LIFE group guide: unity visualized (aka: body imaging)

 

NOTE: Following is the discussion guide we’ll use tomorrow (July 20) in our LIFE groups at MoSt Church. This guide will enable your follow-up of my sermon that morning. To find previous group discussion guides, look under the category title “LIFE group guides” and you’ll find an archive of previous issues.

Reason

Stated in a single sentence, this is the purpose of this morning’s sermon.

To consider the heart of our role in maintaining the unity we experience in Christ Jesus.

Revelation

These Scriptures form some of the foundation of this sermon.

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. (1 Corinthians 12.12-27 NIV)

Relation

Use one of the following icebreaker questions to prime the pump, to help the conversation begin. Choose one to discuss.

1. How has your physical body changed through the years?

2. There’s plenty of humor in the text above. What other Biblical texts do you find humorous?

Research

These exercises/questions are meant to help us grapple with the Scripture(s) related to this sermon.

1. Examine 1 Cor. 12.12-27. What specifically is the Spirit depicted as doing? God the Father?

2. In the text above, where does the sin of pride make an appearance? Disdain? Scorn? Shame?

Reflection

These questions assist our sharing what we sense God’s Spirit is doing with us in our encounter with God’s word.

1. This text got penned because some church members were putting other members down. So?

2. Christ’s church is an interdependent organism and its diversity is a God-given essential. How?

3. How is diversity without unity a bad thing? Similarly, unity without diversity?

4. MoSt Church is Christ’s body (a part of it, that is). As a member of it, what body part are you?

5. “… parts should have equal concern for each other.” When achieved, what does that look like?

Response

These ideas/suggestions are for your use beyond the group meeting; to aid in living out today’s message in the coming days.

1. Thoughtfully assess what you have to offer to the good, benefit, and strengthening of MoSt.

2. Rein in your speech, and your thoughts, as to how you view and speak of other members.

links: this went thru my mind

 

Aliens, culture, faith & immigration: God’s Immigrants [essential reading]

“The total global diaspora numbers about 859 million from 327 distinct people groups. A larger number of those peoples settle in the US than in any other host country, making about 11% of the US population foreign born. … Let us see if we can’t … reclaim the deep resonances and reverence scripture caries for the immigrant.”

Busyness, Christianity, church, faith, over-stimulation, United States: Why It’s Hard to Be Christian in America [essential reading]

“What we need is a community of people who agree to live by a different ethic and rhythm. The Bible has a word for that community. It’s called church. So, let the church be the church.”

Burnout, discouragement, leadership & ministry: * Ten Things Pastors Hate to Admit Publicly [essential reading]; * A Cure for Ministerial Burnout: Contemplative Prayer; * Don’t Make Your Pastor a Statistic?

* “My intention is precisely the opposite. I hope that from this: Churches will pray all the more for their pastors because they understand the challenges; Churches will be doubly grateful for the fact that so many pastors stay in the saddle despite their fears, hurts and frustrations; People in churches will think twice before engaging in things that sink deep into the soul of their leaders.”

* “If, each day, time had been set aside for the spiritual renewal that contemplative praying can provide, there probably would have been the kind of revitalization of mind and spirit that could have maintained their enthusiasm and commitment to ministry.”

* “Consider these figures compiled by the Schaeffer Institute …”

Church, church attendance & expectations: * #1 Reason Why Church Attendance is Down – Really? [required reading]; * Disillusionment With the Church [essential reading]

* “Take me for example, for a number of reasons, I am very close to burnout.  When I hear words like ‘active’, ‘committed’, ‘involvement’, and ‘monitor attendance’, it is going to produce the opposite of the intended effect in me.  If I hear these words from the pulpit on a Sunday morning, I am going to be less likely, not more likely,  to attend the following week.  I am burnt out and you want a larger commitment from me?!?

“Seven years ago, when we searching for a new pastor, our church surveyed our community.  When asked the number one reason why they didn’t attend church, the top two responses could be summarized as:  ‘Too tired’, and ‘not enough time.’”

* “I would contend that many of our disillusions with the church are based upon a wrong ethic. We misunderstand the true nature of fellowship in the gospel community. And therefore, we wrongly apply the ethic of other communities to the church.

“The foundation of our fellowship is not the feelings we have for one another, as important as they may be. Neither is the foundation of our fellowship based upon the fact that we live in the same geographic place, educate our children in the same way, hold similar political views, or are the same ethnicity. No. It is the gospel that is the foundation of our fellowship. Nothing else.”

Israel: * The Pilgrimage: Israel (a 25-part series by Ben Witherington; superb); * Gaza is in the News Again

* “I was fortunate enough to lead a tour to Israel and Turkey for two weeks in May with 29 hearty souls on pilgrimage, and we had a blessed time and a blast as well. It was all good. In the coming weeks I will be sharing some of the pictures and experiences from this trip and we will be talking about.”

* “Gaza is mentioned several times in the Old Testament. Here is a summary of these references.”

Listening, preaching & sermons: How to Get More from a Sermon [essential reading]

“Let’s talk about people who do not get full value from the sermons they hear.

“These people may be taking SERMON-BLOCKERS. When the pastor gets up to preach, they … nitpick him … plan the week ahead … shift into neutral and become passive. … send their mind off on a mini-vacation. … listen with their ears but not their hearts … do not bring faith to what they are hearing.

“These people may hear thousands of sermons, but they do not benefit from them because they are resisting them, not listening to them, and not believing them. Such people are literally wasting their time by coming to church.”

Learning, online & reading: Being a Better Online Reader

“… we don’t read the same way online as we do on paper.”

Population density & the United States: Half of the United States Lives in These Counties

“… half of the United States population is clustered in just the 146 biggest counties out of over 3000.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Animals: Zoo Animals and Their Discontents

“The notion that animals think and feel may be rampant among pet owners, but it makes all kinds of scientific types uncomfortable. … That may be changing. A profusion of recent studies has shown animals to be far closer to us than we previously believed …”

Baptism: Six Things I Don’t Believe About Baptism

“… not an exhaustive list. But it’s a start.”

Church, evangelism, Nones & outreach: Five Toxic Church Environments Turning Away Nones

“… nones … They are currently the single fastest-growing religious group of our time and currently represent 20% of the US population.”

Discipleship & social media: Will Social Media Destroy Discipleship?

“The Internet becomes dangerous when it keeps us from deeply investing in real one-on-one relationships. God is an extremely relational God. He is one God in three persons. He is literally made up of relationship. We are created in His image. We are wired to be relational, to encourage, be with, and love other people. Discipleship is God’s joy and passion for His people. Discipleship is God’s plan for redemption.”

Hitler, home invasion, nonviolence, pacifism & self-defense: What If Hitler Invaded Your Home? [essential reading]

“Some trust in horses and chariots, some trust in Smith and Wesson, but we will trust in the name of the Lord our God.”

Humility, ministry, preaching & weakness: A Word to Those Who Preach

“…  our role is to tell Him thank you for the ways He is choosing to use us to reach the world.  You most likely assume that you are not a big deal.  Good.  We aren’t. However, we are in His eyes when we walk in humility alongside the Spirit of Jesus.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Church, church decline, leadership, ministry, morale & vision: * How Churches Became Cruise Ships (part 2); * Six Subtle Signs Your Church is Dying [essential reading]

* “Eventually we will learn that no matter how much money, effort, or innovation the church possesses, it will never be as cool as the culture. Relevance is a race it cannot win, but in our misguided attempts to compete with the culture we risk losing sight of the only thing of value the church can offer the world–Jesus Christ.”

* “There is more talk of the past than of the future. … More effort goes into keeping people than winning people. … There is no budget for evangelism, outreach, missions, or advertising. … Everyone wants to know everyone in the ‘church family.’ … The church is mono-generational (relating to one single generation). … No new leaders are being trained.”

Corporate worship, nationalism & patriotism: Why Younger Evangelicals May Feel Uneasy in a Patriotic Service [required reading]

“The church transcends the state, a truth that should be proclaimed clearly in a worship setting.”

Cynicism, happiness & joy: The Giant Hole in Cynicism

“[There is] a radical difference between cynicism and joy. Cynics seek darkness wherever they go. They point always to approaching dangers, impure motives, and hidden schemes. They call trust naive, care romantic, and forgiveness sentimental…They consider themselves realists who see reality for what it truly is and who are not deceived by “escapist emotions.” But in belittling God’s joy, their darkness only calls forth more darkness. [Henri Nouwen]“

Divorce & remarriage: Divorce & Remarriage

“‘A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord.’ (I Cor. 7:39)

Holy Spirit & intercession: Weakness, Groaning, and the Holy Spirit

“The Spirit does not simply know our suffering in some mere cognitive sense. Rather, the Spirit is present within us and experiences our suffering as a sympathetic friend, and thus the Spirit groans as well. The Spirit groans with us and for us, and this groaning becomes part of the experience of the Triune God. God is for us not only in the intercession of the Son, but also in the intercession of the Spirit.”

Prayer: A New Way to Pray

“… rather than have one ‘quiet time’ a day … pray for at least 15 minutes four times daily.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Benevolence, charity, generosity, money, poor, poverty & Texas: * Boom Meets Bust in Texas: Atop Sea of Oil, Poverty Digs In [required reading]; * Let Them Eat Cash

* “One-third of Texas’ $48 billion in tax revenue last year came directly or indirectly from the oil and gas industry … but very little of it is spent on social services and programs to assist the poor, although some helps finance public schools and universities. So, despite the boom, Texas has some of the highest rates of poverty in the nation and ranks first in the percentage of residents without health insurance.”

* “… he was worried that people might spend the handout on drugs or alcohol. This pessimism (and paternalism) is common and understandable. But evidence from other countries suggests we should be more optimistic.”

Church & complaining: How Complaining Keeps the Church from God’s Mission

“If you want to be a part of a church that makes a difference, if you want your small group to make a difference, refrain from wasting your energy on easy targets. It’s not worth your time. Stop ranting on social media about all kinds of things that are wrong from your point of view. We all have concerns. We all know that life is not as it is supposed to be. Instead focus your energy on what you do have influence. Spend your energy on serving your family today. Invest in a co-worker who needs a listening ear. Pray for your neighbor. You can change the world if you focus on your circle of influence.”

Discipleship: Four Marks of Biblical Discipleship

“The question isn’t merely about the mission; it’s about how disciple-making should be defined. Is disciple-making broad or narrow?”

Efficiency, productivity & work: 5 Unusual Ways to Start Working Smarter, Not Harder

“… it’s easy to fall into a pattern of “always working,” rather than working smart …”

Intercession & public prayer: Using “We” in Public Prayers [essential reading]

“… we need to be very careful about how we use the word ‘we.’ … five groups, for whom the ‘we’ in the congregation/church/service might not apply: (1.) Our troops: what if foreigners are present? (2.) Our country: same. (3.) Our young people (or our older people): what of visitors? or those who have no children? (4.) Our children’s children: same (5.) Our environment, our world: is the world ours? or God’s?”

Marriage: Eight Things We’ve Done Right in Our Marriage

“The most important thing we’ve done right is we’ve never given up on our relationship … no matter how hard things got.”