John 3:1-36 - Born Again

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On Sunday Jeremy discussed the cleansing of the Temple, pointing out that when Jesus shows up he doesn’t always bring wine (as we discussed last week). Sometimes he brings a “whip,” to drive out of his temple (and our lives) what should not be there. Jeremy also introduced a simple 3-step process to guide study of the Bible: What does it say? (observation) What does it mean? (interpretation) What does it mean to me? (application). 


Note:Today we have a whole chapter to get through.You may want to engage at a quicker pace than normal! If you don’t get it all done in the group, finish reading the chapter at home, reflecting on the questions on your own.


Opening Discussion:

Write down the first five words that come to your mind when you think of the word “childbirth.” Briefly share with your group what you wrote and why.






Looking at Scripture:

Read John 3:1-15.


Observation - what does it say?

What kind of person was Nicodemus? Why do you think he came to Jesus “after dark”? (See notes in Study Bible for help answering both questions).



What are the two things Jesus tells Nicodemus can’t happen unless he is “born again?” What do you think Jesus is trying to get across to him?



Do you have any other observations?



Interpretation – what does it mean?

What do you think it means to be “born again” (or the word could also be translated “born from above”)? How does the opening discussion on childbirth shed light on what this experience might be like?



Application – what does it mean to me?

How have you experienced spiritual rebirth in your life? Where is God at work now?


Read John 3:16-21.


Observation – What does it say?

How does this passage relate back to John’s prologue for the book (1:1-18)?




What is the bronze serpent referred to in v. 14? What are the parallels John is making between what happened to the Israelites and what is happening through Jesus? (Have someone in your group read the note and look up the passage in the book of Numbers).




Interpretation – What does it mean?

John 3:16 is one of the most famous passages in the Bible, often used as a way to sum up the entire gospel in one verse. What extra meaning does the verse take on when read in the surrounding context? What has chapter 3 been trying to teach about Jesus and what it means to follow him (or be a Christian) so far?




Application – What does it mean to me?

How can you “lift Jesus up” in your life? What other points of application can you see here?


Read John 3:22-36.


Observation - What does it say?

In point form, summarize how John responds to his jealous disciples:




Interpretation – What does it mean?

What kind of character traits does John display in his response? How does this enable him to better serve God in his specific calling/vocation (as the one to prepare the way for the Lord)?





Application – What does it mean to me?

How can John the Baptist be an example to us as we try to fulfill our own vocations? What can we learn from his attitude and actions?

Discussion Questions: John 2:1-12

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On Sunday, Jeremy took us through John 1:35-51, the calling of the first disciples. John offers a gradual, relational perspective on the call to discipleship, reminding us that sometimes “follow me” (full commitment to Jesus) is preceded by a time of “come and see” (getting to know him). Most of the disciples come to Jesus because of the invitation of a friend (or brother). But each one believes because of their own experience—as the initially skeptical Nathanael reminds us, when Jesus wows him by knowing him better than he should have! Today we look at Jesus’ first miracle, and how that further solidified their belief in him.



Opening Discussion:

Many people today think God is the ultimate kill-joy. They feel that if they were to “become religious,” it would take away everything that is fun and brings fullness to their lives. Why do you think this is such a popular notion? To what extent do you think it is true or un-true?








Looking at Scripture:

On Sunday, Jeremy described the importance of bringing our imagination to our reading of Scripture, putting ourselves in the passage to experience the story being told. Have someone in your group read John 2:1-12slowly, while the rest of you close your eyes and imagine what it would have been like to be one of Jesus’ disciples experiencing the events as they unfolded.


What stands out to you initially about this passage? Do you have any questions or points of confusion? Are any of them answered by the study notes?







Read the Study Bible note on 2:1-3that explains what weddings were typically like, and why running out of wine was such a big deal. Why do you think Jesus chose this as the first occasion to “reveal his glory” (v. 11)?







While some have argued that this “wine” was actually grape juice, verse 10 makes it pretty clear that this was typical wine that contained alcohol. Do a little math—how much wine did Jesus make? How much might it have cost to buy that much today? What does this have to say about the kind of Messiah Jesus would be?









Remember that John is describing how the Creator God (the Word) became flesh and lived among us (1:1-14). What does this miracle and the context in which it happened tell us about the character of God and the nature of his kingdom? 









Personal Application

Think about the kinds of embarrassing, everyday problems that you run into. How would you fill in this sentence: If Jesus cares about a wedding that runs out of wine, that must mean he also cares about…







Is there any area of your life you are afraid to turn over to God because you’re afraid he will ruin your fun or kill your joy? How can this passage help address that fear.







What can we learn from the kind of faith that Jesus’ mother, Mary, displays in him in this passage? Is there an area in your life where you need to approach Jesus with the same kind of persistence and trust that she does?




Light of the World - Week One - John 1:19-34

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On Sunday Jeremy introduced the series and explored the “prologue” of John’s gospel (1:1-18). Throughout this book, John tells the story of Jesus on two levels: the actual physical events of Jesus’ life, and cosmic “spiritual” realities that happen behind the scenes. In the prologue, John focused on this second, more theological aspect of Jesus identity: that he was the Word that was with God and was God, who became human and lived among us; he is the source of life and the light of the world that shines in the darkness, bringing grace and truth and showing us God in a very unique way. John’s initial reflections are meant to provoke awe and wonder at the miracle of what God did through Jesus. In this next section, however, John transitions to a more historical approach, describing the ministry of John the Baptist (not the John who is writing the gospel).


Intro: On Sunday Jeremy discussed the different translations of the Bible available today, which are found on a spectrum from literal word-for-word (e.g. NASB) to looser, paraphrased thought-for-thought (e.g. the Message). We usually use the New International Version (NIV) at MCC, which is in the middle of the spectrum, however for this study we’re using the New Living Translation (NLT, a bit looser) because of the availability of Gospel of John Study Bible samples. Discuss your own experiences and preferences with Bible translations. Do you think a more literal or looser translation is better? Do you have any experience with study Bibles? If so, what did you think?


Read John 1:19-34

What initially stands out to you? What did you notice? What questions do you have? Are any of them answered by the notes in the study Bible?



John the Baptist (or Baptizer) got his name because he ceremonially washed people in water as a sign of their response to the message he brought. Read Luke 3:7-14for a better understanding of the message that people were responding to. Why do you think he was so popular? How did this message help to “prepare the way” for Jesus? 




John has clearly generated a lot of attention at this point and he is even being asked if he is the Messiah. What response does he give to those who want to know who he is? What kind of virtues/character traits do you think John displays in his answers and in his ministry? 


How/when did John know that Jesus was the Messiah? Consider the fact that John was Jesus’ cousin and only a few months older than him. How do you think John felt when he came to understand that his carpenter cousin from Nazareth was “the Chosen One of God” (v. 34)? 




John calls Jesus “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (v. 29). What does this phrase symbolize? Be sure to check your study Bible notes for insight. Also, the margins contain “cross-references” to other passages of Scripture that are thematically related. Use the cross references for 1:29 to look at three other passages for further insight on this idea. 




Personal Application:

How can John the Baptist be a model for us of a proper way to relate to Jesus? How do you feel you are doing at developing the kinds of virtues/character traits that he displays?




John testifies about Jesus so that those who are listening may believe. His testimony is based upon his experience and what he has heard from the Lord. What have you heard from the Lord or experienced in your own life that gives testimony to who Jesus is? How had God given you the opportunity to share with others?




Is there anything else from today’s conversation that calls for practical application? Pray for each other as you finish this session.

Divine Infancy: The Humble Christ

Click here for a pdf of small group discussion questions.

Click here for Advent Week 3 Devotions

This past Sunday, Peter and Jeremy talked about how the Christmas story illustrates a God who went all-out to express humility. He came to a poor, unconventional family, was born into an oppressed people, while on a forced “vacation,” in an overflow room with animals. Humility is something God desires us to display as well, both in our relationships with others, and our relationship with Him. 


Key Verse: 

1 Peter 5:6 -Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.



Opening Discussion:

Describe a situation in your life where you felt “humbled” (or embarrassed!) by something that happened, or something someone said. How did this impact you positively/negatively?






Looking at Scripture:

Read Deuteronomy 8:1-18.


We looked at this passage as part of our Transformed series, reflecting particularly on the idea that it is God who gives us the ability to produce wealth, and so we ought to view everything we have as a gift from his hand. Now we look at it with the themes of humility and pride in mind. 

In the first part of the passage, what did God do in order to “humble” the Israelites? How do you think this situation helped to teach them humility? (If you aren’t familiar with the story, you can read about it in Exodus 16).


Moses repeatedly asks the Israelites to “remember” and “do not forget” what God had done for them in the past. Why was this so important for them? How is it related to humility (and pride)?



What does this passage tell us about God’s heart toward us in difficult times? 


Reflect on your own experiences of good times and hard times. How have you seen the dynamics of pride and humility at work in your life during those times?



Have you ever seen the kind of miraculous provision described in verse 4? Are there any other parts of this passage that strike you as having parallels in your own life?




Close by thanking God for the good and bad times, and asking him to help you walk in humility.


Divine Infancy: Growing Slowly

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Click here for Advent devotions week 2.

By coming as a baby, God submitted himself to the natural processes for growth he had designed. We see this in his kingdom, which comes not all at once or in huge and dramatic miracles, but gradually and patiently. We too should learn to submit to the processes of growth God has designed for our lives, patiently allowing him to do his work. And we should show this same patience to those around us.


Opening Discussion:

On Sunday Jeremy spoke about the idea that Jesus grew - mentally, physically, spiritually, relationally. He even posed the more challenging idea that “God grew” in these ways. Discuss how this notion makes you feel? What about it is encouraging to you? What about it is challenging? 








Looking at Scripture:

Read 2 Peter 3:3-9.


What can we learn about God and his Kingdom from this passage? Why does Peter say God is taking so long?

How might this passage change the way we live our daily lives?



What does it mean for us to have patience with God’s timing and speed? 



Read 2 Peter 3:10-15. How does Peter explain his reason for writing about the end of the world?







What is one way you have seen God at work in the world around you that has taken a long time to come about? 






On Sunday Jeremy spoke about being patient with yourself, allowing time for God to grow you and make you mature. In what ways do you see God at work to develop you?






Where are you struggling to be patient? With God? With yourself? With a situation in your life? With another person? 


Pray with each other for the things that God is growing and developing in you, the places where you need more patience, and thank God for the good things that God has brought about in time. 



Divine Infancy: The Kingdom With Us and Among Us

For a pdf click here (discussion questions).

For the devotions for week one click here.

On Sunday we explored the idea that, by coming as a baby, God situated himself in human history, in a particular family, people, geography, and web of relationships. We see his kingdom working the same way, not as something “out there,” but “among us.” He is always at work, before we even get there. His work is accomplished all around us, through others, through many. We too need to learn to see God at work not just “out there” or “someday,” but in our everyday lives, wherever we go and whatever we’re doing.


Opening Discussion:

On Sunday Peter spoke about the idea that Jesus was born into a unique situation and a unique web of relationships just as we all are. Share a glimpse of the situations and relationships that you were born into. Share some of the most positive and the most difficult. 







Looking at Scripture:

Read John 1: 1-14.



How does this passage describe Jesus (described as “the Word” in this passage) before he came to earth?







 What kinds of things would have to happen in order for “the Word” to become flesh? 







In the passage we read that the world did not recognize or receive Jesus? What does this mean? How do we participate in not recognizing or receiving Jesus? 












The fact that the omnipresent God who brings life to all somehow “became flesh”, and put himself into the tiny, vulnerable, physical form of a baby is a miracle that goes beyond our comprehension. But the fact that he lived “among us” as one of us not only led to our salvation at the cross, it also declared human existence to be somehow “okay”—even holy! 


What is your reaction to this idea that human existence is in some way sacred? Do you believe it to be true?






If this is true what implications does this have for the way we live our lives? 






As you think about your life right now, where do you see God at work “among us” (in your own web of relationships, culture, and situation)? Where do you find it harder to see him? 






Is there anything you think God might be calling you to do in your life right now? Share it with your group and have them pray with you about it. 


Responding to the Message

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On Sunday we looked at the story of Lydia, one of the first converts to the Christian faith at Macedonia. In Acts 16 it says that “the Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message,” at which point she was baptized (along with other members of her household). We talked about God’s power at work in conversion, and how sometimes we mistakenly think faith is a matter of the mind rather than the heart. Jeremy also invited anyone interested in baptism to let him know so they can be part of a baptism class to be held this summer (with a baptism being held in late summer/early fall).


Opening Discussion:

Can you relate to the phrase “the Lord opened her heart”? Is there a time in your life when you felt that God “opened” your heart to something? 






If you’re comfortable sharing, describe how you first became a Christian.






Looking at Scripture:

Read Romans 10:1-15.


What observations or questions do you have about this passage?








The passage begins with Paul expressing his desire to see his own people (the Jews) “saved.” What does it mean to be saved? How do people understand this word in our culture today?








The passage lists two requirements to be saved: confess with your mouth and believe in your heart. Why do you think Paul highlights these as two of the most important aspects of putting one’s faith in Christ? Are there any other things (based on other passages of Scripture) that you would say are necessary part of becoming a Christian?









What do you think it means to believe with your “heart” rather than in your “mind”?










Personal Application

The passage talks about the “beautiful feet” of those who bring good news. Who brought the good news to you? Take time to thank God for them today. Maybe you could even send them a note of thanks.







According to the Bible, baptism is an important step in the life of a believer. Whether you’ve been a Christian for many years, or you have recently opened your heart to Jesus, contact Jeremy ( about getting baptized later this summer and joining our pre-baptism classes. 

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On Sunday we explored the idea of God’s call as an important element for thriving churches and individuals. In Acts 16, Paul and his companions are travelling throughout the Roman empire sharing the good news of Jesus, but the Holy Spirit twice says “no” to their plans, and finally directs them toward Macedonia through a vision of a man pleading for help. They head that direction, concluding that God had “called” them there. How do we know what God is calling us to do in our lives?


Opening Discussion:

Have you ever had an experience in which you believed God was nudging you in a particular direction or “calling” you to do something? How did it turn out?







Looking at Scripture:

Read Acts 26:4-23, where Paul (as a prisoner) tells the story of his conversion to King Agrippa and his courtiers. 


On Sunday, Jeremy suggested that the specifics of whatGod calls us to do often begin with a more general sense of who he calls us to be. What can we learn from this passage about who God was calling Paul to be? How was his new calling in keeping with what we know about his personality even before his conversion?







After Paul had a clear idea of whoGod was calling him to be, it seems that his decisions about what to docame naturally. Read the passage we looked at Sunday, Acts 16:6-10.


What evidence do you see of:

·     Paul making his own plans and decisions based on his best judgment?

·     The Holy Spirit specifically directing his plans and decisions (saying no or yes)?





When it comes to finding God’s will for our lives, how much do you think is flexible (as in, God lets us make our own decisions) and how much do you think is directed (as in, God has a clear path and purpose that he reveals to us)? 






Do you think we can mess up God’s calling by our lack of attention or our disobedience?







What do you think we can do to be more aware of what the Holy Spirit is calling us to do?






Personal Application

Write down the name of each person in your group. Beside each name, write one word that you think might capture who God has called them to be (e.g. encourager, teacher, artist, truth-teller, etc.)

















Is there anything you think God might be calling you to do in your life right now? Share it with your group and have them pray with you about it. 



The Problem With Seeds

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This Sunday guest speaker Brad Rose explored the apostle Paul’s experience in Athens and how he used his time waiting there for his friends as an opportunity to share the gospel with those who would listen. He spoke to them using language and concepts that they could understand, and rather than making a harsh call toward repentance, he urged them to take up a new perspective. However, responses to his message varied. Some people sneered. Others were curious and wanted to hear more. And a few even became disciples (Acts 17:32-34). What can we learn from this about how people respond to the message of Jesus today?


Opening Discussion:

Have you ever tried to talk to someone about your faith and had it go completely wrong? What were your thoughts and feelings afterward?







Looking at Scripture:

Read the parable of the sower in Luke 8:4-15. What do you think is the point of the parable? What is Jesus trying to teach his disciples and the crowd?







Read Acts 17:1-15 (the passage that comes immediately before Paul’s experience in Athens that we studied Sunday). How do you see the parable of the sower come to life in what is described here? 








Often we judge our success in sharing our faith based on the reaction of the people we’re sharing with. We assume that if they accept it, we did it right. If they have questions or reject what we have to say, we assume we did it wrong. These passages make it clear that we aren’t to judge the quality of the “seed” by the results. What do you think is the best way to judge success when it comes to sharing the message of Jesus?


The parable of the sower describes four possible outcomes to the planting of God’s word:

1.    The devil comes and takes away the seeds so they can’t believe and be saved.

2.    They believe for a while, but in a time of testing they fall away.

3.    Their faith is choked by life’s worries, riches, and pleasures.

4.    They retain the word and by persevering produce a crop.


How have you seen those scenarios played out in your own life or the life of people you know?








What do you think we can do as we share the message of Jesus to give it the best chance to take root and grow? 








What kinds of things might we do/say that might lead to it being stolen, shallow, or choked out?








Personal Application

What situation has God placed you in that might be an opportunity to share your faith through words and/or actions?


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In Acts 15 the apostles and elders come together at the Council of Jerusalem, deciding that Gentiles do not have to become Jewish proselytes and follow the Law of Moses in order to be Christians. They were allowed to keep their own customs as long as they didn’t interfere with their loyalty to Jesus (e.g. avoiding idols, immoral behaviour). This set a precedent that has allowed Christianity to adapt to many different environments. Because of this pivotal moment, we see the rich beauty of many different expressions of our faith across the world today. It is like liquid—maintaining its essence, but taking the form of whatever cultural container it has been poured into over the last 2000 years. 


Key Verse: 

Acts 15:19 –We should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.”


Opening Discussion:

Have you ever experienced Christians who are from a different culture, or who worship differently than you were used to? What did you find intriguing, confusing, or encouraging about their expression of faith?







How is our approach to Christianity and style of worship at MCC affected by our 21stcentury Canadian cultural context?








Looking at Scripture:

Read the story of Peter and Cornelius in Acts 10:1-48.


How do you think Peter, a devout Jew, felt going into the house of a Gentile? Has God ever called you into an environment in which you felt uncomfortable or out of place?







Review the description of Cornelius at the beginning of the chapter. Despite not being a Jew or a Christian (yet), he is portrayed as devout, God-fearing, generous, and a man of prayer. How does this compare with the assumptions Christians sometimes make about those who are not believers? What can we learn about how God works in the lives of those outside the church? 










This incident was one of the things that led to the decision in Acts 15 that the Gentiles did not have to become Jews in order to be Christians. In that passage, the apostles and elders decided they should not “make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.” They sent very simple instructions, outlined in a letter: 


It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things.” (Acts 15:28-29)


Scholars are uncertain why those four things were deemed to be the most important instructions, though some suggest it is a summary of Old Testament teachings on how Gentiles could live among Jews without causing offense (see Leviticus 17-18). If youwere to pick four instructions to give to new Christians who didn’t know anything about the faith, what would they be?








Read Ephesians 3:1-6. What do you notice about how Paul describes God’s plan to include the Gentiles in what he is doing?







Personal Application

Take a moment to flip around in Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy looking at some of the obscure rules and laws outlined there. There are approximately 613 commandments in the Torah that you would have to follow if it had been decided that Gentiles believers needed to become Jews. Take time to thank God for not burdening us with that “yoke,” and including our culture and society in his plans. How can you show the same inclusiveness to others?


A Growing Church: The Power of Coincidence

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This week we will continue our journey through Acts by studying a passage that isn’t directly related to Sunday’s sermon. In Acts 6 we read about the choosing of “The Seven” who were the first to join the apostles in an official leadership capacity in the church, managing the food distribution program for widows. The apostles had said these were to be people full of the Holy Spirit, and the next chapters give witness to this. First, one of the seven (Stephen) is unjustly killed for his faith in Jesus, becoming the first Christian martyr. Then the entire church faces persecution and is scattered outward from Jerusalem. Philip (also one of the seven) goes to the despised Samaritans to bring the good news to those people (whom Jesus seemed to have a soft spot for). While there, Philip does amazing miracles and wins over many people. One of the most remarkable stories is his encounter with the Ethiopian eunuch, which we will look at today.



Key Verse: 

Acts 8:4 -Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.


Opening Discussion:

Have you ever observed or been a part of a “coincidence” in which two people seem to have been brought together by God at just the right time, for some purpose they couldn’t have foreseen or planned? Share with the group.






Looking at Scripture:

Read Acts 8:26-40.


How do you think a high-standing Ethiopian had become interested in the Jewish faith enough to have visited the temple and purchased an expensive copy of one of the Jewish prophetic writings? What kinds of things cause everyday people to get curious about God today?








What different elements did God bring together to lead this man to putting his faith in Christ? 






The passage the Ethiopian was reading is one in which God (through the prophet Isaiah) is comforting Israel, assuring them that their suffering in exile will be rewarded in the end, when God restores their fortunes. That is how it had been understood for seven centuries from Isaiah to Christ. Yet early Christians quickly interpreted it to actually be pointing toward what had happened to and through Jesus. With this in mind, readIsaiah 52:13-53:12. 


(Note the difference in wording between the quote in Acts and the actual verses 7-8 in Isaiah. This is because the author of Acts is quoting from a Greek translation of the Old Testament called the Septuagint, which was in wide circulation in that day. It is possible this was what the Ethiopian was reading. In our English Bibles, the Old Testament passage is translated directly from the Hebrew, resulting in variances in wording).


Acts 8:35 says that Philip “began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.” Put yourself in Philip’s shoes. Where would you start, and how would you share the message? What elements of the Christian gospel (and life of Jesus) do you see reflected in the Isaiah passage?








Personal Application

When sharing the Christian message, it’s important to start where people are at. How would you frame the gospel for someone who is:

·     A seeker who is actively exploring/comparing spiritual paths?

·     Someone who had been hurt by Christians?

·     A Muslim?

·     An Orthodox Jew?

·     An passionate atheist (does not believe in God)?

·     Someone who grew up in church, but has drifted away?

·     An agnostic (doesn’t know what he/she believes) who has had no exposure to Christianity?





Are you willing to be used by God in “coincidental” opportunities to share your faith with others? Ask him to use you in this way, and to help you have the words to say in the moment.





Bonus:Have you ever wondered how Jews who don’t believe that Jesus was the Messiah interpret Isaiah 53? Read reflect on whether you find the arguments valid, or if you find the Christian interpretation more convincing.

A Growing Church: Shepherds of the Flock


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This Sunday Jeremy talked about something pastors rarely teach about: pastoral ministry. The primary term for “pastor” in the New Testament was actually “elder.” These were leaders in the church set apart for teaching and other ministries, sometimes on a volunteer basis, sometimes supported financially by the church. Paul makes it clear that the goal of leadership in the church was not to be the sole source of ministry, but to equip the rest of the church to do ministry (Ephesians 4:11-13). Every elder/pastor is unique and should serve according to their own personality and gifting. We should expect God to call men and women into pastoral ministry from MCC and should support those who embark on this journey.


Key Verse: 

1 Peter 5:1-3 - To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.



Opening Discussion:

If you listened to Jeremy’s talk on Sunday, what stood out to you? Were there any surprises or “aha!” moments?





Some people joke about pastors only working one day per week. But do you have any sense of what they do the rest of the time? As a group, try to brainstorm any tasks or roles you think might be a part of pastoral ministry today.








Looking at Scripture:

Read Acts 20:17-38.


What can we learn from this passage about the role of an “elder” (or pastor) in the first century? How do you think Paul’s role as an “apostle” (literally, ‘one sent out’) compared to the role of the elders he was leaving in charge?




If you were to list the top 5 traits a pastor should have, what would they be?







Read Titus 1:6-9.How do Paul’s traits differ from the ones you listed? How are these requirements related to the mission of the church? 






Do you think these are meant to be universal requirements, or are any of them flexible/contextual?






How are members of a church supposed to relate to their pastor? Read 1 Timothy 5:17-21and Hebrews 13:17 and try to sum up what those passages teach. Do you have any further thoughts on how to relate to pastors?






Split up the following passages in your group, where Paul asks people to pray for him:

Romans 15:30-32; Ephesians 6:19-20; Colossians 4:3; 2 Thessalonians 3:1-2.

What can you learn from those passages about the importance of praying for your pastor and spiritual leaders? How can you pray for our pastor and other pastors you know?






Personal Application

Is there anyone you know that you think God might be calling to be a pastor? Do you think it would be appropriate to share this with them?







A Growing Church: Becoming Bold

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In the face of threats and persecution the early church prayed not for safety and protection, but for boldness (Acts 4:29). The Greek word for boldness, parresia, didn’t mean rudeness, obnoxiousness, or arrogance like we sometimes think of today. Rather it meant a combination of courage, confidence, and clarity. This is what Peter displayed as he addressed the Jewish leaders, accusing them of killing the Messiah and asserting that Jesus was the only road to salvation. Like the early church, we need to be “bold” when it comes to sharing our faith. But what does boldness look like in our context? 



Key Verse: 

Acts 4:29 -Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.


Opening Discussion:

Sometimes what we think of as “boldness” can have disastrous or embarrassing consequences. Have you ever decided to just “tell someone what you really thought” and regretted it? Have you ever seen Christians decide to be “bold” with their faith, but seen it backfire? Share your stories as a group.




Looking at Scripture:

Both Peter and Paul were known for their “boldness.” Here we will compare two “bold” speeches/sermons they gave in two very different contexts.


First, read Peter’s speech to fellow Jews in Jerusalem in Acts 3:11-26.


What kind of people do you think Peter is talking to here? How does he build bridges to their experiences and perspectives? What might be a parallel group of people in our culture today?




How many times does Peter quote or refer to Scripture in this passage (direct quotes are indicated with footnotes in most Bibles)? How would these people react to his use of Scripture?




Summarize what Peter is trying to say in a sentence or two.





What parts of Christian belief did Peter leave out of his speech? Why do you think this is?


Now read Paul’s speech to the Areopagus (airy-AH-pa-gus, an educated, non-Jewish council) in Athens in Acts 17:16-34.


What kind of people is Paul talking to here? How does he build bridges to their experiences and perspectives? What might be a parallel group of people in our culture today?





How many times does Paul quote or refer to Scripture in this passage? Who does he quote (check the footnotes in your Bible)? Should he have used more Scripture in this speech?





Summarize what Paul is trying to say in a sentence or two. 





What parts of Christian belief did Paul leave out of his speech? Why do you think this is?





Overall, what are your thoughts about the comparison between these two speeches and their two different contexts? What can we learn from them about how we can be “bold” with our faith today?






Personal Application

The “boldness” the believers prayed for consisted of clarity, confidence, and courage. When it comes to your own ability to talk about your faith, rate which of those three you are strongest in, and which you are weakest in. How do you think God is calling you to be more bold?





End by praying for boldness for our church, and for each individual in your group. Watch for opportunities to share your faith and practice boldness in the next few days.


A Growing Church: Signs and Wonders

Click here for a pdf.

One of the reasons the early church grew was because of the healings and miracles happening through the apostles. One of these is described in Acts 3, Peter’s healing of a man in his 40’s who had been unable to walk since birth. Peter, however, refuses to take credit. He denies that it was his own power or godliness that made the man well, but simply “faith” (trusting) in the “name” (person) of Jesus. Then he uses the attention as an opportunity to share the gospel, and many come to faith. These kinds of demonstrations of God’s power are a clear way to grow the church, even today. So why don’t we see more miracles and healings in 21stcentury North America?



Key Verse: 

Habakkuk 3:2 -Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord. Repeat them in our day, in our time make them known.


Opening Discussion:

Have you ever witnessed what seemed to you to be a miraculous answer to prayer? A healing, or another kind of supernatural sign? Describe what happened, and how it affected you and the others who witnessed it.





Looking at Scripture:

Read James 5:13-18. 


What is your first reaction to this passage? What stands out to you? What questions do you have? Discuss your questions and thoughts with the group.





Oil was used in Judaism to signify that a person or object was being “set apart” or consecrated to God for a special reason. It was also used for medicinal purposes. Scholars are divided on what meaning (ritual or medicinal) James has in mind here. What do you think makes most sense?





Verse 15 says “the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well.” It seems cut and dry, almost formulaic: prayer + faith = healing. However, actual experience does not seem to line up with this simple passage. Some people blame a lack of healing on a lack of faith. Do you agree or disagree?

The following passages shed further light on Jesus’ teaching on the relationship of faith and healing. Split them up among your group, having different people read a passage, summarize it, and report back what it has to say about the kind of faith that Jesus is looking for. (Note that the words faith, trust, and belief all represent the same Greek word).


Matthew 9:27-31; Matthew 13:54-58; Matthew 15:21-28; Matthew 17:14-20; Mark 9:17-29; 

Luke 7:1-10





How do you think faith (trust/belief) is formed? If you don’t have “enough,” how can you get more?





Based on your discussion so far, complete the following statements. When it comes to healing:

We believe God can…

We trust God to…

We ask God for…





Bonus:Read the story of Elijah that James refers to in 1 Kings 17:1, 18:1-2, 41-46 (you can read all of chapters 17-18, but only those verses directly refer to the rain miracles). What can we learn about who initiates miracles and the role of prayer from this passage? Why do you think James uses this as an example of the “powerful and effective” nature of prayer?





Personal Application

Is there any area of your life where you are struggling with trusting (having faith in, believing) God? What would it look like for you to move forward in an attitude of trust?







Is there anyone you know that could use a miracle? How can you pray for them in a way that includes both trust in God, and a realistic perspective on the world?





A Growing Church: Staying Small

Click here for a pdf.

The Day of Pentecost described in Acts 2 not only brought the Holy Spirit to the church, but also 3000 new converts. That meant the original group of 120 had to deal with 2500% growth overnight! How did they do it? They found ways of devoting themselves not only to prayer (as they had been doing, 1:14) but also to the teaching of the apostles (relaying what they had received from Jesus), to breaking bread (sharing meals in homes, likely including celebrating Communion), and to “fellowship” (Acts 2:42). They made intentional efforts to continue the culture Jesus had established and the sense of community they had shared, even as they grew larger. As we grow, we too must find ways of “staying small” as we get bigger.



Key Verse: 

Acts 2:42 -They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.


Opening Discussion:

Describe a time when you felt like you were a part of a group that really bonded well (e.g. a sports team, a summer camp experience, educational cohort, family vacation, etc.). What kinds of factors made the group “gel” in such a way that it stands out in your mind? 




Looking at Scripture:

On Sunday Jeremy shared that the Greek word koinonia(translated “fellowship” in the verse above) refers to a participation or sharing in something. It is a deeper form of mutual relationship than what we might think of as typical fellowship or socialization. With that in mind, read 1 John 1:1-7.


The word koinoniaappears (as “fellowship”) four times in the text, twice referring to a sharing with/partnership with each other, and twice referring to a sharing with/partnership with God.


What do you think it means that God calls us into koinoniawith himself?





What do you think it means that God calls us into koinoniawith each other?





What do you think John means by walking in darkness? How does this break our koinoniawith God?


What kinds of things (attitudes, behaviours, words) do you think break a sense of koinonia with each other?




John has a very unique way of writing, that comes through even in our English translations. How would you summarize this passage in your own words? Imagine yourself as an eyewitness to Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Start with that experience (as John does) and then try to capture what he’s trying to say in words that would be more natural for you. Take a moment to write it out below, then share with your group.







(After sharing you may want to look up Eugene Peterson’s rendition of this verse in the Message. Use or another online Bible).


Read Romans 15:25-27


Hidden in this passage are two occurrences of the word koinonia: first, the financial gift Paul is delivering to the poor in Jerusalem is literally called a “koinonia” (translated “contribution”); and second, he makes the point that the Gentiles have “koinonia”-ed (translated “shared”) in the spiritual heritage of the Jews. What kind of additional light does this passage shed on the meaning of koinonia?







Personal Application

What might be some practical ways of living out koinoniain our church today?






Sometimes we have habits and behaviours (often rooted in past wounds) that make it difficult for us to participate deeply in relationships (e.g. avoidance, busyness, hesitance to open up, lack of trust, etc.). In other words, the biggest barriers to true fellowship can sometimes be interal. Is there anything that sabotages koinonia in your own life? How can you work to intentionally pursue deeper, spiritually significant relationships?



A Growing Church: The Wind of the Spirit


For a pdf click here.

The beginning of the Church was marked by the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-41). While the Spirit of God had made occasional appearances throughout the Old Testament (as Jeremy explored on Sunday), being filled with the Spirit was something that only happened on special occasions, mostly to special leaders and prophets. Pentecost marked the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy that one day the Spirit would be poured out on all people, men and women (Joel 2:28-32). Two thousand years later, we are still living in the age of the Holy Spirit, dependent on his guidance, empowerment, and gifts.


Key Verse: 

Joel 2:28-29 -And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.



Opening Discussion:

When the Holy Spirit is mentioned, what kind of people/events/emotions come to your mind?






Looking at Scripture:

Some of Jesus’ primary teaching about the Holy Spirit came in his final speech to his disciples the night before he was crucified. Read the following excerpts from John 14:15-27; 15:26-16:15 to get a sense of how Jesus viewed the coming of the Spirit. 


What can we learn from these passages about the Holy Spirit? Make a list of as many things as you can find in the text, making sure not to read in your own assumptions.








The Greek word translated “Advocate” (or “Comforter” in some versions) literally meant someone who comes alongside to help or offer assistance. How does the Holy Spirit come alongside of us to help?






In Joel’s prophecy of the coming of the Holy Spirit prophesies (speaking God’s message), dreams, and visions are mentioned. While these are all recorded in the New Testament as valid expressions of the Spirit of God working, it quickly became apparent that he gave a wide variety of gifts. Make a list of all the gifts of the Spirit you can find in 1 Corinthians 12:1-11; Romans 12:6-8; and 1 Peter 4:10-11.














What other ways do you think you have seen the work of the Holy Spirit “manifested” (expressed)? Are there any gifts you might add to the list you’ve made so far?









Do you think there are things we can do that either encourage the movement of the Holy Spirit, or hinder his work among and in us?








Personal Application

As you look at the list above, what do you think your top three spiritual gifts are? Not sure? Seek input from your fellow group members and close friends. Or you can take an online assessment, such as this one (you may take it as a guest):







A Growing Church: Prayer as Priority One


For a pdf click here.

Between Jesus’ ascension into heaven (Acts 1:9) and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2:4) the first church found itself in an in-between time, waiting for what Jesus had promised. They spent this time seeking God in “constant” (continuous and persistent) prayer. Our church can learn from them, prioritizing prayer as the fuel that drives everything else, and seeking God’s will as we anticipate hiring an additional pastor. Not only that, but as individuals we must make prayer a priority in our own lives, especially when it comes to making significant decisions.


Key Verse: 

Acts 1:14a –They all joined together constantly in prayer.


Opening Discussion:

Have you ever seen something particularly powerful or miraculous happen in response to prayer? Share your stories.






Looking at Scripture:

Prayer is mentioned twice in the passage we read on Sunday (Acts 1:12-26), setting a rhythm that is repeated throughout the rest of the book. Use the following exercise to explore prayer as a theme in the book of Acts:


·     On computer: Use to search for “pray” (includes pray, prayer, prayed, prays, etc.). Scroll down on right side and click “Acts” to narrow the search

·     On smartphone:  Use Bible Gateway App. Click menu on top left, then search. Turn off the button that says “Search Entire Bible,” then choose Acts to Acts as search range. Click magnifying glass in top right, and search for “pray” (again, includes other forms)

·     This should give you about 34 different occurrences. Some of these are passing references that don’t give us insight (such as “the time of prayer” mentioned in 3:1). 

·     However, others illustrate a church that continually went to God in prayer. Divide up the ones that seem worth looking into and have different members of the group read one (or more) in context and report:


1.    What was the occasion/situation?

2.    What was the content of the prayer?

3.    What happened as a result of the prayer?

4.    What can we learn about prayer from this passage, as a church and as individuals?




Why do you think people and churches struggle with prayer today? What obstacles (practical, spiritual, emotional, etc.) keep us from taking everything to God?






Do you think MCC is a praying church? Why/why not? How could we become more prayerful?






Make a list of the top ten things you think we should be praying about as a church (hopefully this will include our efforts to hire an additional pastor). Then take a few minutes as a group to pray forour church andas our church.











Personal Application

Make a list of things that you would like to pray for personally, and commit to pray for them every day for the next 30 days. Include:

·     Situations you’re not satisfied with

·     Decisions you need help with

·     People who need something

·     Those who need to trust Jesus







Jeremy suggested a few ways to increase our emphasis on prayer at MCC. Which of them could you implement?

·     Praying for the church regularly, as a discipline (set aside time/space)

·     Emphasizing prayer to a greater extent in meetings, small groups, etc.

·     Getting on the prayer team schedule to occasionally pray before the services

·     Showing up at 9:30 to pray before service even if not scheduled

·     Coming to prayer meeting at the McClungs Tuesday at 7:00 p.m. (or hosting your own prayer meeting

·     Praying specifically for our hire of an associate pastor

Easter 2018: Saved and Called to a Holy Life

Click here for a pdf.

Through the resurrection we are saved and called to a holy life. To be saved means to be forgiven of all of our sins, to be welcomed into God’s family, and to be assured of an eternal home with him when we die. Those are the privileges of the Good News of Jesus. But (according to the verse below, as well as 1 Peter 1:3-16 which we looked at on Sunday) we also have a responsibility: to live a holy life. Holiness is not primarily about being more “religious,” but about living a life that is different—different from those around us, from our friends and family, and from our old selves. The two (salvation and holiness) go hand in hand.


Key Verse:

2 Timothy 1:9-10 - He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.


Opening Discussion:

Both the word “saved” and “holy” are often misunderstood and can even have negative connotations. If saved means “rescued,” and holy means “different,” how does this compare with the extra baggage that often comes along with these words?




Looking at Scripture:

Read Romans 6:1-14. While Paul doesn’t specifically mention the word holiness, it’s clear that he’s making the same kind of point—God has saved us AND called us to live differently.


Is there any part of this passage that stands out to you? Anything that confuses you?






In a sentence or two, summarize the overall point you think Paul is trying to make in this passage.






Verse 2 says, “we are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” Do you think Paul expects believers to be perfectly sinless? If not, what is he talking about?


On Sunday Jeremy talked about noticing the “therefores” when studying the Bible. This important word connects two related ideas and often can help us understand the point the author is trying to make. Find the two “therefores” in this passage and try to identify the sets of ideas that they connect.






Paul talks about baptism as being symbolic of deeper realities of death and resurrection in our lives. Describe your own experience of baptism (if you have one). What does your baptism mean to you now? According to this passage, how should your baptism affect your daily life?

Note: If you haven’t been baptized but would like to be or would like more information, please let Jeremy know!






What do you think verse 14 means? How does being under grace (God’s forgiveness/mercy) free us from the mastery of sin? How does this tie back to verse 1?






Hebrews 12:14 says “Make every effort…to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.” One of the big reason we are called to live differently (in a holy way) is so that people around us can come to understand God better. How have you seen this done well? How have you seen it done poorly (Christians living in ways that didn’t properly represent God’s heart and character)?








Personal Application

Where have you seen the pattern of death/resurrection play out in your own spiritual life?



What are some things in your life now you know you need to die to?



Where do you need some resurrection power?



Where is God calling you to greater holiness?

Soul Cleanse: Forgiveness

Click here for a pdf.

Offering forgiveness is such an important part of discipleship that Jesus included it in the prayer he taught his followers (“forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven our debtors,” Matthew 6:12). Forgiveness does not mean forgetting, justifying, or trusting again. It means cancelling the invisible debt that is owed to you by someone who has wronged you. While there are plenty of psychological reasons to let go of past wrongs, Christians have a unique reason to forgive: because we have been forgiven. The unconditional love and grace that God has shown us in Christ becomes not only a model, but the motivation for us to show grace (and forgiveness) even to those who have hurt us most deeply.


Key Verse:

Colossians 3:13 - Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.


Opening Discussion:

Sometimes offering forgiveness is fairly easy. Sometimes it can seem impossible. What makes forgiveness hard? What kinds of fears (and other motivations) keep us hanging on to past wrongs, even when we’ve tried to let go?




Looking at Scripture:

Read Matthew 18:21-35.


What is your emotional reaction to the parable Jesus told? What do you think Jesus intended to stir up in the hearts of his listeners?





Use the footnotes in your Bible to determine an approximate value of the debts owed by and to the servant in the story. Do you think these values are a fair representation of your debt to God, and the debts others owe you?





Jesus said that forgiveness was to be offered “seventy-seven times” (v. 22). Why do you think he chose this number? Are there any limits on the kind or amount of forgiveness we show to others? What are would be some healthy boundaries to put in place with someone who repeatedly sins against you (“I forgive you, but…”)?



In a similar passage (Luke 17:3-4), Jesus says “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.” Here Jesus includes the idea of repentance as a condition of forgiveness. Do you think it’s important that someone repents (or apologizes) before you offer them forgiveness? Is it healthy to keep forgiving someone who doesn’t ask for it or deserve it?





When we are wronged there is a debt of justice that must be satisfied and an emotional wound that must be healed. While these are two separate things, they are also closely connected. Discuss the relationship between forgiveness and healing. How can one lead to the other? How can a lack of one hinder the other? Besides forgiveness, what else can help to speed the healing of past wounds? How do you know when you have truly forgiven someone? How do you know when you’ve been healed?






Read Luke 6:32-38 and reflect on the radical way of life that Jesus calls his followers to. Why does Jesus demand so much of his followers? Why do you think he links God’s forgiveness with our forgiveness of others so often? How does unforgiveness (being unmerciful) poison our souls and hinder our relationship with God?





Personal Application

Is there anyone in your life you have a hard time forgiving? Are there any wounds that remain open and unhealed? Events that you can’t think of without experiencing deep pain? People you can’t talk to without getting angry? In situations like that, even if you think you’ve forgiven, there may be lingering unforgiveness causing the wound to fester. Ask God to bring insight into where and how you need to offer further forgiveness.




In cases of those who have wronged us repeatedly, it can be helpful to write out a list of individual wrongs or hurts and then cross each off, declaring the debt to be cancelled, and asking God to heal the wounds.




Sometimes the biggest block to our offering forgiveness to other is that we haven’t connected with (or we have forgotten) the forgiveness God offers us. If you struggle with forgiveness, ask God to give you insight into your own forgiveness. Make a list of all the ways that you have wronged God, and then reflect on the price he paid in order to cancel your debt.

Soul Cleanse: Busyness

Click here for pdf.

Busyness is rampant in our society today, and it’s toxic to our souls. Nothing steals our joy, kills our relationship with God, and destroys our sense of focus and purpose like unbridled busyness. Like Martha, we find ourselves “worried and upset about many things,” when, according to Jesus “few things are needed—indeed, only one.” But how do we unclutter our lives and leave the kind of “white space” or margin that makes for beautiful art?


Key Verse:

Psalm 127:1-2 - Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain. In vain you rise early and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat—for he grants sleep to those he loves.


Opening Discussion:

Reflect on your own relationship to busyness, then share with the group:

            What kinds of activities are you most tempted to become overly busy with?        


What kind of signs let you know you’ve become too busy?


Why do you think you struggle saying “no” to busyness?


What do you most feel you miss out on when you’re busy?



Looking at Scripture:

Read Mark 1:21-34.


This was clearly a very busy day for Jesus, that involved helping and pouring into others from morning until night. Review all that he did that day, and describe how you would have felt by bedtime if you were in his shoes.





Jesus’ busy day came on a Sabbath, a day when the Jews had strict rules about what could be done. Many religious people in his day would have thought that he was breaking the Sabbath by “working” (healing) on a day of rest. Why do you think Jesus felt justified in allowing this Sabbath to be filled with stuff “to do”?






Continue reading, Mark 1:35-37. What can we learn from Jesus about how to handle the inevitable busy periods of life?




On Sunday we talked about the Sabbath as a day of “ceasing” or “stopping,” a God-ordained way to fight busyness and bring much needed margin into our lives. Far from just good advice, the Sabbath is one of the Ten Commandments. Read the command (given for the second time) in Deuteronomy 5:12-15.




The ancient Israelites all practiced Sabbath together, rich/poor, servant/master alike, on the same day. What challenges would this have offered? What opportunities? How would their experience have differed from our experience of Sabbath today?




Verse 15 connects their obedience to their newfound freedom from slavery. How would the Israelites be tempted to bring the mindsets and values of their enslavement into the Promised Land? How would Sabbath help to preserve their freedom?




Does busyness ever feel like slavery to you? What would be the personal benefit to having a day free of obligation?




Personal Application

If you were to choose a period of time (preferably 24 hours, but less if necessary to begin) to practice Sabbath on a weekly basis, when would it be?




Much discussion has taken place within Judaism about what is permitted/forbidden on the Sabbath. Brainstorm some things that you enjoy and are life-giving (permitted), as well as things that feel like obligations (forbidden). Share your thoughts with the group and discuss.


Permitted                                                                    Forbidden                                          











How will you practice the principle of Sabbath (stopping, resting) in your life on a daily, weekly, and annual basis?