(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)
The House of the Lord
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.
Psalm 122 was originally part of a cycle of Hebrew hymns that pilgrims recited or sang as they traveled (usually on foot) to one of the great religious festivals in Jerusalem. Its strong sense of celebration reflects a great Biblical truth about worship. God’s people through the centuries have seen worship, not as a vexing duty, but as a privilege, a reason for gratitude and rejoicing.
As Resurrection’s 24th year begins, we remember who we are, why we are here, and what we aim for in the future. Jesus said God calls us to be “the light of the world,” people through whom God’s light shines to illumine the dark, hurting places around us. We are here to live lives led by the Holy Spirit in which God’s light reaches beyond the walls of our church. As people see the good things we do, we want them to praise, not us, but our Father in heaven.
Jesus did many laudable things during his ministry on earth. He healed sick people, broke down barriers of prejudice and exclusion, and taught people how to live better lives by accepting God as their true king. His central, guiding mission in all of that was to seek and to save what was lost, to restore and set right all that evil had broken.
Three times this passage mentioned God’s power. It used the Greek word dunamis, the word behind the English word “dynamite”! God’s purpose is to show “the many different varieties of his wisdom through the church…to do far beyond all that we could ask or imagine by his power at work within us.” Resurrection (and every church) is here to give God glory “in the church and in Christ Jesus for all generations, forever and always.”
The world Rome ruled was full of poverty, suffering, hatred and injustice. To Christians in the capital city itself, Paul offered this “strategy” for transforming that world: “Overcome evil with good.” It would sound awfully naïve—except that, looking back 2000 years, we can see that Paul’s witness to Jesus has long outlasted the mighty Roman Empire. We still seek to transform the world by working with God to overcome evil with good.
1 Peter 2:1-10
Many scholars believe 1 Peter recorded what the early church taught new converts. Verse 6 quoted Isaiah 28:16, identifying Jesus as the cornerstone of the spiritual temple God was building in human lives. Still today, each of us as a living stone in God’s temple can help to “speak of the wonderful acts of the one who called you out of darkness into his amazing light.” God calls The Church of the Resurrection to that future. That grand purpose guides all our plans and dreams.
To access the Family Activity suggested in this week’s GPS, download the printable GPS from http://www.cor.org/guide.
Lord God, please keep building our lives on the solid foundation of your word. May we join together in helping others to meet you. Transform us with your spiritual power so that we might overcome evil with good, giving us hearts that reflect your loving acceptance. Open our hearts, fill us with your light and bind us together in worship. Amen.
CONNECT (5-10 minute discussion, at most)
What do you like the best about autumn? What is your least favorite aspect of the season?
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND STUDY
Read Psalm 122:1-5. Can you imagine what the great Temple of Jerusalem must have been like? Have there been church buildings you have worshipped in that have especially moved you? What was it about those places that made you feel that way? What makes churches seem more like a “house of God” for you? Were you brought up to go to church every Sunday? Did it feel like it was a burden, a duty, or something you looked forward to? Has your attitude about church attendance changed since you were younger?
Read Matthew 5:13-16. Light tends to draw people who are in darkness. These verses clearly are calling each of us to be lights that draw others to Christ. How can church buildings also be a form of “light”? How can we make our attitude toward a building capital campaign more Christ-centered and less money-centered? Who in your life has been a light that tended to draw you closer to God? Do you know others who you would like to attract to God?
Read Luke 19:1-10. Zacchaeus was curious about Jesus so he climbed a tree. Did curiosity play any role in your coming to Christ? What can you do, individually or through our church’s ministries, to create healthy curiosity in others about your faith? Jesus was criticized because he socialized with a sinner. Can any of us attract others to Christ if we are unwilling to socialize with “sinners”? What makes us leery about being around others who may not know Jesus as we do? How can we overcome our fears and biases about others?
Read Ephesians 3:7–4:1. From these verses, what do you think is meant by “the church”? What is “a church”? What do you think is the role of Christ’s church? How does this role affect our thinking as we plan the buildings we wish to construct? What are the characteristics of “(living) as people worthy of the call you received from God”? How has God already changed your life for the better? In what areas would you like to see further growth in your life with and for God?
Read Romans 12:16-21. Do these verses seem naïve to you? We are asked to “overcome evil with good.” Is this mere idealism? Can you think of any situations in which you, or someone you knew well or observed, did just that? How could our desire to overcome evil with good affect the way in which we ultimately act? Can our ideals change the very root of who we are and how we treat others?
Read 1 Peter 2:1-10. What is “the pure milk of the word”? These verses say that, with Jesus as the cornerstone, we are the stones with which God is building his spiritual temple. In the Bible, how did God use physical structures to transform people into “living temples”? How has our physical church been a part of transforming lives? Will you prayerfully consider how God might be calling you to support the ongoing need for physical spaces in which others can meet the living God?
From last week: Did you make notes on the occasions when your plans were interrupted? Did you write each occasion down and also note how you reacted to the interruptions and the effect that the interruptions had on your life? Please share with the group whatever you discovered.
FOR ADDITIONAL INSIGHT
From Pastor Adam Hamilton’s sermon, September 29, 2013:
Today I’d like to share with you the latest plans from our architects regarding our future building plans and to reflect with you for a moment about the over 800 verses of scripture that refer to the sanctuary where the children of Israel came to meet God. The sheer number of references tell us that the temple, and before it the tabernacle, were very important to Israel’s faith. The scripture we heard read a moment ago is one of these 800. It is part of an entire category of Psalms that were recited as the Israelites travelled to Jerusalem, then up Mount Zion and finally up the stairs of the temple to worship. These are called Songs of Ascent, as the people ascended to the temple. If you look in your Bible, Psalms 120-134 all say under the title, “A song of ascents.” Our text today captures the joy people felt in approaching God’s sanctuary: “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord!’” (Psalm 122:1)
That early sanctuary, and then the temple, served several functions:
1. It was a visible reminder of God’s presence
2. It proclaimed that God was King of Israel
3. It was a place where people encountered God worship
4. It was where children were committed to God
5. It was where sins were forgiven, petitions for help and healing offered
6. It was where Israel’s faith, values and identity were shaped
7. From the temple the people were sent out to do God’s work
Like Solomon’s temple, we hope our church building is a visible reminder of God’s presence in our midst. We hope to design a space that fosters an encounter with God in worship. Here children will be baptized and confirmed. Young adults will marry and begin their families. And here, when our earthly lives come to an end, our friends and family will gather to remember and to celebrate our lives. In this holy space generations will find forgiveness, comfort, strength and hope….
I’d like to walk you through eight goals or objectives of our building plans. Here’s the first goal: We want to bring all worship services and all children and adult programming space under one roof both on the weekends and on weeknights….
Our second goal is to bring adult classes next to worship and children, allowing us to double the number of classes, and triple the number of participants….
We are creating a new model of theological education for United Methodists. Saint Paul Seminary will prepare 2000 new leaders for the church in our partnership with them. These 2,000 will serve 5 churches each – that’s 10,000 churches who will be affected by this vision of our serving as a teaching church for these students. Our third goal is to provide adequate room for the seminary to carry out its mission….
Our fourth goal is, by transforming our current sanctuary into a fellowship hall and food service facility, to create greater fellowship and community….
Our plans will also create space for our fifth goal: to create dedicated Matthew’s Ministry space….
Our sixth goal, the first one that is specifically about the new sanctuary we are designing, is to create a more intimate sanctuary that fosters community….
When it comes to the look and feel of the sanctuary, we had two more goals. Seventh, we hoped to build a sanctuary that feels reverent/sacred/holy….
And finally, our eighth goal has to do with the exterior appearance of our sanctuary. We want the very form of the building to proclaim the gospel and point people towards God’s presence and work in our world. We hope it will lead people to want to come inside and see what is happening….
This is really important—creating community and building relationships. Someone asked me the other day, “What happens if a beer truck runs over you?” I told him, “Usually people say ‘bus.’” He said, “In Johnson County you’re more likely to be hit by a beer truck than a bus.” Okay, we’ve got contingency plans, and you’d have the best pastors fighting over who would get to come here. We’ve developed a great staff and great pastors. We’d be okay. But here is one of the important points of a healthy church: When people have 10 friends in church, they don’t leave when the pastor gets hit by a beer truck, because this is where their friends are. The health of this church, after I’m gone, is largely about getting people plugged in on Sundays and during the week….
I want to end with these images of our very first worship service 23 years ago. 90 people who would become members of this church were there in worship that day, including a few of you. Our oldest members when we started were in their 50’s. Those people are now in their 70’s. What will we do to be their church? The children who were there are now in their late 20’s and early 30’s and starting to have children. I think this building effort is about being their church too. And, God willing, I believe that this building will still be standing 100 years from now with a congregation of people who are still seeking to build a Christian community where non-religious and nominally religious people are becoming deeply committed Christians.
When is the right time to build a new church building?
The bottom line is that only God can clarify what a church should do in all its spending and planning. However, there are a few important things that can be agreed on.
It is reasonable for a church to plan ahead and to be sensitive to the growing needs of the church family. It is also reasonable to imagine what could be accomplished in reaching others for Jesus Christ if the facilities were available. Many church growth experts believe that when a church grows to 70-80% of capacity, it will not sustain any more growth without plans for expansion.
A church can fall into materialism when it begins to value things more than people. If a new building program is for the pride of its membership rather than the effectiveness of its ministry, then the church is in danger of a bad building program. In all things, the church must desire that Christ be lifted up and that the lost are reached and that the saved be discipled to the glory of God.
The church is not a building but the people God has ransomed and made a part of His family. Often God sees fit to bless a family with growth in numbers. When a family grows in numbers, it usually considers whether or not there is room in the present facilities. If there is not enough room, an addition is one option, as is a different house altogether. The facilities should be designed in a way to facilitate the needed functions of the household, and not just as a monument to the family’s greatness. For a church to truly be expanding physically in a godly manner, it must be sure its motive is to be used of God to build up the body of Christ and assist in the building up the universal church of Jesus Christ. In other words, every ministry needs to be “mission” driven.
The Word of God tells us that the only way to do any building is to base it on our relationship to Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 3:11-15). One of the biggest pitfalls in building bigger is the issue of pride and misplaced priorities (Psalm 127:1). Remember the parable of the rich man in Luke 12:16. We should never put our faith in things or believe that somehow what God gives us we have earned or are able to keep for ourselves.
You can be sure that if God wants your church to expand, He will bring leadership, unity, and resources. If those are not present, it is reasonable to take a step back and reconsider the direction. There is nothing in the Bible against a church expanding physically. The question is in the timing, motive, and purpose for the building. God is more glorified in the church being obedient to Him and growing spiritually than He is in the church expanding physically. Remember, that which is not of faith is sin; therefore, only be involved if you have searched for God’s will and believe you know what He is asking you to do (Romans 14:23).
This week, pray daily for direction and vision regarding the potential for building a church expansion. Ask God how you might be his instrument and how he would like you to contribute to this planning. Next week, share with the group whatever thoughts you had as a result.