This week is the first of a 7-week series on the book of Exodus. We're looking at one of the big-picture stories in all the bible--that of rescue from Egypt and of a God who always hears the cry. Take some time to read through Exodus 1:6-14 before you watch the video with your group. Discussion questions are in the document below.
We're in between major sermon series here at FBC!
Glen, Steve, Dane and I (Jake) are working hard on our next big teaching series on the book of Exodus, which begins in two weeks. This means that we have two open weeks (the week of the 8th and 15th) to do some important things with our community groups!
This week, (The week of the 8th), I would encourage you to pay extra close attention to pastor Glen's sermon "The Power of Words." At the beginning of your group, open in prayer and then Right Now Media there is a short clip called "The Impact of words available at www.rightnowmedia.org/Content/illustration/206471. Work through the discussion guide attached below, which includes an exercise at the end called "building a group covenant." This covenant is vitally important to creating a healthy, safe, and meaningful community group.
Next week, (The week of the 15th), my suggestion is to put together a community group "potluck." One of the most powerful things we can do as community groups is to follow the model of Acts 2--which includes at its center the sharing of meals together. Take the time together to plan out who will bring what dish, and don't plan a whole lot more. The goal for this week is to simply share the kind of discussion and friendship that happens of the dinner (or breakfast or lunch) table, and to enjoy one another!
We will be back here with a brand new teaching video on Exodus the week of October 22nd!
One last dip into the deep, deep river we call the book of Acts. What does it look like for us, as a community group, to charge forward "with all boldness" and change the world?
We're hoping you find an answer.
(Discussion guide below)
This week, we look at some of what the apostle Paul had to endure on his way to Rome.
Community group discussion guide included below.
This week, we're looking at Acts 10-- a story about Roman soldiers and Christian apostles and a giant sheet full of animals and the smell of steak in the air and our prejudices and God's Kingdom. Intrigued? Study Guide can be found below.
What happens when the Kingdom of God starts revealing itself in powerful ways? Wonderful things! People are healed, they're set free from bondage, and a new and better life is revealed. But when the Kingdom of God breaks in, it also confronts other kingdoms. This week, we're looking at the confrontation between the followers of Jesus and the authorities of the Jewish Temple, and what happens as a result (Acts 5).
I hope it is encouraging! Community group study questions included below.
This week, we begin our new series, "Together," along with a whole new season of community group material. As always, discussion guides included below. Enjoy!
For those who missed class last week, here's the audio of the lecture. (Click on the link below the image.) The notes are here as well. Enjoy!
Sunday we wrapped up our series “The Welcome Initiative” with a call to a financial and prayerful commitment to improve our church in ways to become more welcoming. I think it’s been clear from the beginning of our series that this isn’t simply about money, but truly about the heart of First Baptist—a church with a rich history of being a friendly church, and the mission that we’ve all been given to be a light in a world that can be exceedingly dark.
Over this last month, I’ve had to ask myself some tough questions about my own life, and the ways my own attitudes and pre-conceived notions about people, hinder me from being someone actively welcoming people into my story of God’s redeeming grace and love. I definitely struggle with my own judgements, and often view myself as being on the “right side” of this whole Christianity thing—as if any hopeful testimony of my life is truly of my own power. Just last week I was having judgy thoughts about someone in my life that is struggling with a consequence of sin. God did like God does to those that dabble in pride, and used a book I’ve been reading for my devotion time to smack me around a bit. The day’s mediation just happened to be about how God’s goodness is reflected in His choice to love us despite our sin, and used scripture about adoption to drive home the point of our imperfection.
“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” Galatians 4:4-5
Being adopted by Christ means that despite our circumstances, failures, and backgrounds, that he chooses us anyway. I think the Bible uses the word “adoption” to highlight that God didn’t have to love us. The earth he created was perfect. Over and over through the creation story, you hear God describe it as good. That day in the garden, humanity ruined what God called Good. He could’ve abandoned humanity right then and there. We could’ve be orphaned by our own sin. He could’ve washed His hands of all of us.
But He didn’t.
Instead, he sent his son Jesus to tell us how to be better—not for His sake, but for ours. Then he let Jesus die so we wouldn’t have to face the consequences of our sin. God chooses to welcome us into His kingdom of goodness even though we’re not good. He didn’t abandon us when we didn’t fit into His itinerary, He made a way for us to join Him anyway. Because Christ has a heart of welcoming to all people, we must emulate that same heart. We must love people as their authentically imperfect selves, because we ourselves aren't perfect. That is hard work because some people at their “true selves” are difficult and messy. Sometimes they struggle with things we just don’t understand. We might know that we’re supposed to love people, and be welcoming to them, but their lives are so outside of our comfort zones that we just don’t know how to.
Authenticity is a double-edged sword. We want to be honest, and want others to be honest about their lives, their struggles, their fears etc.. But we’re not meant to dwell in those things. We’re meant to have a life that is transformed. As Christians, we believe that transformation comes from Christ alone. We’re not only messengers of that transformation, but examples of it.
One of my favorite passages that touches on this is Ezekiel 36:26:
“Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”
This is why our welcome is so important. Expecting someone’s behavior to change before knowing the love and freedom of Christ, is having an expectation in the wrong order. We want people to be authentically seeking new life. God’s love for us is proof that what really changes the heart of people is being loved. It’s extending understanding before judgement, it’s not just forgiving someone that has hurt you, but blessing them. It’s seeing everyone as imperfect, but beloved children. It’s changing the lenses of our hearts from what we see in people, to what He sees in people. This is hard work, but the hard, painstaking, all-in, risky work of being a people welcoming others into the kingdom of God, and the transforming power of His love, is our highest calling.
We have a responsibility to be a welcoming people. We have a responsibility to deconstruct imaginary church walls to allow more people in. That doesn’t mean agreeing or condoning behavior that is unbiblical or destructive, but it does mean not letting those things hinder you from loving people anyway--just like God hasn't let our sin hinder us from His love.
As we end our “Welcome Initiative” series, let’s keep praying for and actively pursuing God’s will for our church as a place of refuge for the weary. Of hope in a world of so much pain, confusion and brokenness. May we be different in all the best ways.
This week is "Commitment Sunday" for the FBC Welcome initiative. But where we may have thought that was all about committing to give financially, our focus this time around is a bit different: What does it look like for a church to be "radically welcoming?"
Jake McGregor, Pastor of Missional & Spiritual Formation