Here we are again, another week. Hope your week went well, mine did. 🙂 We continue our study in Part II: Living as the Church: Session 2: The Local Church. Don’t forget to follow along: https://multiplymovement.com/material. This week we get to examine what the disciple-maker looks like within the local church. “You are on this earth to continue the mission that Jesus left for you… but you can’t do that on your own” (65). Jesus’s plan for us includes being unified with others who are on the same mission we are. We have a responsibility to each other. However, we are not to spend all our time within the confines of the church. As we work together to support one another, we can reach out to those beyond the church. Jesus says His purpose was to “seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10 NASB). As followers of Christ, this is our purpose too.
Discussion Question #1: Would you say that your church is more inwardly focused or outwardly focused? Why do you say that?
Known By Our Love
Wouldn’t it be nice if there were something that distinguished followers of Christ from non-followers? Maybe we wear a different style of clothing or carry a mark on our bodies or maybe a secret handshake? Christ says there IS a way we can recognize followers of Christ:
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35 NSAB).
“By this all men will know…” We will be recognized as followers of Christ, as the church, by the love we have for each other and for those who are lost. It will be like nothing they have ever seen. Our love will be a like a beacon, like a huge neon sign that says “CHRIST DWELLS HERE”! There are many things that are the “duties” of the church, but if these are not done in love, they “profit nothing”.
Discussion Question #2: Read 1 Corinthians 13. Would you say that the life of your church is characterized by love? Why or why not?
Discussion Question #3: What steps can you take to be an example of love in your church? Whether you are an official leader in your church or not, how can you lead others in being more loving?
A Compelling Community
Did you know that Jesus prayed for us specifically just before he died? Let’s take a peek at John 17 in verses 20-23:
“I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me. The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.”
“For those also who believe in Me through their word..” Hey! That’s us! Jesus prayed for us! Let’s pay close attention to what He prayed for. He prayed for us to be united. Sounds like a good idea, right? Everyone could use a bit of harmony and peace. But Jesus prayed for unity for a specific reason: “so that the world may believe you sent Me”. Our unity is a testimony to the truth of Jesus’ mission.
Discussion Question #4: Read John 17. Pay careful attention to Jesus’s desire for His followers. Would you say that your church could be characterized by this kind of unity? Why or why not?
Discussion Question #5: Take some time to think about your church and your unique cultural setting. What would it take for your church to be united, and for that unity to be displayed to the unbelieving world?
Jesus wants our interactions within the church to be so noticeably different from the world that it cannot be hidden. We shouldn’t have to try to pretty up our church services or church buildings to try to make ourselves more attractive. The world should be naturally drawn to us by our love and our unity. Peter gives us warning on how to interact with the world:
“Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame” (1 Pet. 3:13-16 NASB).
Our attractiveness should come from our love and unity so that the world will have nothing to slander us by.
Discussion Question #6: Do you ever feel like a salesperson when sharing your faith, peddling a product that didn’t really work for you? What steps can you take to change this?
Discussion Question #7: What would it mean for your church to live as a compelling community—a group of people who demonstrate love, unity, and hope in such a way that the unbelieving world is compelled to find out what is going on?
A Kingdom of Priests
In the Old Testament, priests had a special role to fill. “A priest represented the people to God–interceding on their behalf–and represented God o the people–meditating His truth, commands, and grace into their lives” (73). In the New Testament, the church was given this job. We are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9 NASB). “The church is called to be and to do what Israel failed to be and to do” (74).
Discussion Question #8: Read 1 Peter 2:4–12. How should Peter’s description of our calling as the church affect the way we think about and interact with our surrounding community?
Your Church Matters
Being a working member of the church is an important part of being a disciple maker, but if we are not reaching out to the world as well, we are kind of missing the point. “God blessed Abraham so that He could bless the world through him” (74). He didn’t just bless Abraham. He doesn’t want to just bless you. He doesn’t want to just bless those who are already in the church. He wants to bless us so that He can bless the world. Such is the all-encompassing love of the Father. Never forget that you, yes you, have a part to play in God’s plan of redemption. You are set in your specific circumstances in your specific church for a reason. God has plans for you right where you are. If you see a need or a chance for growth within your church, don’t wait for someone else in the church to step up. You can step up and you can help your church get on the path that God intends for it.
Discussion Question #9: Spend some time in prayer. God’s calling for your church is too important to neglect, and it’s too important to take on without the power of the Spirit. Ask God to so fill the life of your church with His Spirit that your community notices a difference. Ask Him to equip you for the role He has called you to play in His plan of redemption.
I hope you have been blessed by our study this week and that you have some good points to ponder throughout the week. Until next week, God bless!