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EMBRACING A SEASON OF RENEWAL AND RETURN

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RESOURCES TO HELP US RECONNECT

It’s been such a hard and challenging year, but as we start to turn the corner and look ahead,
we want to build on all that God has been teaching us on this time, and to encourage one another
as we move forward into a new future together.

RE-VISION

PSALM 145:1-13

Background

As a church we long to see God change lives, families, and churches, again and again, and to be involved as one part of his ‘mission agency’ here on the edge of London.

On Sunday we were reminded of this core vision and invited once again to consider where we fit in this story.  A specific emphasis was placed on our shared task of passing on our faith to the next generation (Psalm 145:4) and to see the church grow in strength and maturity despite the challenges we face as a Christian community. 

Questions for discussion

  • What was the main take away you took from Sunday’s talk?
  • Which aspect of the talk would you like to think more about with others in the group?

  • What is a ‘discipleship pathway’? Did it make sense?
  • Where are you on your own discipleship pathway?
  • Where would you like grow next?
  • Where would you like to serve or be involved more?

  • What are the barriers we face in passing on our faith to the next generations?
  • Is there anyone from a younger generation to you, that you feel God is asking you to connect with more intentionally?
  • If you are a parent or grandparent, what does ‘passing on the faith’ mean for you? What support would you appreciate?
  • If you are single, what does ‘passing on the faith’ mean for you? What support would you appreciate?

REVIEW

NEHEMIAH 1:1-11

Background

Reflecting on the story of Nehemiah and the way that he was brought to an intense experience of reflection and review, we are being invited, as a result of the pandemic to travel through the same territory.  Covid has brought so much of ‘normal’ life to a halt, and we have all had to reflect about what is important to us.  In these next few weeks through to the summer, it would be good to ask God to help us to review our lives with him – to honestly take stock of everything choose to live differently as a result.

Reviewing our lives happens all the time and is vital for successful living.  A regular space for review is needed in every area of our lives on an ongoing basis if we are to grow.  In this story, the news that Nehemiah is given causes him to reflect deeply about the state of things and he is moved to his core.  A time of review leads into a prayer of repentance.  Repentance is a biblical word that we often associate with saying sorry.  But its meaning is rooted in re-thinking (to be pensive is to be thoughtful).  Reviewing our actions can often lead to repentance – to a new way of seeing things and moving forward – turning around completely.  But it all starts with the process of looking again at the way things are and that’s what reviewing is all about.

Questions for discussion

  • What was the main take away you took from Sunday’s talk?
  • Which aspect of the talk would you like to think more about with others in the group?

  • How easy do you find processing and reflecting on the past?
  • What processes do you use? What helps you, or prompts you to reflect?

  • What was one thing you have learned during the pandemic?
  • Where have you seen God at work?
  • What have we heard him say to us individually?
  • What has he been saying to you about your family, your relationships, your work, your rhythms?
  • Is there something you know now that you didn’t know before the pandemic? 

Why not use this grid to help you reflect?

Let Go
What have you stopped or let go of over the past year that can or should be let go of permanently?

Restart
What have you had to stop or reduce that you must now restart?

End
What have we done that was fine for a season and can or should now be lost?

 

Amplify
What have we been able to do because of the crisis that has particular value and that we need to hang on to, build on or to develop?

REGRET

PSALM 51:1-12

Background

Last week we explored the theme of review as a first step to change.  Reviews are not always comfortable or easy.  Sometimes, they lead to regret.  Regret is a powerful feeling.  It’s important as it is connected to our values.  Regret is linked to loss, or disappointment, or failure.  These are really important emotions, and it is vital that we don’t sweep them under the carpet.  Our greatest learning can come through engaging with our regret. 

Regret can be internal and self-oriented, things we feel personally responsible for, or it can be about external factors, the effect of others on our lives.  Regret can often turn into blame, but it is helpful to avoid passing regret onto others and getting stuck in a victim identity.  Regret ought to lead us to growth.  Admitting and naming our regret is a vital first step.

Questions for discussion

  • What was the main take away you took from Sunday’s talk?
  • Which aspect of the talk would you like to think more about with others in the group?

  • Do you have any regrets about this last year?
  • Do you have regret about things you’ve done or been – or about the things that have happened to you?
  • What opportunities do you think you missed?
  • What challenges were you not able to cope with as you would have liked?

  • What have you learned about yourself from this?
  • How can you deal with regret as a Christian?
  • How will you move forward now?

RESTORE

ISAIAH 61:1-7

Background

The pandemic has taken many things away from us, as individuals, as families and as a church community but God is working to restore, heal and build.  The enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy, but Jesus has come to give us life.  Grief is a process that God wants to turn around.  As we look ahead, we put our trust in God’s desire to make things new and it is important to remember the promises of hope we carry of a renewed, and restored future.  In the coming years, things will not be the same, but they can be restored.  God is coming to restore us and also to use us to bring restoration to others through Christ in us.  

Questions for discussion

  • What was the main take away you took from Sunday’s talk?
  • Which aspect of the talk would you like to think more about with others in the group?

  • What dreams do you have for the future? How positive or hopeful do you feel?
  • What areas of life have been most effected by the pandemic? Where has the damage been worst?
  • What does restoration look like to you?
  • Is there something that you feel is beyond hope of restoration?

  • How could you play a part in the restoration and renewal that God wants to bring over the next few years – economically, socially, spiritually, emotionally?
  • Are there particular areas of life that you would like to invest in more over the next few years as part of seeing God’s renewal at work?

RENEW

EZEKIEL 37:1-14 | TITUS 2:11-14, 3:3-8

Background

Last week was Pentecost Sunday – the day we celebrate the gift of the Spirit, poured out upon the church.  The gospel is not about self-help or moralism.  It is the good news about God empowering us to live holy and sanctified lives that bear fruit.  The Spirit in us is a foretaste of the renewal of all things.  God loves to give us his Spirit and to renew his life in us.  He also longs to fill us to overflowing so that his renewing life flows out to others.  We have been called to be a blessing to the world, a channel of his renewing love.  This is the fruit of the Spirit in us.

Questions for discussion

  • What was the main take away you took from Sunday’s talk?
  • Which aspect of the talk would you like to think more about with others in the group?

  • Where do you most see the renewing work of the Spirit in your life at the moment?
  • Where would you like more?
  • How can we remain filled with the Spirit on an ongoing basis? What works against that?

  • The Spirit of God brings life. Where do you long to see his renewing presence at work most at the moment?
  • What does it mean to walk in the Spirit or co-operate with the Spirit?
  • How could you know you were filled with the Spirit? What difference would he make to you?

Take some time to pray with and for each other to be filled with the Spirit once again.

RELEASE

MATTHEW 6:25-34

Background

The pandemic has made us feel vulnerable and fearful.  We have all experienced a heightened anxiety – social anxiety, financial anxiety, relationship anxiety, identity anxiety.  We have been cocooned in our homes and coming out into the light is not without its challenge. 

Fear is a natural emotion that arises in response to threat.  Jesus comes to release us from fear and his love for us liberates us from fear.  As a small group, take some time to explore the fears you are carrying, and how they are restricting you.   Consider how as Christians we find release from fear and remain free.

Questions for discussion

  • What was the main take away you took from Sunday’s talk?
  • Which aspect of the talk would you like to think more about with others in the group?

  • What has made you feel anxious this year?
  • How did you overcome these fears?
  • What impact did fear have on our lives, on us as a church, and on us as a community.
  • Have some people been more effected by fear than others? Why is this?
  • How do people deal with fear in our culture? How can we deal with it as followers of Jesus?
  • Reflecting on the story of Joshua, what fears might he have been experiencing and needing to overcome?
  • What does it mean to be ‘strong and courageous’?

REALIGN

PSALM 119:1-16 | COLOSSIANS 1:1-13

Background

Jesus calls us to believe in him, to trust him completely and to give him our total allegiance.  He promises us that being aligned with is will for our lives will bring life.  He is also realistic about the cost of this on us.  The pandemic has revealed to us the state of our hearts.  Not meeting together regularly has meant that out faith has become unseen.  Some of us have drifted in our relationship with God in this time.  Others have found it renewing. 

As a group reflect together about your lives and where there are gaps between where you ought to be and where you are.  Try to be honest with others about the challenge of aligning all areas of your life with Jesus will for you.  Create a space for honest conversation, but also one that pulls each other closer to Christ and doesn’t let each other off. 

The heart of the human problem is the problem of the human heart.  As we live from our heart, and as the state of our heart determines everything else, explore together what it means to be pure in heart and to seek God’s kingdom first.   The focus of God’s work in us is to realign our heart with his.  Actions and character will follow.

Questions for discussion

  • What was the main take away you took from Sunday’s talk?
  • Which aspect of the talk would you like to think more about with others in the group?

  • Consider the different desires of the heart? What drives us?
  • Why are we so often drawn away from God’s best for our lives and why do we choose to walk our own way rather than his?
  • What are the greatest battlegrounds for our hearts in our culture, in our lives, right now?

  • To what extent have our lives been aligned to God’s will for our lives during the last year?
  • What would it mean to realign our priorities to his? What would change?
  • How would we know we had realigned our wills to his?
  • What is one thing you know you need to change? What will you do about it?

REST

LEVITICUS 25:1-12

Background

The seventh session of the series is about Sabbath and rest.  The pandemic brought many things to a stop.  It was in many ways a year of jubilee when so many of the obligations of life were changed.  One of the things that everyone noticed in the first lockdown was the space that was created.  For many of us this was deeply significant and life changing.  As we prepare to return to a more social and connected life, where we will inevitably find more demands on our time, use this time to reflect together on what you learned about rest and Sabbath during the last year – good and bad – and what you’d like to develop and grow in. 

Avoiding judgement or shame, share your experience of rest and Sabbath, the challenges, and the victories.  Encourage each other in the decisions you make about how you are going to live differently going forward.

Questions for discussion

  • What was the main take away you took from Sunday’s talk?
  • Which aspect of the talk would you like to think more about with others in the group?

  • What would we like to retain from our experience of rest in the pandemic?
  • Where did we struggle to rest?
  • What disrupted our rest?
  • What role does technology have on your experience of rest?
  • Why was Sabbath commanded in the Torah?
  • Why is Sabbath so radical and revolutionary?
  • How can we embrace Sabbath rest in the years to come?

RECOMMIT

LUKE 14:25-33

Background

In the series before Easter, we have seen how God has made a covenant commitment with his people.  We have been invited to participate in this same covenant – a new covenant.  This gift is not cheap grace but demands that we commit ourselves back to God.  “I will be their God and they will be my people.” 

As we enter a new season, returning back to church, back into relationships again, we are going to choose what to be committed to once again.  As a group explore the theme of commitment.  Commitment is a challenge, especially in a culture which prioritises and prizes individual freedom.  God is committed to us and is seeking a people who remain committed to him.  Commitment is demanding but also freeing.  We are who and what we are committed to.  Commitment shapes every aspect of our lives, our character, and our future.  We are all becoming something and someone and this is determined by the choices we make about who and what we are committed to.

Questions for discussion

  • What was the main take away you took from Sunday’s talk?
  • Which aspect of the talk would you like to think more about with others in the group?

  • What commitments fell away over the last year?
  • Was this good or bad for us? Why?
  • Why does commitment shape our lives? How does it shape our character?
  • What level of commitment do we have for being a part of church? Are we all in?  What are we holding back?
  • What would it mean to consecrate ourselves totally for God’s service?
  • What specific ways are we being called to recommit to God’s work at this time?

RETURN

TBA

Background

Hopefully, following our first service back in the church, there will be much to talk about as we reflect together on the experience of being church in a new way again.  There has been much expectation about this day, but our experience of worshipping together will probably have been mixed even though we all hoped that it would be a day of celebration and joy. 

The bible is full of stories of return and they are marked by joy.  Returning is not the end of the story though.  It is a new beginning, the start of something new.

Questions for discussion

  • What was the main take away you took from Sunday?
  • Which aspect of the experience would you like to think more about with others in the group?

  • Returning to something you love is full of joy. What were the joys of return you experienced this week?
  • Returning can be disappointing too. What were some of the things that left you feeling disappointed?
  • What difference will it make to your lives now that you can worship with others each week without restrictions?
  • What can you do to make this experience as good as possible for others?
  • What did it feel like to see people you haven’t seen for a year?
  • What fears did you carry with you into worship?

  • Why is return such a strong theme in scripture?
  • What is God’s heart for those who have not returned?
  • How can you connect with those who have not returned? What will say or do?

RELATE

1 CORINTHIANS 13:1-8

Background

Being family together is hard.  Over the last year we have learned much about our relationships with others.  Behind it all we have learned that relationships matter more than anything.  Some relationships have grown.  Others have suffered.  Some have broken all together.  Being in relationship with others is demanding and costly, but it is necessary for growth and life.  Take time to explore the joys and the challenges of being in relationship with others in the church – of being committed to them.  Examine what is God saying to you as a group about the depth and the strength of your relationships together.

Questions for discussion

  • What was the main take away you took from Sunday?
  • Which aspect of the experience would you like to think more about with others in the group?
  • What is God saying to us about our relationships going forward?
  • What changes do we need to make?
  • How can we rebuild relationships again, step by step?
  • What do we do about relationships that have become broken?

  • Is God putting any relationships on our heart at the moment? Why? 
  • What do we need to do next?

RESIDE & REJOICE

PSALM 103:1-22

Background

We are made for worship.  Returning to church is not returning to a social club, but to a worshipping community and we are excited to be returning to the experience of shared worship.  As it turns out, worship is not an individual activity, but a corporate one – it is the work of the people (which is where we get the word for ‘liturgy from). 

As we begin to worship with others, we are being invited once again to reembrace the experience of being alongside others, of blending our voices together, of praying in response to others, of feeling each other’s presence alongside us and responding to it.  It also brings challenges to us as it pulls us out of our own personal preferences, and we have to join with others in worship as a body.  The tabernacle was a place of connection where God resided, and where his presence was strong.  Perhaps there is still much to learn about how God has called us corporately to be his body together – a temple of God – for his worship.

Questions for discussion

  • What was the main take away you took from Sunday?
  • Which aspect of the experience would you like to think more about with others in the group?
  • What have we learned about worshipping God over the last year?
  • What did we miss most?
  • How have we worshipped without gathering? What difference did that make?

  • How can we reengage with worship together?
  • How can we re-establish worship back into the centre of our lives once again, at home, and in our shared spaces and rituals?
  • What are the challenges we face in making weekly worship a priority?
  • What plans have we made for the next few months in terms of worshipping in church?