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Experience 1 – Coming To The End Of Self-Sufficiency

PABC Courtyard

What follows under this thread are a series of small group (6-9 people) prayer guides aimed at helping a church understand WHO God is calling them to BE and what God is calling them to DO.  I have done my best to attribute credit to all sources used within the body of the prayer guides (there will be 10-12 in total).  These were used by my church (http://pattersonavenuebaptist.com) as we explored what it means to be a missionally faithful church.  If you use these guides, please preserve credit to all sources cited and to myself.  If you’d like further information as to how these guides fit into our larger spiritual journey, please feel free to contact me at billnieporte@pastor.com?subject=PMF

* GATHERING  (5 Minutes)

Gathered in a circle, holding hands, allow each member the opportunity to offer a sentence prayer to God, asking for guidance in discerning his voice. 

*BUILDING UNDERSTANDING THROUGH CONVERSATION(20 Minutes) 

Imagine…as the result of some sort of catastrophe, our congregation suddenly finds itself without its building.   

Discuss how the ministry of our congregation might proceed under such circumstances.  How would be the church God has called us to be – the living presence of Christ to those he is calling and gifting us to serve? 

Your discussions should not be about the “why” or the “how” of what happened.  Nor should you begin planning for buying or building a new facility.  Instead, focus all of your energies on how we might still BE and DO church in these new circumstances.   

Questions to ponder as you talk:

How might we be a different church?

Would God’s calling and vision change?  If so, how?

What might the congregation need to “do” differently to be church and do the work of the church?

In what ways might be seek to connect to the people we are called to serve with God?

What might our programs and ministries look like?

* DEEPENING OUR UNDERSTANDING THROUGH GOD’S WORD (20 Minutes)

Before a congregation can be used effectively by God, it will need to come to the end of self-sufficiency and learn how to depend on God’s resources and direction.  Consider Moses.  The first 40 years of his life had been magnificent as he lives the life of an Egyptian Prince.  The last 40 years of his life were absolutely amazing as he served God by leading the people of Israel out of Egyptian captivity and toward the Promised Land.  The middle 40 years of his life, however, were totally miserable.  In his book Grace Rules, Steve McVey (a collection of Steve’s books are available here: http://nieporte.name/?page_id=144 ) writes that during these middle four decades of his life, God was “…bringing Moses to the end of himself and his confidence in his abilities so that he might know and rest in the ability of God. “

McVey continues:

In Exodus 3-4, the account is told of Moses’ encounter with God. God reveals to him that He plans to use him to deliver the Hebrews from bondage. Yet because of his circumstances, Moses had probably developed some serious doubts about his ability as a leader. He may have thought that because he was a shepherd tending to sheep, he had lost his people skills. He may have reasoned, “The only ability that I can count on any more is my skill as a shepherd.”

Then God spoke:

“What is that in your hand?” And he said, “A staff.” Then He said, “Throw it on the ground.” So he threw it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from it (Exodus 4:2,3).

Consider what the staff meant to Moses.  It was the symbol of his abilities as a shepherd.  It wasn’t much, but it was something.  With that staff he was surviving through his abilities to herd sheep.

Consider the following statement:   

“As Christians and as congregations, we sometimes find ourselves living dependent on our own resources, rather than really trusting and depending on God.” 

In what ways is this statement true in your life? 

In what ways is this statement true for our congregation? 

What resources do we find ourselves depending on rather than trusting in God? 

Back to the text, what did God say to Moses about the staff?  God tells Moses:

 “Throw it down.” 

Throw down your self-confidence.  Throw down your self-sufficiency.  Throw down your trust in your resources, gifts, and abilities.  Throw down everything that becomes an object of your reliance so that you might totally depend on God! 

Now read the following text from Acts 3:1-12

One day Peter and John were going up to the temple. It was three o’clock in the afternoon. It was the time for prayer. A man unable to walk was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful. He had been that way since he was born. Every day someone put him near the gate. There he would beg from people going into the temple courtyards.

 He saw that Peter and John were about to enter. So he asked them for money. Peter looked straight at him, and so did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” So the man watched them closely. He expected to get something from them.

Peter said, “I don’t have any silver or gold. But I’ll give you what I have. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, get up and walk.” Then Peter took him by the right hand and helped him up. At once the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. He went with Peter and John into the temple courtyards. He walked and jumped and praised God. All the people saw him walking and praising God.  They recognized him as the same man who used to sit and beg at the temple gate called Beautiful. They were filled with wonder. They were amazed at what had happened to him.

The beggar was holding on to Peter and John. All the people were amazed. They came running to them at Solomon’s Porch. When Peter saw this, he said, “Men of Israel, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us? We haven’t made this man walk by our own power or godliness.

How was Peter able to make the lame man walk?

Describe the difference between living from natural ability and supernatural ability.

CONNECTING THROUGH PERSONAL APPLICATION  (15 Minutes)

Our congregation is engaged in a journey of discovery, seeking to discern and live into God’s dream for the future. 

Based on what you learned about Moses and Peter, what is required for our congregation to see God work in miraculous ways? 

The story of Moses illustrate that we must throw down our own self-sufficiency so that we can fully experience the life of God in and through us.  

What specific areas of self-sufficiency does you sense God is calling you to renounce (throw down, repent of) at this time so that you might move forward on this journey of discovery?

What about our congregation?  What do you sense God is calling us to renounce (throw down, repent of) at this time so that we might move forward, discerning and living into God’s desired future for this congregation?

* PRAYING OUT LOUD FOR EACH OTHER AND FOR THE CONGREGATION (10 Minutes)

In a minute or two of silence, reflect on the stories of Moses and Peter.    
 
What is the greatest lesson in these stories for you? 

Pray aloud, confessing your trust in God and your desire to throw aside anything that gets in the way of you trusting completely in God’s strength and resources for the journey.  

Don’t ask God to help you to live for Him.  Instead, offer yourself to God and ask that God’s supernatural abilities will be made manifest in your life and in our congregation. 

* COMMITTING TO ACTION

An important biblical word for us to remember on our journey of discovery is the Greek word metanoia which is usually translated repentance.  Typically, when we think of this word, we think of sins we need to stop committing.   To be more biblically accurate, however, the concept of repentance has to do with a change of course or direction.  It has to do with more about where we place our faith, trust, confidence and dependence.  Sinful actions will be less of a problem when our lives are focused and dependent on Jesus as Lord and Life. 

In the days ahead, give special attention to those things in your life and our church that claim a place of importance above absolutely loyalty and love for Jesus Christ.  As those things come to mind, immediately renounce them as a false hope and reaffirm your love and loyalty for Jesus Christ.  

* RECORDING WHAT WE ARE HEARING FROM GOD AND EACH OTHER

Each cluster group is asked to appoint a “scribe” who will prepare a “group report” of what the group believed it heard (discerned) from God.  These reports should be submitted to the pastor immediately after your session and will be used by the “initiating leadership team” for consideration in the preparing the congregation’s “Future Story.”

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