By Cameron Silsbee
Begin with prayer
Gather together as a Community in a comfortable setting. Take a moment to sit in silence in the presence of Jesus and each other. Have one person read Matthew 11v6 over the group and then pray to ask the Holy Spirit to lead and guide your time together.
Debrief Sunday’s teaching with these discussion questions:
- Have you ever fallen prey to one of the popular misconceptions about what church is and what it is for? (e.g., a social contract, a social event, a product to be consumed, or a political ideology, etc.)
- How does the fact that the majority of Christians in the world are not American, not white, and not affluent affect your understanding of the movement to which we belong?
Read this overview
Church small groups weren’t always around. To be sure, the first decades of the early church consisted of gatherings of Christians, churches that would have been about the size of a large, modern church small group. But church small groups weren’t popular until John Wesley founded the Methodist church in England in the 1700s, structuring the movement around small groups of Christians coming together to confess sin to one another and encourage one another towards holiness.
A small group format isn’t even unique to Christianity. There are many religious and secular iterations of small groups, centering around religious rituals and instruction, shared political ideologies, and personal well-being. People gather in small groups for various reasons, from local grassroots political campaigns to recovery groups to a nearby martial arts studio.
Your Van City Community is centered around eating together as God’s family, apprenticeship to Jesus through the practice of spiritual disciplines and emotional health principles, and an outward concern for justice in our neighborhoods and city. While our emphases and language might be somewhat unique, other people in different kinds of small groups pursue relationships with others, eat together as a way to bond, discuss transcendence or deeply held beliefs, or are focused on doing justice around our city. So is there anything that makes what we do different?
One of the most significant differences between what we, as Christians, do in a Van City Community and any other iteration of a small group would be the presence and power of God’s Spirit. It’s the interactive relationship with God through his Spirit that we, together, can tap into – and, as we do, grow.
Talk through the following discussion questions:
As you talk through these questions, we can demonstrate respect and care for each other by listening to one another well. It’s usually best to avoid correcting, “teaching,” or attempting to fix a person’s problems unless they give the invitation for the group to respond in any of those ways.
- What keeps you coming back to your Van City Community?
- In the last six months, what growth have you seen in yourself and/or in your Van City Community?
- How easy or difficult is it for you to keep in mind the idea that God is present and at work each week during your Van City Community?
Do this Practice right now:
For the next three weeks (including tonight), spend time in listening prayer over each person in your Community. One way to do this is to have the person being prayed over sit in the center of the group, have everyone lay hands on the person, and invite God’s Spirit to speak over the person. After a couple of minutes in silent listening prayer, begin to share with the person what people from the group felt like God wanted to say to them. Remember, this is done with humility (“I could be wrong, but I felt like…”), and it is for the encouragement of the person (1 Corinthians 14v3).
If listening prayer is new to you or you’re not very comfortable with it yet, ask Jesus to bring something to your mind that is good about the person or perhaps a verse that might be appropriate for them. In this way, you can still speak blessing over the person with an openness to God’s Spirit.
No matter the format your Community chooses to use, have one person write down what the group speaks over the person being prayed for so that they can have a record of what’s been said/prayed over them.
Don’t rush this process while also making sure there will be time for everyone in the group to be prayed over in the next three weeks.
Read over this coming week’s Practice:
The week you are prayed over, take time during the week to reflect and pray over the list of things that were said over you. Feel free to share anything that you found particularly meaningful or helpful with the group.
Close in prayer
End in prayer by having one person read the Nicene Creed over the group.
I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible. I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages.
God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father; through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate, he suffered death and was buried, and rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.
He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father [and the Son], who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets.
I believe in one, holy and apostolic Church. I confess one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.