when I went to my son’s funeral, two of my preachers told me that my son didn’t make it to heaven. They said he hadn’t claimed Jesus Christ as his own personal savior. Then they told me, at his funeral, that I needed to stop worrying about him and begin worrying about my own salvation…because once I make it to heaven, I won’t ever worry about anything ever again.”

I had to fight back tears. All these questions were going through my head. I thought, “Who on earth would have told her that?” What could we say, what could we do, how could we free her from the shackles of the story she had been told by those two pastors? We were paralyzed, so we just listened. We sat next to her on her lonely bench of mourning, beside the memories of her son, next to the finality of her loss, his death, and the debilitating pain that followed her for 8 years.

We were with her for quite awhile. It was quiet at times. Then we couldn’t help but begin to share our stories and the nature of God’s perfect love. We shared the gospel—the story of Jesus’ birth, his life, his words, his death, his resurrection, and the persistent love that will not let us go. We told our own stories—how God’s forgiveness, mercy and grace had transformed us, made us better versions of the people we were created to be, better husbands, better friends, better servants. We shared how our belief in God allows us always to have hope, knowing that there is nothing we could ever do that would separate us from the love of God. Those two pastors who told you to forget about your son, that he is lost and will never be found…let me tell you, that’s not our story, Brenda…we have hope, we always have hope.

We believe Jesus died, not so that his people would be shackled in fear and trembling, but that all people could be set free to live fully into the future unafraid and filled with joyful anticipation and hope of all that is to come and the life everlasting. Don’t listen to their story any more. There is a bigger and better story prepared for you, and Brenda, that’s your story…

We didn’t have all the right words to say, but the fact that we were sharing our story, a different story than the one she had heard before, caused her to break into tears. She opened up more, and of course so did we…our hearts were breaking with hers. And then we embraced…sweaty, stinky strangers hugged, and we became friends. She told the directors the next week that she had encountered a word of hope from what had to be angels for the first time since she lost her son. She said, “Ever since they left, I have been able to experience life again, and I’ve actually started to smile.”

We didn’t know it, but Brenda had been dying inside for 8 years, and we just happened to stumble across her path. We were fortunate enough to notice her opening up, we cared enough to ask the right questions and then we just listened. We allowed her the space to share her story, to empty herself of all that had been plaguing her, and then we filled her with the gospel of Jesus Christ, the best story of all. She left with hope, filled with the promises of God.

This is the power of sharing stories. This is the power of the gospel.


Christianity in Ethiopia

Christianity in Ethiopia dates to the 1st century AD. This long tradition makes Ethiopia unique among sub-Saharan African countries. Christianity in Ethiopia is divided into several groups. The largest and oldest is the EthiopianOrthodoxTewahedoChurch. This church has a membership of slightly more than 32 million people in Ethiopia, and is thus the largest of all Oriental Orthodox churches. The various Protestant congregations include 13.7 million Ethiopians. The largest Protestant group is the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus, with about 5 million members. Roman Catholicism has been in Ethiopia since the 16th century, and numbers 536,827 believers. In total, Christians make up about 60% of the total population of the country.

Christian Roots

The exact date when Christianity emerged in Ethiopia is uncertain. The earliest, best known reference to the introduction of Christianity is in Acts 8:26-38 when Philip the Evangelist converted an Ethiopian court official in the 1st century AD. Some scholars, however, argue “Ethiopian” (which in Greek means “having a dark skin color”) was a common term used for black Africans, and that the Queen Candace this official served actually ruled nearby Nubia (modern Sudan). According to church historian Nicephorus, St. Matthew later preached the Christian Gospel to modern-day Ethiopia (then called Colchis) after having preached in Judea. Rufinus of Tyre, a noted church historian, recorded a personal account as did other church historians such as Socrates and Sozemius. The Garima Gospels are thought to be the world’s oldest illuminated Christian manuscripts.


Shipwrecked and captured at an early age, Frumentius was carried to Axum where he and his companion Edesius were treated well. A small population of Christians lived there finding refuge from Roman persecution. Once of age, Frumentius and Edesius were allowed to return to their homelands, but chose to stay at the queen’s request. They began to secretly promote Christianity through the land. On a trip to meet with church elders, Frumentius met with Athanasius, Archbishop of Alexandria who was second in line to the pope. After recommending that a bishop be sent to evangelize, a council appointed Frumentius as bishop to Ethiopia. By 331 AD, Frumentius returned to Ethiopia. The rulers, who were not Christian, welcomed him with open arms. Ten years later, through the support of the kings, the majority of the kingdom was converted and Christianity was declared the official state religion.

Isolation as a Christian Nation

When Islam emerged in the 7th century, Ethiopia’s Christians were isolated from the rest of the Christian world. The patriarch of the Coptic church in Egypt appointed the head of the Ethiopian church, and Ethiopian monks had certain rights in the church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Ethiopia was the only part of Africa to survive as a Christian state when Islam expanded.

Ark of the Covenant

The Ethiopian Orthodox Church claims to possess the Ark of the Covenant, or Tabot, in Axum, not far from the border with Eritrea. The object is currently kept under guard in a treasury near the Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion and is used occasionally in ritual processions. Replicas of the Axum tabot are kept in every Ethiopian church, each with its own dedication to a particular saint. The most popular of these include Mary, George and Michael.

Source:     and

Final application:

This week consider the richness and diversity of American cultures. Focus on the wonderful country that diversity makes us. Make this a week of prayer, thanking God for a richness that makes America so special in the entire world. Next week, share with the group how this affected your thinking and attitudes..

9/30/12 Weekly Small Groups GPS Guide

(The weekly GPS Small Group Guide can be downloaded in .PDF format from the individual sermon page, found at in Sermon Archives)

All the Small Things

A Grow-Pray-Study guide for small groups
This guide uses the Scripture readings from the daily “GPS” study guide. Group members may read the daily readings before the group meeting, or read the verses aloud when the group meets. The group may subdivide into two or three smaller groups, each discussing a set of the daily readings and the matching questions on page 2, or the entire group may discuss those questions together. We pray that, whatever pattern of study you choose, the Holy Spirit will weave God’s Word into the life and heart of each group member.

Matthew 5:13-16

In Jesus’ day, as in ours, people used salt for a variety of reasons. It preserved food, helped with healing or triggered chemical reactions (such as melting ice). But salt’s main use was to enhance flavor. Jesus called us, as his followers, to make life “taste” better for others, as he did. As God’s light shines through us, we can make the world a brighter, “tastier” place to be.

Luke 9:1-6, 10:1-9

Luke’s research (cf. Luke 1:3) led him to describe two times when Jesus sent out groups of his followers (Matthew’s gospel only mentioned one sending—cf. Matthew 10). Their task was perhaps a bit surprising: these called and sent followers were to do the same kinds of ministry Jesus himself was doing. They carried with them his spiritual authority and power.

Luke 13:10-21

Our world often connects size with power. People often assume either good things or bad about a business or a church based solely on its size. But Jesus said it works the other way: power, whatever it looks like now, in the end produces world-changing results. One woman healed in one synagogue—how could that make a difference? It was a sign of God’s power at work, and like a tiny mustard seed growing into a tree, or a bit of yeast reshaping a whole loaf of bread, that power was changing the whole world.

Matthew 25:31-46

After talking about the Temple’s destruction and the end of the world (in sometimes puzzling terms), Jesus gave a word picture of the final judgment. His words about the judgment, though probably not exhaustive, clearly conveyed his Kingdom’s priorities. Kingdom people, he said, care for the hungry and thirsty, the poorly-clothed and strangers, the prisoners and the sick—people whom Jesus called “the least of these brothers and sisters of mine.”

John 20:19-22

Jesus was alive—but his followers were still afraid. As they huddled behind locked doors, Jesus suddenly stood among them. As he did often in his gospel, John chose words that echoed the Genesis creation story. Genesis 2:7 said God “blew life’s breath” into the first human. Here Jesus offered his disciples God’s peace, said he was sending them as God had sent him, and then “breathed” on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

Matthew 28:16-20

Writing some 30-40 years after Jesus’ resurrection, Matthew said the disciples “worshipped him,” a clear sign that they saw Jesus as God. Jesus told them to go and make disciples, and as Matthew wrote that was happening. And Jesus made the crucial promise that “I myself will be with you every day until the end of this present age” (verse 20). The Holy Spirit is not some spooky, ghostly vapor. The Holy Spirit is the personal spiritual presence of Jesus with each one of us every day, all the way to the end of the age—a beautiful, reassuring gift!

To access the Family Activity suggested in this week’s GPS, download the printable GPS from


Lord Jesus, you call us to be instruments of your kingship, but we often feel inadequate to that task. We pray, therefore, for your mighty presence in any service we offer on your behalf, so that our service might be transformed into the miraculous. Be with us and in us. Make us the salt, leaven and light to the world, so the world might know the power of your love and kingship. Amen.


As Christians, we believe that Jesus is king over all of creation. If life were to be discovered on other planets, would that in any way cause you to doubt your faith in Christ’s kingship? Would such knowledge threaten Christianity? Would you be confident that God’s plan for creation would extend to life outside the limits of our world as we know it?


  • Read Matthew 5:13-16. If Christians are the salt of the earth, in what way(s) might some of us lose our “saltiness”? Doesn’t salt enhance the flavor of our food? Do all Christians enhance the life experience of others? How might some Christians sour the life experience of others? In what ways are Christians a “light” to others? In what ways do we sometimes hide our light? What is the effect on the world of hiding our light? What sometimes makes us reluctant to let our light shine?
  • Read Luke 9:1-6, 10:1-9. Were the powers and instructions that Jesus gave his followers limited to that time, or might we be given similar powers and instructions today? Do doctors and nurses have the power of Christ as modern medicine heals the sick, or is their ability strictly a matter of science without God’s intervention? Do you have the power to do any healing as an extension of Christ? Who should proclaim the good news of the gospel today? Do you believe that God still performs miracles just as he did in the New Testament times? Why did Jesus tell his disciples to take virtually nothing with them as they went on their missions? Would you follow those strict instructions if he told you to go on a mission?
  • Read Luke 13:10-21. In a very real sense, the miracles Jesus performed showed God’s power, and interrupted the accepted way of life in the world. Does our time need a similar demonstration of God’s power? If God asked, would you be willing to “upset the apple cart” of today’s accepted, worldly lifestyle? Is God asking us to do just that? Do you ever feel rather insignificant in the world and a lot like a tiny mustard seed in a powerful world? Is it possible that God might use any of us to change the world? Was the healing of one woman, in itself, earth shattering? Does your Godly purpose have to be, by itself, earth shattering?
  • Read Matthew 25:31-46. Do you ever worry whether you are one of the goats or one of the sheep? What does it take to be one of the “sheep”? How do you understand the basis on which the king will determine whether you are “sheep” or “goat”? Is it mostly based on your trust in Christ, your actions for Christ or both? Should we ever stop trying to be better servants? Do you feel “called” to serve others? How do we serve Christ? Who should we serve? Should we criticize the service of others? Should we encourage others to serve? Should we be aware of the spirit in which we serve others?
  • Read John 20:19-22. Some Christians believe that the experience of receiving the Holy Spirit must be very visible, while others believe that it can be a rather quiet process. Do you believe that you have been filled by the Holy Spirit? Have you ever felt God’s involvement as you served others in Christ’s name? Do you ever pray for God’s involvement in your life and your activities? Do you feel that God answers those prayers? Who benefits more from your service, those you serve or yourself? Is the world affected by your service? Do you ever feel “sent” by Christ to do his work? In that sense, do we feel much different than those disciples he originally sent?
  • Read Matthew 28:16-20. These verses are called “The Great Commission.” Was this commission limited to the eleven disciples? Has Christ commissioned us as well? What has qualified us to be commissioned? Jesus promised to be with us (in the form of his personal, spiritual presence as the Holy Spirit) forever. Do you find this reassuring? Have you felt that presence while you were doing his work? Are you comfortable with the thought that you are, in fact, an extension of Christ himself? What would make you more comfortable with that knowledge?

From last week: Did you consider your life and ask yourself what you do in service to God? Were you surprised at how much or how little you really do? Did you focus your service or commit to do more?  Did you pray over this effort? Describe your experience in doing this.


From Pastor Chrostek’s sermon, September 30, 2012:

In Luke 13, Jesus describes the Kingdom of Heaven this way: “It is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in the garden; it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.” And again he said, “To what should I compare the kingdom of God? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.” – Luke 13:18-21

Mustards seeds are teeny. They are hardly perceptible and yet they are stubborn, resilient, and able to spring forth into the biggest of shrubs even in the most dire of climates.  Mustard seeds are small yet extremely powerful.

Yeast is similar. Yeast is old, fermented dough that is added to a fresh lump of dough in order to give it life, in order to start the leavening process in it. Yeast is old dough, and yet when mixed in to fresh dough it is able to make it rise.

I love the parable of the yeast, because every time I read it, I like to imagine to scope and size of this lump of dough. In this parable a woman hides just a few pinches of yeast in a giant 50-pound mixture of flour. Can you imagine her delight when all of a sudden, these 50 pounds of flour grow bigger and bigger! And she just gets to watch it happen! What begins so subtly, so imperceptibly without any assumptions or desire to be recognized becomes this great thing you can’t avoid.

These parables assure us that the kingdom of heaven is as big and powerful as everything we might dream. These parables tell us that the kingdom of heaven is absolutely irrepressible, but it also reminds us that it begins as something quite small and imperceptible. Something totally unexpected.

These parables and these stories force us to wonder about whether we believe that what began with just a handful of followers in Galilee could eventually change the whole world?  Or more specifically what began with just a handful of people in Kansas City will eventually change the whole world?

Do you believe that’s possible?

What is “The Great Commission”?

(Note: commission, noun, meaning 1. the act of committing or giving in charge. 2. an authoritative order, charge, or direction. 3. authority granted for a particular action or function. 4. a document granting such authority.)

Matthew 28:18-20

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (NIV)

This section of Scripture is known as the Great Commission. As the last recorded personal directive of the Savior to his disciples, it holds great significance to all followers of Christ. It is the foundation for evangelism and cross-cultural missions work in Christian theology. Because the Lord’s instructions were to go to all nations and that he would be with us until the very end of the age, Christians of all generations have embraced this command. As many have said, it’s not “The Great Suggestion.” No, the Lord has commanded us to put our faith in action.

Other Biblical Accounts of the Great Commission

The full text of the most familiar version of Great Commission is recorded in Matthew 28:16-20. It is also found in the following Gospel texts. Though each version varies, these accounts record a similar encounter of Jesus with his disciples after the resurrection. In each instance Jesus sends his followers out with specific instructions. He uses commands such as go, teach, baptize, forgive and make disciples.

  • Mark 16:15-18
    He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.” (NIV)
  • Luke 24:44-49
    He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” (NIV)
  • John 20:19-23
    On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” (NIV)


Final application:

This week think of Christ’s Great Commission, not only as a call to do something like serve meals or visit a prison, but also as a leadership commission. Consider if there is anything you might be able to do that would multiply your gifts, talents and skills by extending them into others. Plan how to teach others and lead them to service. Consider whether you as a group can become more intentional coaches and encouragers to each other in service. Next week, share with the group whatever you discovered.

9/23/12 Weekly Small Groups GPS Guide

(The weekly GPS Small Group Guide can be downloaded in .PDF format from the individual sermon page, found at in Sermon Archives)

“Hey, I just met you and this is crazy…”

A Grow-Pray-Study guide for small groups
This guide uses the Scripture readings from the daily “GPS” study guide. Group members may read the daily readings before the group meeting, or read the verses aloud when the group meets. The group may subdivide into two or three smaller groups, each discussing a set of the daily readings and the matching questions on page 2, or the entire group may discuss those questions together. We pray that, whatever pattern of study you choose, the Holy Spirit will weave God’s Word into the life and heart of each group member.

Luke 5:1-11, 27-32

This week’s GPS readings will look at a variety of people who heard God’s call in a variety of ways. They began at many different stations in life. One “calling” story we read and hear about often is this one in which Jesus called his first disciples. The story was straightforward: Jesus invited them to “Follow me,” and they dropped everything else and followed him.

Jeremiah 1:4-8

Jeremiah was a prophet for forty years or more. It was a hard, lonely ministry, preaching that his wayward, wicked countrymen could no longer count on God’s protection, that Babylon would conquer Jerusalem. But at the start, Jeremiah’s concern was simpler: he felt too young to deliver God’s message. God’s assurance to him was one Paul echoed much later to Timothy: “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young” (1 Timothy 4:12).

Jonah 1:1-17, 3:1-3, 3:10-4:4

The book of Jonah offers a thought-provoking view of God’s patience and persistence, and on how we sometimes respond to God’s call. (If you can, read the whole story—it’s short.) Some readers imagine that Jonah feared the people of Nineveh, Israel’s long-standing enemies. But in the story Jonah confessed that he actually feared God’s mercy, that he didn’t want God to forgive the people he preached to (Jonah 4:2).

Joshua 2:1-21; Matthew 1:5

We learned in the Aug. 26 sermon (“Violence and God in the Bible”) that the Israelites (like other Middle Eastern people) saw it as their God-given duty to kill every person in the cities they conquered. But Rahab, in ways the story leaves to our imagination, had come to believe in the power of Israel’s God. She shielded two Hebrew spies, on condition that the Israelites spare her and her family when (not “if”) Jericho fell. Joshua honored the bargain. Matthew gave the story its final twist, recording that Rahab became an ancestor of Jesus himself!

1 Samuel 16:1-13

We’ve learned in the past that in Bible times people needed shepherds, but did not highly respect or value them. So if a family’s youngest son was their shepherd that suggested that the boy was a bit of an outcast. In this story, it seemed that David’s father would have been just as glad for Samuel to not even know he had another son. But God was at work—God saw David’s heart, and through Samuel called him to become Israel’s greatest king.

Acts 9:1-22

Saul (later called Paul) didn’t do anything halfway. He was, he testified later, positive that the story of Jesus was a lie that threatened the faith he’d loved all his life, and that he must fight it (cf. Acts 26:9). Then Jesus himself met him on the road to Damascus, and everything changed. All the energy and creativity he had poured into hating Jesus’ followers he now poured into sharing the awesome news that Jesus was alive, loved every person, and had a calling even for a persecutor like him. The light that shone on Paul when Jesus called him continues to shine on us and on our world today.

To access the Family Activity suggested in this week’s GPS, download the printable GPS from


Heavenly Father, we may feel reluctant when you call, yet we pray that we may answer. If we are fearful, give us courage. If we make excuses, answer us with words of conviction. If we feel inadequate, give us an unquenchable desire to heed your call and trust your power working through us. Bless us in our service to you. Amen.


Do you think it is easier or harder for younger people to grasp the “calling” that is right for them than it was for you? Do you see changing careers as more or less common than it used to be? Is there a difference between a career and a calling? If so, what?


  • Read Luke 5:1-11, 27-32. In these stories, Jesus called two men to become his disciples. One was Simon, later renamed Peter and the other was Levi, also known as Matthew. One was a poor fisherman and the other was a tax collector, an outcast and a sinner (in the opinion of his community). What reason might Jesus have had to call these two men to be disciples? Would they have felt qualified? Do you ever feel unqualified to follow Christ? Based on these stories, should you? Is there any danger in seeing ourselves as fully qualified to be disciples? What experiences earlier in your life might have prepared you to accept Christ later on? Was your decision at one distinct point in time, or did it happen gradually?
  • Read Jeremiah 1:4-8. Jeremiah thought he was too young to become a prophet of God. Did God think Jeremiah was too young? Should age be a factor in serving God? Jeremiah was afraid of what “they” might think. Have most of us had similar thoughts about what others would think? What was God’s response to Jeremiah’s concern about what others might think and do? Jeremiah was coming up with excuses, resisting God’s call. How do we tend to do the same thing when we feel called to serve him? Must we always say “yes” to everything we are asked to do that is related to God and the church? How do you decide when to say “yes” and when to say “no”?
  • Read Jonah 1:1-17, 3:1-3, 3:10-4:4. Is this story a history lesson? Should it matter to us whether or not Jonah was actually swallowed by a huge fish? What does this story say to us apart from whether all its details are historical or not? How well did God’s plan work out? Was Jonah initially happy with the outcome? Do you think he ever got over it and saw things God’s way? Will we always be happy with the results of God’s call to us? Will we ever come around?
  • Read Joshua 2:1-21; Matthew 1:5. From what you saw in the first reading, do you think God called Rahab? What was her “profession”? What do you learn from that fact? What reasons might Rahab have had to turn toward the Hebrew God and away from her own people? In the second reading, Matthew said that Rahab, the former prostitute, was one of Christ’s human ancestors. What do you make of that? Do we tend to “write off” some people from some religions, races or backgrounds as non-participants in God’s plan and his kingdom? Should we?
  • Read 1 Samuel 16:1-13. Do you think the words about not looking on ourward appearances mean that David, Jesse’s youngest son, was ugly? Why else might Jesse have been surprised that God would choose David to be anointed as king? What is it that God examines when choosing his servants? How do you feel about God’s manner of choosing? Do you think we could elect our government leaders in the same way? What is more important–outward charisma or inner character? Although Samuel was already a prophet, God “called” him to anoint a new king. How did Samuel respond? Does that surprise you? Do you think you have a good “heart”? How do you seek to ensure that it remains good?
  • Read Acts 9:1-22. Who was this man called Saul? Was he called? What about Ananias—was he called by God? How did he respond to that call? How did God’s calling to Saul turn out? How would you “rate” Paul’s work with regard to his impact on the world? Did Paul or Ananias know how things would work out when they were first called? Could they possibly have predicted the impact this would have? What does this say to you about “calls” that you might have?

From last week: Did you memorize at least one passage of the Bible? Would you be willing to recite it now? Why did you choose this particular passage? How hard was this for you and did you learn anything?


From Pastor Chrostek’s sermon, September 23, 2012:

In Matthew 4 Jesus called four fishermen…James and John, Peter and Andrew: “As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the lake—for they were fishermen. And he said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.’ Immediately they left their nets and followed him.” – Matthew 4:18-20

Our God is a God who calls fishermen by saying “Follow me and I’ll make you fishers of people,” but He doesn’t stop there. Anna Carter Florence says, “God calls others as well, reaching them where they are, doing what they know how to day, speaking to them in terms they can understand…

God calls farmers in this world by saying…Follow me, farmers, and I will make you farm for people!

Follow me; all you bankers and tellers, and I will make you bank human life!

Follow me, builders, and I will make you builders of God’s house!

Follow me, shopkeepers, and I will make you keepers of God’s shop!

Follow me, clowns and comedians, and I will make you fools for God!

Follow me, landscape workers, and I will make you landscapers of life!

Follow me, all of you seamstresses and tailors, and I will make you sew our lives as well as our garments!

Follow me, you cooks, chefs, butchers and bakers, and I will make you season and leaven and serve and preserve more than food!

Follow me, you insurance agents, and I will make you insure God’s agency!

Follow me, you instrumentalists, and I will make you instrumental to other!

Follow me, you friends, you parents, you children, you siblings, you neighbors, you strangers, you hosts and guests, and I will make you all these things—to every other human being!

For a moment, I want you to consider your job, the work you do to make a living. If you’re a student…think about your life at school…if you’re an athlete, think about your life on the playing field…if you’re a retiree think about whatever role people use to identify with you. This is the role, there is the place, this is the avenue through which Jesus calls you to live out a life of Christian discipleship.

Dallas Willard writes, “One of the clearest ways possible of focusing on our discipleship to Jesus is through our work. To be a disciple of Jesus is, crucially, to be learning from Jesus how to do your job as Jesus himself would do it. New Testament language for this is to do it ‘in the name’ of Jesus. Isaiah would say that we are to live ‘in the light’ of Christ, just as Christ would have lived.”

In order to follow Jesus…in order to be considered a disciple of Christ we do need to let go of who we are to focus on following Christ.  We need to lay aside our nets full of fish for the purpose of simply catching fish, instead we need to look for ways to use our nets full of fish to glorify God, to shed the light of Christ upon every person we touch, to magnify the Lord with our life and with our song, to change the world by extravagant and sacrificial generosity in the midst of our vocation.

God doesn’t always call us to abandon our life’s work to be a disciple. God simply calls us to do whatever it is we do in a way that glorifies God…

 How Can You Be Sure of God’s Calling?

Do you open your mailbox one day and find a mysterious letter with your calling written on it? Is God’s calling spoken to you in a booming voice from heaven, telling you exactly what to do? How do you discover it? How can you be sure of it?

Any time we want to hear from God, the method is the same: praying, reading the Bible, meditating, talking with godly friends, and patient listening.

God equips each of us with unique spiritual gifts to help us in our calling. A good list is found in Romans 12:6-8 (NIV):

We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.”

We don’t recognize our calling overnight; rather, God reveals it to us gradually over the years. As we use our talents and gifts to serve others, we discover certain types of work that feel right. They bring us a deep sense of fulfillment and happiness. They feel so natural and good that we know this is what we were meant to do.

Sometimes we can put God’s calling into words, or it may be as simple as saying, “I feel led to help people.”

Jesus said, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve…” (Mark 10:45, NIV).

If you take that attitude, you’ll not only discover your calling, but you’ll do it passionately for the rest of your life.


Your Job is Not Your Calling  

You may be surprised to learn that your job is not your calling, and here’s why. Most of us change jobs during the course of our life. We may even change careers. If you’re in a church-sponsored ministry, even that ministry can end. We will all retire someday. Your job is not your calling, no matter how much it may allow you to serve other people.

Your job is an instrument that helps you carry out your calling. A mechanic may have tools that help him change a set of spark plugs, but if those tools break or get stolen, he gets another set so he can get back to work. Your job may be closely wrapped up in your calling or it may not. Sometimes all your job does is put food on the table, which gives you the freedom to go about your calling in a separate area.

We often use our job or career to measure our success. If we make a lot of money, we consider ourselves successful. But God is not concerned with money. He is concerned with how you’re doing at the task he has given you.

As you’re playing your part in advancing the kingdom of heaven, you may be financially rich or poor. You may be just getting by in paying your bills, but God will give you everything you need to accomplish your calling.

Here’s the important thing to remember: Jobs and careers come and go. Your calling, your God-appointed mission in life, stays with you until the moment you are called home to heaven.


Final application:

This week consider your life and ask yourself what you do in service to God. You may be surprised at how much or how little you really do. If you do many things, make a list and consider whether or not your efforts are properly focused. If you discovered that you do little or nothing, make a commitment to do something, either within or outside the church. In either case, pray over this effort. Next week, without sharing specifics, share with the group whatever you learned.