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Experience 5 – Discerning Our Unifying Direction (Part 2)

These prayer guides were use with great effect at Patterson Avenue Baptist Church as the congregation sought God’s direction for its missional faithfulness.

* 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) 

In his book Real Followers: Beyond Virtual Christianity, Michael Slaughter writes:

People led by the Spirit of God give their world to God.  When the Spirit leads you, your desires are to know and please God.  Spirit-directed people gear their whole lifestyle and focus toward the purpose of God.

A “unifying direction” for our church is more than a statement or motto.  It is a call from God that is so compelling, so Spirit-filled, that it prompts us to give all that we have and all that we are toward making it a reality.  It is our discernment of who God is calling us to be and what God is calling is to do.  Being that it is Spirit-directed, it prompts us (as Michael Slaughter notes above) gear our whole lifestyle and focus.

We began exploring God’s unifying direction for our church in our last session.  You were asked to prepare a brief statement.  Write it below and discuss its implication.
Based on your thoughts and discussion, affirm and/or rewrite this statement to reflect how you sense God is leading.  You can edit, wordsmith, or even start from scratch.  Prepare a statement that defines for your group (at this time) a sense of unifying direction for our church.

You are looking for something that excites you, compels you, and energizes you – something that you sense is nothing less than a word from God as best you understanding it at this time and place.  The aim here is not to prepare a dogmatic statement of what MUST BE (do it or else).  Instead, the challenge is to put into words (as best you can) what you passionately sense God is revealing as the unifying principle for this church and its future. 

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

In John 14:12-14, Jesus makes an amazing promise to his followers (including those who follow Him through our church).  He says,

“What I’m about to tell you is true. Anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. In fact, he will do even greater things. That is because I am going to the Father. 

“And I will do anything you ask in my name. Then the Son will bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name. I will do it.

This is not a promise that God will do whatever we want whenever we want it.  It is a promise that as we follow Jesus, he will do even greater things through us than He did while in his earthly ministry. 

Two things must be noted here.  First, it is ALL the work of Jesus.  He works in and through us as we release our faith.  Second, what He intends to do through us is greater than we could possibly even imagine.

Bill Hybels, pastor of the Willow Creek Community Church in Barrington, Illinois, has said, “We get lulled into mediocrity, we lose sight of what could be through God’s power that is available to us.’’

With this biblical insight in mind, review what your group has sensed as God’s leadership in reference to discerning a “unifying direction” for our church.   Make sure that you have not been lulled into mediocrity. 

* CONNECTING THROUGH PERSONAL APPLICATION  (15 Minutes)

The time is 10 years from today.  Assuming that the church has faithfully followed God, living out the “unifying direction” you have discerned as God’s will, describe our church.  Don’t be content just to describe worship attendance, budget size, building appearance.  Also describe the ministry of the church (lives changed, cultures impacted, programs built, ministries engaged in, etc.)   How will this church look and feel in ten years if we live into God’s call for the future?

* PRAYING OUT LOUD FOR EACH OTHER AND FOR THE CONGREGATION (15 Minutes)

In a minute or two of silence reflection, think about the description of our church you have just prepared.  Hopefully you find this an exciting and compelling description of what can be as we remain faithful to God’s call.

Remember these words from Jesus Christ from John 15:5

I am the vine. You are the branches. If anyone remains joined to me, and I to him, he will bear a lot of fruit. You can’t do anything without me.

Moving forward faithfully toward this developing vision will be a challenging adventure.  Fulfilling God’s call will only become a reality as we remain connected to Jesus Christ.  

Take the next several moments to pray for yourself, one another, and the church.  Ask God to teach us how to depend on Him as our life source.  

*  COMMITTING TO ACTION

Write down your “God’s call” or “unifying direction” statement.  Take a copy with you and use it as a devotional guide as you live throughout the week and engage in your acts of ministry and mission.  As you pray, continue to imagine who the church might be different in ten years if the church actually lived out this “unifying direction.”

*  RECORD 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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