(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)
Principles, Practices and Christ’s Mission
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.
Jesus, raised from the dead, was preparing to leave earth. Before ascending, he spent about forty days (cf. Acts 1:3) preparing his followers to carry on his work. Though his “marching orders” were clear, they must have sounded breathtaking and daunting to the little company of disciples. They’re still our orders, and still breathtaking: “make disciples of all nations….to the end of the earth.”
At the end of Jesus’ three years of public ministry, the outcome might have seemed like a real letdown to human eyes. He had only 120 or so followers, and determined hostility from the religious leaders of his nation. Yet from our vantage point, we can see that those three years of ministry changed the world forever. And a key to Jesus’ ability to do that was his crystal-clear, resolute sense of what his mission was, what he was here to do.
Commentators aren’t sure if Paul was mainly concerned about libertines who really thought God’s grace meant they could do whatever they pleased, or legalists who made fun of his teaching about grace. Perhaps the Christian community in Rome had both types of people in it! Regardless, Paul insisted that accepting Jesus as Savior changes your life for the better. Being a disciple means giving control of your life to the Lord who can give you life.
It was tough to be a Christian in the first-century Roman Empire, as it was for John Wesley, Methodism’s founder, and the early Methodists. The early Christians needed each other’s support and strength to stay spiritually on track. And Wesley echoed Hebrews in stressing the importance of living our faith in community—we are to encourage one another, “sparking love and good deeds.”
It was a long, well-established reality: Jews and Samaritans didn’t talk to one another. Jews and Samaritans shunned one another (cf. John 4:9). But the argument that “We don’t do things that way” didn’t deter Jesus. He saw a woman, and a city, ready to respond to his kingdom message of love. He was willing to change whatever he needed to change, if it meant reaching people who were “ripe for the harvest.”
One of the most visible features of Resurrection is the congregation’s size. But our mission statement is not to “be big,” but to be a place where people are becoming deeply committed Christians. As Jesus said when a legal expert asked him about the Greatest Commandment, loving God with all our heart, soul, and mind leads us to love our neighbors as ourselves. When we love our neighbors as ourselves, we show the love of Christ to those around us. Love is contagious and God wants us to show it to all we know. So our hope and prayer is that our church has grown numerically because of the way God ignites our hearts by His love.
To access the Family Activity suggested in this week’s GPS, download the printable GPS from http://www.cor.org/guide.
Lord Jesus, give me a heart open to your Spirit’s power, and a willingness to answer your call, wherever you and your mission may take me. Thank you for giving us to each other as a community of believers who can encourage and support each other as we draw near to you together. Amen.
CONNECT (5-10 minute discussion, at most)
What would you say are the one or two principles or practices that are totally non-negotiable in shaping your daily life?
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND STUDY
NOTE: We encourage study groups to have several different Bible translations available for these readings. Reading aloud from the Common English Bible or The Message may help to clarify the meaning of some passages.
Read Acts 1:1-8, Matthew 28:18-20. In what ways did Jesus’ marching orders make it clear that, in the end, his mission for us as individuals and as a church are all about reaching people, not about structures or organizations? And God’s primary way of carrying out the mission was also about people: “You will be my witnesses.” What factors made it more effective for God to use people as witnesses? In what ways have you been able to live out Jesus’ commission for you to be one of his witnesses?
Read Luke 4:16-21, Luke 19:1-10. The words Jesus quoted (and adapted) from Isaiah 61:1-3—“To preach good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, to liberate the oppressed, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor”—have a nice poetic ring. What can we do each day to live into the meaning of those words in the gritty, unpoetic, day-to-day realities of life? How did Luke 19:10 express Jesus’ unswerving sense of his mission? Are there other worthy missions that could distract us from Jesus’ central mission?
Read Romans 6:15-23. Pastor Stuart Briscoe wrote that being free from sin means “[Christians do] not have to go on sinning, and treating righteous living as something that is good if you can get around to it.” In what ways has your loyalty to Christ given you the freedom to change your life for the better? What hurtful or destructive actions, feelings or thoughts have, at some point in your life, made you their slave? How did (or will) Jesus’ love free you from those things?
Read Hebrews 10:19-25. We all need encouragement to keep us going at times. That’s what the writer to the Hebrews had in mind: “let us consider each other carefully for the purpose of sparking love and good deeds” (verse 24). When have you needed someone you trust to give you a boost in your life of faith? When have you done that for someone else? In what ways do you as members of this group do that for one another? In what ways can you deepen your commitment to one another, so as to do an even better job of “sparking love and good deeds”?
Read John 4:19-35. “The woman” (verses 27-29) was the Samaritan woman Jesus met at the well—she’d had five husbands and was thirsty for “living water.” The disciples were surprised Jesus talked to her at all; so was she, at first. But Jesus saw a different potential in her, and she became the first “preacher” of the good news in the gospel of John. Is there someone you see in a negative light who might be worth a fresh look through Jesus’ eyes? When Jesus saw Samaritans coming toward him, he said to the disciples, “Open your eyes and notice that the fields are already ripe for the harvest.” Are there any “harvests” (people groups, parts of town, etc.) you might be in danger of overlooking because they aren’t as familiar or comfortable for you?
Read Matthew 22:34-40. God calls us to love others as God loves us—unconditionally. Loving our neighbors as ourselves means showing unwarranted love with no hesitation. Are there times when that is hard, even within your group? What stopped you from loving someone relentlessly today? How can you love them unconditionally tomorrow?
From last week: This last week, did you prayerfully consider whether you are being sucked into the daily grind at work, unable to focus on what’s most important to your faith life? Did you find ways to escape the never-ending emails, text messages and phone calls, even for a few minutes at a time? Share with your group any ways God helped you achieve greater balance to your life and to make your life at work more meaningful for him.
FOR ADDITIONAL INSIGHT
From Pastor Adam Hamilton’s sermon, June 29, 2014:
What I’d like to do today is share with you one small portion of one of the talks I’ve been giving across the country this last month on spiritual leadership. As I returned from the last of the conferences I felt these were things that would be important for our congregation to know and to practice…. Here are the key ideas, in a nutshell
Vital Christianity is
1. Clear about its mission
2. Focused on people
3. Willing to do what is difficult
The first of the principles of effective people, churches and organizations is being clear about the mission. A mission answers the question, “Why are we here?” This is as important for a Sunday School class as for a large corporation. It is important for a soldier on a battlefield and for a Christian who seeks to live for Christ each day.…
Our mission comes from Jesus whom we follow as our Lord. There are three different passages in the gospels that might capture our mission as his followers, both individually and as churches.
The first we might call the Great Invitation: As Jesus called the fishermen to be his disciples he used these words: “Come and follow me and I’ll make you fish for people.” We might say from these words of our Master that: The mission of a Christian is to follow Jesus and to draw others to him.
Jesus also gave us the two Great Commandments, which he said summarized the entirety of scripture: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength; and love your neighbor as you love yourself.” When he was 85, John Wesley preached a sermon called, “What is Man” in which he noted that the aim of every human being “is to know, love, and serve his great Creator.” At our Leawood Campus this appears in 20 inch letters in the narthex—we call it our journey: “Our Journey: To know, love and serve God.”
Then there is Great Commission. In Matthew 28 we read about the last time the disciples saw Jesus: “Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore 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 that I have commanded you.’” Luke mentions these final words of Jesus slightly differently: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” So, having come to faith in Christ, become his followers, and seeking to know, love and serve God and to love our neighbors, we are sent forth to tell others about Christ and to teach the world the things he taught. Which takes us back to the idea of fishing for people.
We’ve articulated our mission here at Resurrection as a statement of purpose. OUR PURPOSE IS TO BUILD A CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY WHERE NON-RELIGIOUS AND NOMINALLY RELIGIOUS PEOPLE ARE BECOMING DEEPLY COMMITTED CHRISTIANS. This shapes and guides everything that we do. It embraces the Great Invitation, Commandments and Commission.
That leads to a second leadership principle: Nearly all dynamic, healthy and vital organizations and individuals are focused on caring for, developing relationships with, and helping people. This is precisely what Jesus was talking about in the second great command, that we’re to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. It is what we find in John when Jesus said, GRAPHIC: “By this the world will know that you are my disciples: that you love one another.”
The second principle is that fulfilling your mission as a Christian is largely about your willingness to care for and be in relationship with people. Most people come to faith in Christ not as a result of your superior theological ideas, as important as it is to be able to express your theology in compelling ways. Most people come to faith in Christ because a Christian they trust or respect expressed love to them in tangible ways and then invited them….
In the end this emphasis on people and relationships is why our parking lot ministry matters, and the greeters, and the ushers, and those who answer the phones and the Congregational Care Ministers, and every other volunteer and servant minister here. It is why we deliver coffee mugs to first time visitors. It is why it matters that those of you who attend the picnic this weekend at the Leawood campus, or any other fellowship events at any other campus realize that this is both something you do for fellowship and fun, but you are always “on”—you are always meant to be looking to include the persons who are sitting alone, or looking for the stranger. We’ve got to be able to make a case for our faith. But Jesus spent very little time making the case for the existence of God, or explaining theology. He spent a lot of time showing people God and then calling them to follow him….
The last of the principles that I’d like to mention today is that vital Christianity, in Christians and in churches, is a faith that is willing to do what is difficult and inconvenient—to do whatever it takes. I often call this “discernment by nausea,” because we’ll often find ourselves at a fork in the road, and one path is easy, comfortable, convenient and requires little of us. The other path is hard, difficult, scary and inconvenient and will require sacrifice. Which of those two paths is most likely God’s path?
In 1992 we had outgrown the McGilley Chapel Funeral Home where we began. We had to move. We had two options. One was to move to Leawood Elementary School. The school would require that we get to the church at 6:30 a.m. to set up. We’d have to stay until 1:30 to take everything down. But the school was on the main road and the gym seated 350 people. The other alternative was a little church whose congregation was moving and they were selling their building. It was nestled in a neighborhood where few people would find it. It only seated 250 people. But it was a church building, with pews, stained glass, and we would have no set-up or take down and for a congregation meeting in a funeral home the idea of having a building was very compelling. The church building felt great, comfortable, convenient, easy, and convenient. The school felt the opposite. But as we wrestled with which of these will help us fulfill our mission, we knew we needed to rent the school. We immediately grew from 250 a weekend to 350 and then to 500 over two years.
What would have happened to Resurrection had we chosen the convenient path, bought the church building and landed there? My hunch is that we would be a church of 300 per weekend in worship. There’s nothing wrong with 300 per weekend, but think of all the ministry that never would have happened had we done what was most convenient….
Being a Disciple of Jesus requires taking the more difficult path. I remember Dick Cray, I think it was, who bought me the Franklin Time Management Course back in 1992. I don’t remember anything else from it but this one phrase. It said: “The successful business person is willing to do the things an unsuccessful business person is unwilling to do.” We hope and pray for blessings, but those blessings come when we give ourselves away and seek to serve. Jesus said the same thing this way: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” The narrow way isn’t narrow to keep people out. The narrow way is narrow because it is inconvenient and many are unwilling to travel that way….
I want to ask you these questions:
1. Are you clear about your mission from Christ – to follow him and fish for people?
2. Are you looking for ways to bear witness to your faith both with your actions and with your words?
3. Who will you invite to church, and who will you encourage to get back to church in the next week or two?
4. Are you willing to give of yourself, to sacrifice your time and talents and resources, to pursue Christ’s mission – to take the
road less travelled?
And I’ll get very specific: if you are not currently volunteering anywhere in the life of the church, would you commit to looking for a place to volunteer and to serve?
During this next week, prayerfully consider your answer to the five questions Pastor Hamilton asked at the end of his sermon above. Will anything change in your life as a result of answering those questions? Next week, share your answers, and find ways that you can support one another as a group in making those changes.