Share:As a group, share some of the techniques that each of you use to help stay focused on your personal devotions. What other ideas do you have that can enhance your personal time with God?
“It was in hours of solitary prayer that Jesus in His earth-life received wisdom and power. Let the youth follow His example in finding at dawn and twilight a quiet season for communion with their Father in heaven. And throughout the day let them lift up their hearts to God” (Ellen White, CG 525.2).
A lot of emphasis is placed on personal devotions, but group Bible study and prayer are just as important. If personal devotions represent our vertical relationship with God, group study is the horizontal relationship. When you experience both aspects, it enriches and completes your relationship with God.
Many different methods exist for group Bible study. The most obvious one is the Sabbath school lesson. There are lots of other Bible study curriculums available as well. Another option is to read a book such as The Purpose Driven Life, or to watch a video series like the NOOMA DVDs. All of these are good options, but just like in personal devotions, it is important to focus on time spent in the Word.
The simplest method of Bible study requires no major preparation, but it works very well. As a group, choose a book of the Bible you would like to study. Read a section aloud, usually two or three paragraphs long. Then have other group members read the section aloud again using different Bible versions. After hearing the same passage several times, with slightly different interpretations, the class will find lots of material to discuss. Since you will move in order through the Bible book, the members will know which section will be read ahead of time and can prepare if they want.
One important element of group prayer is intercession. As a class you should take the time to share prayer requests with one another. Prayer tends to be the last thing a group focuses on. It is often used as a ten second bookend to a meeting. However, you will find your study group extremely blessed if you make prayer the center of your study time.
Some do’s and don’ts for group prayer time:
Designate a specific amount of time to prayer.
Do ask for prayer requests. Someone can keep a record of these in a journal, if desired. It is often nice to look back on requests and record the answers that were received. The real names of people in the requests do not have to be used to ensure privacy.
Encourage everyone to pray silently during quiet moments.
Designate someone to begin and end the prayer time. Those persons can pray more than once if they choose, but it will help people to know when prayer time is over.
Do remember to pray for the prayer requests.
Don’t force anyone to pray out loud. Some people are not yet comfortable praying in public.
Don’t go around the circle praying. People tend to focus on how many people are left to pray, rather than on what is being said.
Don’t worry if no one prays and there is an awkward silent gap. Just use the time to pray silently.
There are other aspects that groups share besides Bible study and prayer. True Christian community and fellowship includes bearing one another’s burdens, sharing life’s trials and triumphs, eating together, worshipping together, and working together, among others.
Share: What examples of Christian community are there in the Bible? What activities did these groups share?
“It is in the order of God that those who bear responsibilities should often meet to counsel with one another and to pray earnestly for that wisdom which He alone can impart. Unitedly make known your troubles to God. Talk less; much precious time is lost in talk that brings no light. Let brethren unite in fasting and prayer for the wisdom that God has promised to supply liberally” (Ellen White, CD 188.1).
As a group, or in smaller groups of five to seven people, discuss what the format of an ideal Bible study group would be. Decide on factors such as:
When and where will the group meet?
Who will be a part of the group?
How long will the group meet? (Both length of time and how many times during the year)
What will be studied?
How will it be studied?
What other components of group community will you include in your study? (For example, prayer, social, worship, service, testimony)
Who will lead out in each section?
Make a written plan outlining the format of your study that includes each component.
Finish up your study time together by practicing group prayer. Have someone write down the prayer requests that the group has. Avoid discussing these in great detail, since that wastes prayer time. Designate someone to begin prayer and someone to end. Tell the group that you will pray for ten minutes, whether anyone is talking aloud or not. No one has to pray, and people can pray as many times as they would like. As part of your prayer requests, invite the Holy Spirit to be part of your lives, your group, and your church.
“Let little companies meet together to study the Scriptures. You will lose nothing by this, but will gain much. Angels of God will be in your gathering, and as you feed upon the Bread of Life, you will receive spiritual sinew and muscle. You will be feeding, as it were, upon the leaves of the tree of life. By this means only can you maintain your integrity” (Ellen White, PaM 274.1).
“Nothing tends more to cement the hearts of Christians than praying together. Never do they love one another so well as when they witness the outpouring of each other’s hearts in prayer.” —Charles Finney
DISCIPLE IN ACTION
Note: See page 7 for an explanation of the mentoring partnership
Meet with your accountability partner regularly to pray and talk about the challenges you face in being faithful in your personal relationship with God. They can help you to work through any difficulties you encounter.
If you don’t have a mentor/accountability partner, pray that God will bring you someone to pray with. Having a prayer partner is a huge boost to your personal spiritual life. God loves to answer those prayers! A prayer partner should be someone of the same sex because praying together with someone is a very intimate experience. Make sure that you guard your prayer time to avoid using it to complain, gossip, or talk about unimportant things. The best rule is to pray first and talk second!
Choose one method for Bible study during your personal devotions this week.
Practice one of the suggested methods of personal prayer or journaling.
Begin a prayer list and pray for specific people and their needs this week.
If your group is quite large it will be easier to break into smaller groups of five to seven people to complete the activities. However, since these activities are focusing primarily on being a group, the optimal idea would be to keep everyone working together during the activities, so as to experience the dynamics of community.
Here are some additional resources about small groups and prayer:
Reinvent your Sabbath School, by Chris and Yolanda Blake
Releasing God’s Power, by Becky Tirabassi
Too Busy not to Pray, by Bill Hybels
What Happens When Women Pray, by Evelyn Christenson
DEBRIEFING LESSONS 1-4
Time: 90 minutes.Try to spend approximately 15-20 minutes discussing each section below, leaving time for small group prayer and commitment at the end.
Discipleship begins and ends with Jesus—the focal point!
The call to be a disciple comes the second you make the choice to accept Jesus. Learning how to be a good and effective one takes a bit longer. Yes, training in godliness must be intentional.
During these four sessions, we have explored many facets of what it means to have a true, abiding, whole-life relationship with God. We discovered that there is no instant, microwaveable way to spiritual growth. Growing spiritually takes time, and everything we do on a daily basis affects this journey—the friends we keep, how we relate to each other, the songs we sing, the things we watch—in short, everything we do.
But the greatest growth comes when we allow Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, to transform us and make us want to be like Him, want to spend time with Him—sitting at His feet and listening to him. Like Martha, we too can learn what is really important “…and it will not be taken away….” (Luke 10:38-42).
Then, like the disciples, we will say, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1).
During these four sessions, we have explored many facets of what it means to have a true, abiding, whole-life relationship with God. Here is an overview of the four “Big Ideas” we’ve looked at:
God created you for a unique, deepening, love relationship with Him.
When Christ calls you to Him, He sends you to others. A disciple isn’t just a student, but is also a messenger.
God wants you to share His love by ministering to others so that they, too, can experience His saving grace and develop a unique, deepening, love relationship with Him, and in turn, minister to others.
The God and Creator of the universe, who created undiscovered worlds and galaxies, still wants to be intimately involved with you. He shows you this by making Himself available through His Word and by actively using different means to have one-on-one time with you.
During Session 1, we looked at the ways we develop this love relationship with God—primarily through Bible study, prayer, and worship, especially with others on Sabbath. Bible Study and Prayer
Think about and discuss:
Have your ideas and attitudes about the Bible and prayer changed during these sessions? If so, how?
In what ways did you find your devotional life changing as you tried out some of the suggestions and activities? For instance, did you begin (or already have) a prayer journal? Was it only written, or did it contain art and doodles and other things? Do you like or dislike the idea? If you don’t, what would you prefer to do to make your relationship with God more visible and real to you?
Which methods of prayer and Bible study were the most helpful to you and why? Which were not helpful, and why? Did you discover anything not mentioned in the session that you would like to share?
Did you make a plan for training yourself in greater godliness? How is it working for you? What are some of the blessings you have found? What are the obstacles you face? Ask your group if they have ideas and solutions. You can all share both your blessings and your problems and ideas.
Worship and Sabbath
Of course, what we do in the church building on Sabbath is only a small part of what worship really is. Every discipline and practice in this session is all about worship, from private devotions to prayer partners to corporate worship on Sabbath. In fact, our every thought, word, and action is worship one way or another. We might want to be careful and attentive to whom or what we’re worshipping!
Have your attitudes toward worship changed during these sessions? If so, how?
Did you find a prayer partner? What are the blessings and challenges of this relationship? (Of course, do not share any personal details of prayers with the whole group.)
Are you developing a growing ability to remain aware of God’s presence and your connection to Him all day? Are you catching yourself sometimes worshipping something else entirely? What do you do when this happens?
How does fun relate to worship?
During Session 2, we explored what it means to be a disciple. We learned that being a true, wholehearted disciple has more layers than we might have thought.
First, Behold Christ
“Beholding Christ and becoming changed” is exactly what Session 1 was all about. Look back at some of the questions and issues you just discussed (on Bible study, prayer, and worship), but this time, instead of viewing them as a sort of test of “how well I’m doing in my devotional life,” ask yourselves and each other, “What did this teach me about Jesus?”
We learned that the call to be a disciple comes the second you make the choice to accept Jesus. Learning how to be a good and effective one takes a bit longer!
Have you found that, as your awareness of God’s presence grows, so does your awareness of the little calls that come in your daily life? Are there some you can share?
Have you had some blessings and exciting new connections with other people? Have you made some painful errors? What might you do differently the next time?
What questions and suggestions do you have for your group?
Jesus is recorded as doing some one-on-one work, and of course our personal relationships with Him are unique, and different from any other on the earth. But He spent, by far, the most of His time with groups—both large and small. And He never once called someone to be a disciple alone.
Why do you think the “two-by-two” principle is effective?
What are some things you have done as a disciple that you think should be done alone?
What are some things you have done or want to do as a disciple that will require another person? Several others?
What did you think of the Ellen White quote that included this line: “Humanity is interlaced and interwoven with humanity”?
During Session 3, we looked at ways to minister to others. Of all the principles we have explored so far, this one is the most able to be integrated into our daily lives of work, study, and play.
The Journey of Change
As you reflect together on all the things above and how they are working together in your life, where do you see yourself moving forward?
Where do you see yourself moving backward?
Where do you feel stuck?
What suggestions can the group give each other?
The session asserts that the great law of life is service. If God is love and all who love are of God, then love must equal service.
How do you find this to be true or not true in your life? Think both of the ways you give and the ways you receive service.
Can there be such a thing as love without service, or true service without love? Why or why not?
What do the fruits of the Spirit have to do with love and service? Which ones do you see most clearly being brought into your life with God? Which ones do you most long to develop more fully?
The needs of the world are sometimes missed or misinterpreted by Christians. We can be so focused on saving people’s souls that we forget their bodies. As Adventists, we don’t believe in a separate soul. We believe that peoples’ bodies and physical needs are part of their souls’ needs! But we still are hesitant to enter the world of social action, despite the fact that this is where Jesus spent the vast majority of His time.
Brainstorm some of the great needs of the billions on this earth. You could write them on a white board. It won’t take two minutes to fill the board! Now, each person pick one or two needs that call the most to their hearts.
What are you doing to find ways to help meet this need? Are you doing, or just talking?
Are the needs you’re called to work for global, local, or both? What are some ways you can help in your own family, workplace, school, neighborhood? What are some ways you can help globally?
Tell each other one way you will serve this week. Then hold each other accountable.
Networking for Ministry
“Social networking” is the buzzword of our age. In what ways are you presently involved in social networking, both on- and offline?
What are some ways you use these platforms for ministry? (Don’t think only of specifically religious ministering. Those needs you brainstormed didn’t only speak to spiritual natures.)
What are some ways you could minister more effectively? Do you need a partner? A group? Do you think online networks are sufficient? Why or why not?
Are there ways you have used social networking skills that actually worked against God’s kingdom? What will you do to change that?
How can music and other arts be connected with personal devotion, groups, churches, discipleship, and ministry?
In Session 4, we explored ways to transform the devotional life.
In many ways, this session comes full circle back to session one. Why do you think this is so?
What are some of the differences you have seen in your devotional life that have happened specifically because of your attempts to grow your discipleship?
What are some of the differences that have occurred because you have tried to minister?
What are some ways you want to grow now?
What are some ways you could envision yourself growing in the future?
Are there any fears and concerns you feel on this topic? Can you share them with the group and practice ministering to each other right now?
Leader: Be sure to watch the clock and save time for serious prayer. There is no need to cover every one of these questions. Some will be more or less relevant to your particular group. Some will cause great discussion and interest—those are the ones to spend more time on. But at least fifteen minutes before you want to close, wind it up and divide the group into small groups with instructions to pray specifically for the things that have been brought up in the discussion.
If you know some are already prayer partners, you may want to put those together. A good prayer group might consist of two pairs of prayer partners. You could even have people take notes from the beginning, writing down issues, concerns, blessings, and fears that are brought up so that they will be able to pray intelligently for each other.
End by praying aloud for each one in the room and commissioning them to go forth for God. You can make a ceremony of it, if you wish. They could light each other’s candles, or put prayer requests in a basket, or anything you or they think of.
Session 6a: developing an individual identity that is complete in Christ by Michael Ikechukwe Oluikpe
Session 6b:developing an individual identity that is complete in Christ by Erika Perpall
Session 7: understanding that god is the source of life by Debbonnaire Kovacs
Session 8:investing myself in the discipleship of others by Tracy Morgan
Session 9: helping believers build Christ-like relationships by Tracy Morgan
Session 10:debriefing session by Debbonnaire Kovacs
READ THIS FIRST!
INFORMATION FOR SESSION 7:
UNDERSTANDING THAT GOD IS THE SOURCE OF LIFE
Creation is a hot topic these days. There is a range of beliefs, from no creator at all, to some vague “life force” (possibly intelligent, possibly not) working in or through everything, to some form of creator who seeded the primordial soup and left, to theistic evolution, in which a real Creator God made everything but used endless periods of time to do it and is doing it still, to simple, biblical six-day creation by the one and only, most high, triune God. Most of these beliefs are held passionately and more or less rigidly, leaving little room for even hearing what others believe, let alone actually listening respectfully to them.
As far as possible, attempt not to be drawn into debates or arguments on the subject; however, if arguments arise, Christians need to remember to be Christ-like even in our disagreements. We can listen to each other with love, respecting the person and his or her right to disagree with us, even if we cannot truthfully respect the belief stated. Rather than arguing ways and means, we can focus on the most important truth of all—A real God made all of us and how we live our lives matters to this Creator. People who fully accept secular evolution have a long way to go before accepting God’s existence, let alone His Creatorship, but those who at least believe that God is can usually be reached by focusing on the spiritual challenges He brings to our lives: What does it mean that God made me? What blessings, what challenges, what demands does that put on my life? As a person draws nearer and nearer to the Source of all life and the Source of one’s own life, the power and love of the Creator become more and more overwhelming, until the concept that He crafted all this miraculous life and love deliberately, lovingly, recently, and in six actual days seems perfectly feasible after all.
It’s always safe to concentrate on the love! It really does bring all other things in its train.
“The physical organism of man is under the supervision of God, but it is not like a clock, which is set in operation, and must go of itself. The heart beats, pulse succeeds pulse, breath succeeds breath, but the entire being is under the supervision of God. ‘Ye are God’s husbandry; ye are God’s building.’ In God we live, and move, and have our being. Each heartbeat, each breath, is the inspiration of Him who breathed into the nostrils of Adam the breath of life—the inspiration of the ever-present God, the great I AM.” (The Review and Herald, November 8, 1898.)
John 1 says that Jesus was the active force in creation, though of course all three Persons of the Godhead were actively involved and are clearly shown as present in Genesis. When it comes to re-creation, Jesus is again the active agent. Again, of course, all three are active. God the Father made the decision and sent His Son. The Spirit was extremely involved throughout Jesus’ life on earth and is in some senses even more active now than Jesus is, bringing and managing our daily New Life. However, Jesus was the one who “put a face on God.” One of His important roles as incarnate God was to make God visible to us. John made the point both in John 1 and in 1 John 1 that he was speaking of something he himself had seen, heard, and touched. This is the reason one of Jesus’ favorite titles for Himself was Son of Man. He is our brother in a way that could not be possible before His birth, and now we can “see, touch, even taste” God in ways that would not be possible had He not visited us.
This is the major focus of this study. It’s one thing (and very important!) to understand that God is the Source of life in the sense that He was the one who first created the planet, the light, air, plants, animals, and us. It’s even more important to understand that God is the immediate Source of my life, that He is working daily, momently (with or without my cooperation) in an attempt to guide me into His paths.
Most important of all is to understand that He is the Source of new life, that I am His child, “born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God” (John 1:13, NIV). This is a Source I cannot do without, any more that I could do without the breath He created for my lungs and created my lungs for, any more than I could do without the water He made for me and made me out of, any more than I could do without the love and touch He made people to give me and made me to give to others.
“The mind devoted unreservedly to God, under the guidance of the divine Spirit, develops generally and harmoniously. The weak, vacillating character becomes changed through the power of God to one of strength and steadfastness. Continual devotion and piety establish so close a relation between Jesus and his disciple that the Christian becomes like him in mind and character. After association with the Son of God, the humble follower of Christ is found to be a person of sound principle, clear perception, and reliable judgment. He has a connection with God, the source of light and understanding. He who longed to be of service to the cause of Christ, has been so quickened by the life-giving rays of the Sun of Righteousness, that he has been enabled to bear much fruit to the glory of God.” (Christian Education, 199)
Session 6a: Developing an Individual Identity in Christ