(The weekly GPS Small Group Guide can be downloaded in .PDF format from the individual sermon page, found at http://www.cor.org/worship 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.”
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..
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).
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.”
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 www.cor.org/guide.
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?
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND STUDY
- 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.
FOR ADDITIONAL INSIGHT
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.
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.