Eight Questions

I am leading Sunday School tomorrow morning.  We have an open day before we start our study of the book of Romans next week.  We usually have around thirty young adults attend each week, so I am going to break the group into eight small groups of four to five people and give them each one of the following questions.  I will give them 20 minutes to discuss the question.  We will then come back together and each group will have three minutes to summarize what they discussed.  I know these questions need more time than that to really work through, but I think it enough time to encourage future dialogues in the class.  Plus, if they are really interested in a particular question, I can give them the resources that I pulled them from so they can explore farther. 

 

  1. Summarize the gospel in four sentences.

 

 

  1. Is baptism mandatory in the process of becoming a Christian?  What is the point of infant baptism that some denominations celebrate?  Tell the others your baptism story.

 

 

  1. In your view, which is currently the bigger risk: trusting tradition too much or too little?  Why?  How would you like to see the church handle new ideas?

 

 

  1. Who comes to worship: consumers or community?  What are consumers of worship?  What is community worship?  Does Trinity UMC do a good job of fostering community worship?  How can we improve?

 

 

  1. Someone once described their view of the “Second Coming” Jesus that makes the “First Coming” Jesus seem like a strategic fake-out.  What was the point of the “First Coming”?  What is the point of the “second Coming”?  Do you see the tension between these two views of Jesus, and if so, how do you reconcile the tension?

 

 

  1. Read Matthew 5:13-14.  Discuss with the group your interpretation of this passage.  Consider the words to “This Little Light of Mine”, do they accurately express the meaning of this verse?  If we go back to the Greek, the word Jesus uses for “you” is actually the plural form “you all” (or “y’all”) and the word light is singular.  (Collective body = one light).  This is a message for the church body.  Is our cultural bias pushing us to miss many of the biblical metaphors of the church because we assume these images are directed at individuals?  Without a first hand knowledge of the ancient scripts, how are we to know when “you” is “you” and when “you” is “y’all” in the Bible?

 

 

  1. Jim Wallis wrote, “Of all the principalities and powers that St. Paul writes of in Ephesians 6:12, the government is one of those entities against which we are to wrestle as we seek to see God’s will “done on earth, as it is in heaven.”  Not that this wrestling is always clear; when do we fight, and when do we submit (Romans 13:5, 1 Peter 2:13)?”  When are we to fight and when are we to submit? 

The quote continues, “When you struggle with government policies, you are likely to find yourself in controversy, and taking stands marked more by moral ambiguities than by stark right and wrong sides.”  How involved in politics should Christians become?

 

 

  1. Stewart Burns recounts Martin Luther King Jr.’s epiphany in To the Mountaintop:

 

Around midnight, as he struggled to sleep, the phone rang on more time, “Listen n*****,” an ugly voice crackled over the wire, “we’re tired of you and your mess now.  If you aren’t out of this town in three days, we’re going to blow your brains out and blow up your house.”  He paced the bedroom floor in angry fear, then walked across the hall to the kitchen to heated some coffee.  He tried to find solace in what philosophy and theology had taught him about the meaning of evil.  Could there be good without evil?  Could there be redemption without sin?  No answer came to shake his despair.  Nothing relieved the fear in his gut.  He was ready to give up.

            “I got to the point that I couldn’t take it any longer,’ he recalled in a sermon the summer before his death.  “I was weak.  Something said to me you can’t call on daddy now,” as he had in past troubles.  “You can’t even call on Mama now.  You’ve got to call on that something in that person that your daddy used to tell you about.  That power that can make a way out of no way.”  He had to call on the Holy Spirit’s power to help him through.  The church had been so much his home all of his young life that he had never stepped outside of it far enough, or bodly enough, to forge his own relationship with God, with Jesus, with the Spirit – not that of his father or mother or Ebenezer Baptist in Atlanta.

            He discovered at this midnight hour that “religion had to become real to me” – not merely the hand-me-down family business – “and I had to know God myself”.

 

How authentic is your relationship with God?  Are you hanging out inside the church too much, preventing you from personally getting involved in social injustices?  Are you hanging out outside the church too much, and not tapping into the power that comes from a personal relationship with Jesus?

 

So, which of these questions interest you?  Feel free to comment, and if you want to know what I have been reading lately, Just ask, I will tell you! (Some of you can probably tell).

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “Eight Questions

  1. Wow! Those are big questions! I can’t wait to hear the results of that conversation.

    And, yes, I do believe your reading list is showing ;-D

  2. I think the part around submitting and resisting is a really interesting question. You tend to get different answers dependent on what you do. You should answer the question, and then think how you would answer it if you lived in Zimbabwe, or Bagdhad, or Tibet.

  3. krista

    Have you been to Q? LOL No seriously, it sounds like you are really doing some searching. What do you think about Trinity’s worship? As fas as the gospels in 4 sentences – the more I read I think that the entire Bible is the gospel. We were created, loved and given free will. We were tempted, sinned, and fell. God came to us in the flesh because he loved us so much, walked among us, healed, loved, taught – fullfilled his purpose by dying. Jesus conquered death, rose, taught, fellowshipped, comissioned us to restore, and he ascended only to return here again at some unknown designated time – to make all things new.
    Good questions! How’d the class do?

  4. sigmugi

    We only addressed four of the questions in class on Sunday – questions 4,6,7,8. (I just noticed that wordpress didn’t translate my numbers very well in the post).

    Question 4 group decided that both consumers and those seeking community attend worship on Sunday. We talked about the “I come to church on Sunday to get recharged for the week” attitude. People feel recharged because of the message, music, being around other people in their church family, etc. But, this feels like a very individualistic “I come because I get something” vs “I come to give myself and in return get filled”. We talked that the clergy at Trinity UMC could encourage small groups a little more often in the service, and of course our small group could do a better job seeking people that are looking for a small group. Another idea is to break our large group into additional small groups.

    Question 6 group talked about how the image they have with the red letter versus is Jesus talking to a large group of people, so they usually adopt the “y’all” definition of “you”. We then discussed the fact that our culture does promote the personal, individualistic relationship with Jesus, which is important, but we maybe do miss the messages to the collective in the message. On an aside, one person brought up the fact that Jesus said that “We are the salt”, not “you could be the salt if”. Bonhoffer writes about this.

    Question 7 group started out addressing the second half of their question. We talked about how Christians should be informed voters and should care about what is going on. The more interesting coversation dealt with the first part of the question. We should give to Caesar what is Caesars – Jesus and the other Christians used the Roman roads and benefitted from their infrastructure, so they felt that it is only right to pay the Roman government for those services. On the other hand, Paul in Romans says submit to the authorities – pretty ironic given he probably wrote this from prison for violating authority. Romans 13:1-5 is pretty troubling. From the perspective of our own democracry, it makes sense. But, what about other countries with dictatorships like Myanmar that do not stand up for the well-being of their own people. Is the government of Myanmar acting as God’s servants as the passage suggests. We wrestled with this for a while.

    Group 8 didn’t have too much time to discuss. They read the passage to the larger group and we talked about the need to apply our faith to the social injustices we see. I brought up the quote from Leroy Barbor that I posted a few weeks ago.

    I will continue to explore the other questions in other posts. Can anyone tell that I’ve been reading Shane Hipps? The theme of individual versus corporate is something he explores in his book.

  5. sigmugi

    Sherill, I thought you would enjoy these questions. Way to big to cover them all in any detail in an hour group meeting.

    Krista, well done with the four sentances!

    Duncan, you picked up on the theme of our discussion on question 7.

  6. Bennett

    Anyone have any thoughts on the individual versus community view of Matthew 5:13-14? Larry?

    For some reason I’ve always read “Ya’ll are the light” as talking to the church community. Since reading Bonhoffer I can’t help but hear “Ya’ll are the salt” as a personal call to Christian action. Are there significant differences of one view versus the other?

    I guess there are problems viewing things completely one way versus the other. Without the personal call to action, it would seem it would be easy to make everything someone else’s problem, and without the communal view, being part of the body of the church is ignored.

    What does the teacher’s key say?

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