LIFE group discussion guide: of shepherds & sheep

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NOTE: Following is the discussion guide we’ll use tomorrow (Feb. 22) in our LIFE groups at MoSt Church. This guide will enable your follow-up of this morning’s worship gathering. 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 service.

To help us focus on the character of our Lord as the tireless, benevolent servant-leader of his people.

Revelation

These Scriptures form some of the foundation of this morning’s service.

“‘For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness. I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land. I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land. I will tend them in a good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel will be their grazing land. There they will lie down in good grazing land, and there they will feed in a rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign Lord. I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice.

“‘As for you, my flock, this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will judge between one sheep and another, and between rams and goats. Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture? Must you also trample the rest of your pasture with your feet? Is it not enough for you to drink clear water? Must you also muddy the rest with your feet? Must my flock feed on what you have trampled and drink what you have muddied with your feet?

“‘Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says to them: See, I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. Because you shove with flank and shoulder, butting all the weak sheep with your horns until you have driven them away, I will save my flock, and they will no longer be plundered. I will judge between one sheep and another.

I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd. I the Lord will be their God, and my servant David will be prince among them. I the Lord have spoken.

“‘I will make a covenant of peace with them and rid the land of savage beasts so that they may live in the wilderness and sleep in the forests in safety. I will make them and the places surrounding my hill a blessing. I will send down showers in season; there will be showers of blessing. The trees will yield their fruit and the ground will yield its crops; the people will be secure in their land. They will know that I am the Lord, when I break the bars of their yoke and rescue them from the hands of those who enslaved them. They will no longer be plundered by the nations, nor will wild animals devour them. They will live in safety, and no one will make them afraid. I will provide for them a land renowned for its crops, and they will no longer be victims of famine in the land or bear the scorn of the nations.

Then they will know that I, the Lord their God, am with them and that they, the Israelites, are my people, declares the Sovereign Lord. You are my sheep, the sheep of my pasture, and I am your God, declares the Sovereign Lord.’” (Ezekiel 34.11-31)

Relation

Use one of the following icebreaker questions to prime the pump for group conversation.

1. What does “peace” look like to you? Tell us of a place of unusual tranquility & harmony for you.

2. The pic here is of God/his people as shepherd /sheep. What would be a modern, urban metaphor?

Research

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

1. Underline each occurrence of the phrase “I will.” Circle every use of the words “Lord” & “shepherd.”

2. Make two columns; one for all the good God will give and one for all the bad things God defeats.

Reflection

These questions help us discern and share what we sense God’s Spirit is doing as we encounter his word.

1. Given what’s said about how “sheep” act & what they experience, what are people really like?

2. Who are we that the Lord should care for us this way? Why would he expend himself so for us?

3. The God who depicts himself as he does here is clearly a ____________ God.

4. What can you do to make life better for the other sheep in the flock? What habits can you develop?

Response

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

1. Develop a servant spirit & helpful habits for the sake of God’s under-shepherds. Answer their calls.

2. Pray daily for God’s under-shepherds & your openness to their direction for your maturity.

how to pray for your church’s leaders

 

Do you have a deliberate, regular plan you work as to how you pray for your church’s shepherds and staff? Or if you’re a church leader, how would you like fellow church members to daily pray for you?

I recently noticed that Thom Rainer relates in his fine book I Am a Church Member (p.51) that he has for many years regularly asked church members to deliberately pray five minutes a day, every day, for their leaders. Imagine every church member praying daily for their church’s leadership. Amen!

But if you were to start praying for shepherds and staff, what would you pray about each day? If you don’t already have a plan, let me suggest a plan I follow whereby I talk to God about seven specific matters regarding our church family’s leaders. To keep it simple and steady, each day of the week has a specific point of focus. Pick up this plan – or let it spark one of your own – and run with it!

  • Sunday – guidance from God’s Spirit and godly influence with people
  • Monday – spiritual development, growth & maturity
  • Tuesday – purity & holiness of life, protection from Satan’s traps, & escape from temptation
  • Wednesday – provision for their physical needs & ways
  • Thursday – discernment, insight, knowledge, tendencies & wisdom
  • Friday – family (marriage, children, extended family & closest friends)
  • Saturday – strength of emotional, mental & physical health

this went thru my mind

 

Anarchy, civility, control, leadership, power, relationships & spiritual warfare: CSC Paper: “It Should Not Be So Among You” (Previously “On Anarchism and Assholes”)

“In 2004 [Dr. Bob] Sutton proposed and wrote up what he called the “No Asshole Rule” as a “Breakthrough Idea” in the annual edition on that topic for The Harvard Business Review. Basically, the “No Asshole Rule” states that a company would do well to attend to and address the behavior of mean, nasty, selfish, egomanical, and rude persons in the workplace. After publishing his idea in the Review Sutton was overwhelmed with feedback from people around the globe telling him stories of the toll assholes exact in the workplace. He also received confirmation that companies who had implemented a version of the “No Asshole Rule” had experienced not only a boost in their corporate culture but to their bottom line as well.”

Anger, frustration, listening & worry: How to Listen When Someone Is Venting [essential reading]

“The way to listen when someone is venting is to ask them the following three questions …”

Change, church, ministry, evangelism, outreach & tradition: * 3 Things Churches Love That Kill Outreach [essential reading]; * Why Small Churches Are the Next Big Thing

* “1. Too many churches love past culture more than their current context. … 2. Too many churches love their comfort more than their mission. … 3. Too many churches love their traditions more than their children.”

* “”There’s no shortage of studies bemoaning the next generation’s exodus from the Church. Yet while some have written off Millennials’ spiritually, this is a mistake—for the Church and for the Millennials. In the face of this reality, a new opportunity is emerging. … Why? Because, as the first generation with a majority born and raised outside traditional marriage, genuine relationships and intimate worship—what small churches do best—will matter more to them than it did to their parents. But this opportunity comes with one, big condition: Millennials won’t give up quality to gain intimacy. And they shouldn’t have to.”

Culture: Lego Faces are Getting More Pissed Off, Study Says

“The study leaves us with an open question about what sort of impact the growth in conflict-based Lego characters might have on children’s play. The authors also acknowledge that this trend might be necessary for the toy company to maintain its place in the market and meet customer demand. The children that grow up with Lego today will remember not only smileys, but also anger and fear in the Minifigures’ faces,” reads the conclusion. It does recommend that toy designers take care in creating expressions and test the effect of the designs on children. What do you think? Are Lego toys becoming too negative?”

Discipleship & politics: 10 Political Things You Can’t Do While Following Jesus

“…  this is not a complete list but it’s a pretty good place to start.”

Elders & leadershipThe Problem With Elders (parts 1 & 2)

“I have listened to literally thousands of members, hundreds of elders, and hundreds of ministers in the last ten years and many of them have the same complaints/issues … Perhaps it’s time we talked about elders. The problem is … where to start?”

Grief & healing: * 5 Signs That Your Grief is Healthy; * Megan’s Hands

* “When do we know we are grieving well?  And when do we know our grief is becoming potentially destructive?  Walking through grief is a balancing act between allowing yourself to mourn in healthy ways and not allowing grief to take over your life making you unhealthy in mind, body and spirit.  But the question is “How do you know when your grief is being constructive and healing and not destructive and causing you further trauma?” Here are some suggestions on when you know grief is good and when you know grief might be causing you problems …”

* “… the dam broke and I was close to drowning from the depression, the doubt, and the grief. Fast forward many years to today.”

Love & Islam: Hard Teaching: Amid Fear and Division, What Does it Mean to Love Our Muslim Neighbors? [essential reading]

“I don’t call Amir Arain my brother in the faith, but that doesn’t make him any less my neighbor. According to Jesus, everyone is a neighbor, and there’s no one who’s not my neighbor. Yes, I disagree with Amir on the precise meaning of Jesus’ life. Because of this — not in spite of — I believe that the real test of my disagreement with Amir is in the depth of my commitment to love Amir as Jesus has loved both of us. It’s easy for me to love my brothers and sisters in the faith. Jesus wants to know if I know how to love my neighbors.”

Ministry: * 7 Most Frustrating Things Pastors Experience; * 7 Most Exciting Things a Pastor Experiences

* “What do you think are some of the most frustrating things that pastors experience?”

* “Here are 7 most exciting things pastors experience …”

N.T. Wright: Ask N.T. Wright …(response)

“Wright is the author of over 100 books, including the popular Surprised by Hope and Simply Christian. [He] … is currently Research Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at St. Mary’s College, University of St. Andrews in Scotland.”

Singing, songs & corporate worship: Ten Questions to Ask of a Song’s Lyrics

“… here are ten questions to ask about the words of any song that you’re considering including in corporate worship.”

this went thru my mind

 

Church attendance: How to Become a Regular Church Attender by Ron Edmonson

“Recently someone asked a great question, ‘How can I get my family back in the habit of church again?’ Great question. I’m so glad you asked. Here are a few suggestions.”

Church decline: Established Churches & Inward Drift by Thom S. Rainer [required reading]

“All organizations tend to lose their focus and forget their original purposes over time. I call this almost imperceptible movement “inward drift.” The attitude becomes one of protecting the way we’ve always done it rather than looking back to the original purposes and reasons for existence. … The primary dangers with inward drift are twofold. First and foremost, the organization can forget the very reason it was created. Second, the drift is often imperceptible. Many organizations don’t realize there is a problem until it’s too late.”

Climate change & global warming: Climate Change: Pictures of a Warming World

“Dawn strikes the mountains rising above St. Mary’s Lake in Montana’s Glacier National Park. When the park was created in 1910, it had 150 glaciers. Now it has 30 glaciers, significantly reduced in size.”

Commuting & devotional time: Don’t Undersell Your Commute by Jonathan Parnell

“These stories are amazing. And a common element in each one is the normalcy in which these experiences occurred. Riding a horse or walking or going about business in New York, this was the stuff of an ordinary day to these men. It was as plain as the four hours I spend alone each week on the road — as plain as that 15–30-minute window so many of us will find ourselves in every day as we travel between work and home, or from one errand to the next.”

Elders: Elders: A Question About Eligibility for Office by Jay Guin

“… is a plurality of elders required? and what about the widower elder?”

Liturgical calendar: Another Look: Church Year Spirituality

“Tomorrow is [that is, Yesterday was] the first Lord’s Day in the Church’s Liturgical Year. On [this past] Sunday, Christians who follow this calendar will begin a new year of living in the Gospel with the commencement of Advent. The diagram on the right gives an overview of the annual Church calendar. … I don’t know why so many Christian groups think they need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to ‘discipleship programs.’ This time-tested annual pattern for the life of individual believers and the Church together that is focused on Christ, organized around the Gospel, and grounded in God’s grace, is sheer genius.”

Offerings: Offerings in Leviticus—What They Were and Why They Mattered by Wayne Stiles

“For most Christians, the book of Leviticus is as untraveled as the wilderness in which Moses wrote it. It’s not hard to understand why. I mean, who cares about sacrifices no longer needed or diet codes no longer in effect? Can they teach us anything today? In a word: plenty.”

St. Nicholas: St. Nicholas: What Can I Say, He was a Beast by Pete Enns

“Nicholas was born in the 3rd century in Asia Minor. He used his entire inheritance to help the poor, sick, and children in need. He gave in secret, expecting nothing in return. … Nicholas saved young women from slavery, protected sailors, spared innocents from execution, provided grain in a famine and rescued a kidnapped boy.”

Texas: Lines Blur as Texas Gives Industries a Bonanza by Louise Story

“Along with the huge job growth, the state has the third-highest proportion of hourly jobs paying at or below minimum wage. And despite its low level of unemployment, Texas has the 11th-highest poverty rate among states. … To help balance its budget last year, Texas cut public education spending by $5.4 billion — a significant decrease considering that it already ranked 11th from the bottom among all states in per-pupil financing, according to recent data from the Census Bureau.”

this went thru my mind

 

Lots of “required reading” here today …

BurmaObama to Praise Burma’s ‘Progress’ During Historic Visit

“… President Obama will make history Monday by becoming the first U.S. president to visit the long-isolated Southeast Asian nation.”

Elders, leadership, ministers, shepherds,spiritual gifts & teachers: An Alternative Polity: Gifts by Tim Woodroof [required reading]

“Lacking an effective theology of spiritual gifts, Churches of Christ have been vague about the role those gifts play in our congregations—particularly leadership gifts. Does the Spirit still gift people to lead God’s church or are leadership gifts now synonymous with natural competencies, developed skills, and accumulated experiences? Do different kinds of leaders have different kinds of gifts? Or should we expect every leader to have them all?”

Food, food stamps & gluttony: * Thanksgiving on Food Stamps [required reading]; * Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner: Have We Always Eaten Them? by Denise Winterman

* “For the last few years, I’ve spent the full week before Thanksgiving living on the same budget someone on food stamps would have, which is about $1.25 a meal. You can get a lot of peanut butter, bologna and pasta, but fresh fruits and veggies? Don’t count on it. That’s tough, to be sure, but the hardest part is psychological.”

* “Breakfast as we know it didn’t exist for large parts of history. The Romans didn’t really eat it, usually consuming only one meal a day around noon, says food historian Caroline Yeldham. In fact, breakfast was actively frowned upon. ‘The Romans believed it was healthier to eat only one meal a day,’ she says. ‘They were obsessed with digestion and eating more than one meal was considered a form of gluttony. This thinking impacted on the way people ate for a very long time.'”

Liberation theology, poor & poverty: The Preferential Option for the Poor by Richard Beck

“The basic idea behind the preferential option for the poor is the observation that, within the biblical narrative, God sides with the poor against the rich.”

Militarism: Evangelicals, Militarism, and Romans 13 by Preston Sprinkle [required reading]

“If you miss this point, then you won’t understand what Paul is saying to citizens of God’s kingdom in Romans 13. When Paul says that God executes vengeance through Rome, it was to further prohibit, not encourage, Christians from doing so.”

Relationships: Two Preaching Giants and the ‘Betrayal’ That Tore Them Apart by John Blake [required reading]

“Andy [Stanley] didn’t know his parents’ marriage was in trouble until he was in the 10th grade. Before then, he never saw his father or his mother argue or even disagree. Charles and Anna Stanley seemed to have the perfect relationship.”

Social justice: What’s So Great About ‘The Common Good’? by Andy Crouch

“The common good can help us avoid two modern temptations—one on the left and one on the right.”

Thanksgiving: The First Thanksgiving – A Reason to Complain by Bob Russell

“Could you give thanks if you had prayed for a smooth journey and barely survived? Could you praise God for His goodness if half of your loved ones had died? Could you shout for joy if you were one of fifty people scraping to survive in a terrifying territory with no electricity, no cell phone, no television, no internet, no running water, no health insurance, no police protection and no guarantee you’d live through the next winter? They did.

“That made them so spiritually strong and mentally tough? They considered themselves stepping stones. With our consumer mentality we consider ourselves keystones. We assume we’re the center of the universe. It’s all about us – our needs, our comfort, our desires. But the pilgrims knew it wasn’t about them, it was about God’s will and it was about the welfare of their descendants.”

Women: 10 Lies the Church Tells Women by J. Lee Grady [required reading]

“For centuries, a patriarchal system of control has kept women in spiritual captivity through distortion of the Scriptures. It’s time to debunk the myths.”