Here’s the latest set of Life Group discussion questions. Their goal is to guide you into level-three conversation by using the latest sermon, “Help for Our Relationship Problems.”
This sermon is meant to serve as a starting place for honest dialogue about our faith in the gospel amid the complexities of life — and relationships are often complex! In case you missed the sermon, I’ve tried to provide enough content to get everyone on the same page (you can also read the entire sermon online). As you’ll see, the questions are set up in clusters and subdivided by letters, each as a follow up to the one before it, moving from theoretical to practical.
Also (and this is new), I threw in bracketed asides specifically for the Life Group Point-Person. These are meant to help you guide the discussion. The nature of these questions is more personal than in past weeks. So work to ease into discussion, and let the Spirit lead you.
Feel free to throw in any extra questions that come to mind, or skip what seems out of place. The plan for these questions is that they help guide your time together, not consume the entire thing. So, as always, I encourage you to use the questions as they are helpful, and then fill in the rest.
Back in 1992 the body of hiker Chris McCandless was discovered in an old, abandoned bus out in the Alaskan wild. There has been a book and a movie about his story called Into the Wild.
[Survey your group for a second. Has anyone read the book or seen the movie? If someone has, ask them what they thought about it. What did that gain from the story?]
Well, whether you’re familiar with the story or not, McCandless died of starvation, and one of the last things he wrote was that “Happiness is only real when it’s shared.” He went alone on this entire journey looking for happiness, and in the end he learned that happiness doesn’t happen alone. His story stresses to us the importance of relationships and community and fellowship. It reminds us that other people really matter.
- Can you think back on a time in your life when you began to more deeply understand the importance of relationships? Maybe it took a hike in the woods, or maybe it was a relational rift, but has there been a time in your life when you felt the significance of relationships?
[Take a minute for your group to think about this. Then ask for the people in your group to take turns sharing about that time, and why relationships and community started to take on more importance.]
Okay, so we understand that relationships are important. And, also, they’re hard!
Relationships play a vital role in our lives, and oftentimes they are a constant source of heartache and frustration (heartache at worst, frustration at best). Chances are, all of us have some type of relational brokenness in our lives. In fact, it probably just takes a few seconds for us to call it to mind. As soon as I mentioned relational brokenness on Sunday (and as you read it now), you probably thought about specific people and situations.
[Poll your group for a minute. Were they (are they) able to think of situations of relational brokenness in their lives? Ask around.]
- Tell us about a broken relationship you are experiencing right now, or perhaps one you have experienced in the past. What is the situation? What is the status of things at this point?
- Are you optimistic that the relationship will be mended? Why or why not?
[I realize that this is a sensitive question. There is a way to discuss it without divulging too many details. Give your group the assurance that they can share however they’re comfortable. This is an important time to listen well.]
Paul doesn’t force Philemon to do the right thing. Instead, he reminds him of the gospel in which they believe. In other words, he wants to win Philemon’s heart. He wants him to be captivated and motivated by the goodness of the gospel. And the only reason Paul can think this way is because he is confident that the gospel has what it takes — that the gospel really is that good.
This makes Christianity different from every other religion out there, especially Islam. Christianity has a remarkable ability to change the heart. It is good news, which doesn’t coerce conversion, it wins adoration. It opens eyes. It transforms the soul.
- Think about the Christian gospel for a moment. Think about what makes it so different from every other religion. What is it about gospel that moves you the most? What about the gospel tends to win your heart the easiest?
[Press into some personal responses here. The goal is to hear about how the goodness of the gospel intersects with us personally. Don’t settle for the pad answer, for example, that “Jesus died on the cross.” What is it about his death? Why his death? What does that do to your heart?]
Now, let’s take a step from the goodness of the gospel into our relational mire. Think about those broken relationships again. Think about those situations that are the most difficult.
From the sermon:
Most difficult are those situations where the person who has wronged you doesn’t share your faith in the gospel, or maybe they don’t care anything about restoring the relationship. What do you do then? What if the desire for restoration is a-symmetrical? Or, what if restoration is on some kind of impossible terms? Meaning that you have to defy your Christian faith to make it work. What do we do then?
There are so many details and nuances here. We can’t get into them all. But here’s a category for our part in relationships like these: Whatever we do, we make sure that we are not the ones who hinder the restoration. And that means we ask the question:
Does this relational rift exist because of my refusal to ask for or give forgiveness? Is it because I can’t say “I’m sorry” or “I forgive you.” Is this on me?
- Have you considered this question before? What do you think is your next step in the situation of your relational brokenness? The next step might be to continue as is. Maybe there is nothing we should do differently. But in light of Sunday’s sermon, is there anything in the relational rift that could be reassessed?