We want to advance the gospel in distance and in depth. And that means we go level-three in how we talk to one another.
Our mission to make disciples means that we want to reach those far from God, and we want all of who we are to be overcome by the good news of Jesus. In our Life Groups, therefore, we want to have conversations that get at the heart of life's complexities. We don't want to talk mere chit-chat (level-one: What's up? How about those Twins?); nor do we just want to get to know one another (level-two: So, you grew up in Texas?). We want — we need — to go deeper than this. We need level-three. We need the kind of conversation that presses beneath the surface and gets into the heart, the hopes, the fears, the anxieties — all the places where we desperately want Jesus to come and reign. There are the complexities through which we often struggle, but seldom talk about.
And as a means to help spark this kind of conversation, the pastors are now putting together sermon discussion questions each week for our Life Groups. The questions are less about the sermon, and are really just using the sermon as a springboard to “go level-three.”
How to Use the Questions
We’ve tried to make them as adaptable as possible. They are more like clusters of questions than stand-alone questions. You don’t have to get through them all. The idea is to use these for discussion that then leads into a good time of prayer together. Community Group leaders will be getting these to the Life Group point-persons at the start of each week of Life Group meetings. Going forward, you should have two sermons to choose from and discuss. Below are the questions for Pastor Joe's sermon on Acts 13, and then my sermon on Acts 14.
Questions for Acts 13
Read or listen to The Sovereign God Is Full of Surprises
In the midst of the gospel’s advance in Acts 13, there is also building opposition. As Pastor Joe explains, the opposition escalated from jealousy to mockery to organized persecution (Acts 13:50: “devout women of high standing the leading men of the city stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district”). But the disciples responded in verse 52, “And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.”
How would we have responded in that scenario? When things don’t go our way, especially when something appears to be opposing the advance of the gospel, how are we tempted to act, and what does that tell us about what we believe about God?
What is a recent related scenario in your own life when something went sideways, and how did you respond? How would the reality of God’s surprising sovereignty help you in future related scenarios?
God is sovereign, and as Pastor Joe expounded, he even uses opposition to his plan to accomplish his plan. Nothing can outmaneuver him. How is that sovereignty a comfort in your life this week? In what specific ways do you need to remember that God is in control? What are the main things that tempt you to lose your grip on this truth?
God is faithful, which means he always does what he says he will do. He always keeps his promises, and sometimes in surprising ways. Setbacks in the mission are actually not setbacks, but setups. God is using them as part of his plan. What are some other biblical examples of apparent setbacks that actually became setups for something glorious? What are some examples in your own life? What are things happening right now in your life that feel like absolute setbacks in your effectiveness to advance the gospel, and how does God’s faithfulness encourage you to hope?
Questions for Acts 14
Read When the Collision Comes (audio forthcoming)
In Acts 14:15, when the people of Lystra are preparing to sacrifice oxen to Paul and Barnabas, Paul exclaims, “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you…”
Paul, as we know, is religiously and culturally worlds apart from these Greeks in Lystra. How, then, can he say that he is just like them? In what ways are all humans the same? In view of our mission, what does this mean for how we view and interact with those different from us? How are we often tempted to view and interact with those different from us?
Even after Paul’s sermon, the people of Lystra still wanted to sacrifice the oxen. God’s story had collided with their own and, rather than avoid the collision, they tried to muffle it by squeezing God’s story into their own. Have you ever done that? Where are you most tempted to do that now? In other words, what parts of God’s story do you seem to resist the most?
Because we each have our own little stories and backgrounds, God’s story will undeniably challenge us somewhere. The previous question might have helped identify some of these “challenge areas,” and if so, how do you feel about that? How can identifying these areas bring more hope than discouragement? What does the truth in Philippians 1:6* say about such a challenge?
*“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)