We hope these discussion guides have been helpful for your groups as we read through the story of the early church together! This month the theme is “conflict.” There are a number of issues which arise as the gospel spreads into the Greco-Roman world of the first century. You’ll notice this month how the church deals with the conflict between Grecian Christians and Jewish Christians as well as witness conflict between two of the first great evangelists, Paul and Barnabas. Look for principles that might help guide the church today in the issues of potential conflict we face. Have a great group this month!
“Turning Points” is the theme for the month of August. This month in our readings through the story of Acts we encounter two big ones! First, in chapter nine, comes Paul’s radical conversion from persecutor to proclaimer. Then, in chapter ten, Peter is given a vision that radically alters the trajectory of the gospel and the complexion of the church! Join a Service Group this month and read through the story together.
We continue our “deep dive” into the story of the early church in the book of Acts. This month we will continue to see the Word of God spreading and the church growing by leaps and bounds. In fact, one way to organize the book is to look for the six “summary statements” scattered throughout the narrative. They are found at 6:7; 9:31; 12:24; 16:4; and 19:20 . These very similar statements remind the reader that the gospel is spreading as God’s appointed apostles are doing just what Jesus told them to do: “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 I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19-20).
“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem,, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth,” said Jesus. Thus begins the book of Acts, Luke’s second volume in his telling of the story of Jesus. Luke begins his “sequel” with Jesus’ final words and ascension back into heaven. The first-time reader might be left wondering, “What’s next? The hero is gone. What’s more to tell?”
The answer, of course, is plenty!
This month we begin our reading through the adventures of the early Christians, a journey that will likely take us to the end of the year. As we do, I want to encourage you to pay close attention to how the Spirit of God guides and directs the action. Notice how the one character who ties the entire narrative together, isn’t Paul or Peter or another apostle, but the Spirit of God himself. And realize that it is THAT Spirit which still guides and empowers His church today! God bless in your reading of God’s Word with your group this month.
In the reading these remaining weeks of May, we will pick up the story of Jesus following his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane. We will listen to the mockery of a trial as he is brought before the Sanhedrin, then Pilate and then sentenced to crucifixion. We will overhear Peter’s denial and Jesus cry from the cross, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” Finally, we will go with mary Magdalene, Salome and the other Mary to the tomb where they will discover the shock of their lives… it is empty! Jesus was not there! He is risen! Just as he said. Were it not for these moments, the gospel of Christ would have no power, but because of the resurrection, Jesus has overcome the powers of sin and darkness and in that we can rejoice!
April’s readings from the gospel of Mark bring us to the final week of Jesus’ life. We have just recently recounted some of these events with Easter in the last few days, but I encourage you to spend time reading through these texts as a group together in the coming weeks. Reflect anew on their meaning for us as you read of these final moments. In these texts there is difficult teaching. There is great anticipation. There is heartbreak and there is betrayal. Go with Jesus into Jerusalem and be blessed!
Happy Springtime… almost! With March will come the arrival of some warmer weather and a great opportunity for our small groups to get creative about finding great outdoor meeting spots. You might meet outside under your patio, a park or back at the church building. We continue our reading through Mark’s gospel, this month in chapters 7 thru 10 and we’ll find Jesus making his way steadily towards Jerusalem for the final time.
Happy February! Guys, don’t forget that Valentines day is in two weeks right in the middle of the month, in case you needed a reminder.
This month our groups move into the heart of Mark’s gospel. Jesus is teaching in parables which are rich with meaning. He is performing miracles and demonstrating the power of God at every turn. He also experiences some difficult moments, being run out his home town and sending his disciples off on mission. Every parent of older children know what it is like sending them out for the first time. Wonder if Jesus felt anything similar? And we also learn of what happened to John the Baptist in this section.
I encourage our groups to look for creative ways to be meeting, especially if you’re not meeting in person. I hope this study guide will give you just enough structure for you to have a productive conversation in your groups without stifling the various insights from members of your group too much!
We are kicking off the new year and a new season of Service Groups with a deep dive into the gospel of Mark! Jim will be preaching through Mark later in the year, but we are encouraging our groups to journey through this short but exciting gospel together over the next several weeks. We will be using the “Discovery Bible Study” as a method for our discussions and posting study guides (like the one below) monthly.
Check back for monthly discussion guides & resources!
What is “the Discovery Bible Study?”
Introductions from The Bible Project
In many ways discussing the virtue of excellence encapsulates all that we have been studying this year in our endeavor to grow into the character of Jesus. Virtue, itself, can be defined as “moral excellence.” As a virtue of Jesus, excellence is the quality of being outstanding or extremely good. In his benevolence to us, God gave us his very best, his one and only Son… a lamb without blemish or defect. Indeed, Jesus is that sinless lamb of God given for the sin of the world. As God gave us his very best, we owe him no less than our very best.
Yet, it is all-too-easy to fall into the trap of “just getting by” or, when it comes to church, “going thru the motions.” We want to avoid the trap of mediocrity by always endeavoring to put our faith into practice with the very best of our efforts… to excel in all things (2 Cor 8:7). This month we want to “up our game” and talk about ways we can give to the Lord our very best and put our faith into action with an even greater degree of excellence!