Weekly Sermon Discussion Questions

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Sundays, September 8 to November 10

A sermon series titled Faithful Presence, informed by scripture and by David Fitch’s book,
Faithful Presence: Seven Disciplines that Shape the Church for Mission.

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September 8, 2019

This Week’s Readings:
Psalm 139:1-6,13-18, Deuteronomy 30:15-20, Philemon 1:1-21, Luke 14:25-35

Faithful Presence Series, Week 1 – The Church: Being the Real Deal
(These questions relate to the Intro and Ch. 1 of Faithful Presence.)

1) How do you feel about current North American expressions of the church? Give examples of authentic and effective expressions of the church. What have you noticed that seems inauthentic, i.e., not true to God’s intent for the church?

2) The church, also called the body of Christ, is a network of people empowered by the Holy Spirit to live Christ’s way, making God concrete to the world. Read Luke 14:25-35. What three initial things must happen for us to live as disciples (or apprentices) in the way of Christ?

3) As a network of Spirit-filled Christ-followers, the church a) notices God’s presence, and b) demonstrates God’s presence. “Faithful presence names the reality that God is present in the world and that he uses a people faithful to his presence to make himself concrete and real amid the world’s struggles and pain.” (Fitch, p. 10)

  • How do you see Sunnyside being a people who remember and notice God’s presence?
  • How do you see Sunnyside being a people who live as a concrete expression of God’s presence in society?

4) What needs to change in our mentality and our actions to be the church more authentically?

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September 15, 2019

This Week’s Readings:
Psalm 46, Exodus 33:12-23, Ephesians 1:15-23, Matthew 28:16-20

Faithful Presence Series, Week 2 – The Church as a Way of Life: From Separatism or Activism to Faithful Presence
(These questions relate to Ch. 2 of Faithful Presence.)

1) Do either of the following extremes describe your experience with the church? Have you experienced the church as a group that isolates from the culture to keep itself doctrinally and morally pure (separatism), or as a group that seeks justice within the culture (activism) to the point of leaving behind Christian faith? Offer stories or examples.

2) Do you think it is possible for the church to be both faithful to God and effectively present within North American culture? Why or why not?

3) Read Matthew chapter 28. Focus on vv. 16-20. Jesus commissions a regrouped bunch of disciples who, just two chapters earlier, thought their Jesus-following days were over (see 26:56).

  • Notice that Jesus sends them on a mission (verse 19, “Go…”) and that Jesus promises his presence (verse 20, “I am with you always…”).
  • When the church lives as sent ones who are attentive to the presence of God we avoid the extremes of separatism (maintenance mode) and activism (exhaustion). Why? (See Fitch, pp. 41-43.)

4) What changes might we make in the network of Christ-followers (called Sunnyside church) in order to move from separatism or activism toward being a faithful presence?

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September 22, 2019

The Week’s Readings:
Psalm 65:1-4, Deuteronomy 8:11-20, 1 Corinthians 11:17-34, Luke 22:14-23

Faithful Presence Series, Week 3 – The Practice of the Lord’s Table
(These questions relate to Ch. 3 of Faithful Presence.)

1) Read 1 Corinthians 11:17-34. Reread vv. 17-22. Why did the Apostle Paul say to the Corinthian church that “when you come together, it is not really to eat the Lord’s supper”? How were they not being present or attentive to Christ and his ways when they met together?

2) Paul guided the Corinthians toward being and living as more authentic church by pointing to the tradition, or the living story, of the Lord’s supper with his disciples on the night he was betrayed. Reread vv. 23-26.

  • The word translated “remembrance” (Gr. anamnesis) means “to call to mind” or to “reminisce,” or as Fitch (48) puts it, to “bring into the present…the meaning of the bread and the wine.” Who and what do we realize at the Lord’s table?
  • Read vv. 27-32. Paul warns the Corinthians about eating and drinking “without discerning the body.” What does it mean to “discern the body”? How will this discernment change the Corinthians’ gatherings?

3) “The Lord’s Table is about presence…ultimately, it’s a discipline that shapes a group of people to be present to God’s presence in Christ around the table…Then, in the process we are able to connect with the other people around the table. Our lives are then reordered socially by his presence.” (Fitch, 48)

Fitch describes a small group of people from his church who meet during the week to “eat together, aware of the forgiveness, reconciliation, and renewal of all things that we shared as a result of Sunday Lord’s Table.” (59)

  • Have you ever experienced a small group which “cultivates trust, mutual submission, listening, and paying attention to the Spirit”? How would you go about more effectively practicing this kind of presence in a group?
  • At what tables in society do you sit where you might practice being more attentive to the Lord’s presence in the life of another?

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September 29, 2019

The Week’s Readings:
Psalm 146, 2 Corinthians 4:16 – 5:21, Matthew 18:15-20

Faithful Presence Series, Week 4 – The Practice of Reconciliation
(These questions relate to Ch. 4 of Faithful Presence.)

1. During Paul’s previous visit to Corinth, someone from the church wronged him. The whole church was in on the conflict. All is not resolved. Paul has delayed his visit to them, sending letters instead. Hearing this backstory, and reading the first chapters of 2 Corinthians, we may conclude that:

  • Conflict happens.
  • It has ripple effects. (2:5)
  • Only Satan stands to benefit when we don’t try to work it out. (2:11)
  • It’s not all on us. God is merciful and works to raise us (and our relationships) to life. (4:2)
  • It takes time. Endurance is necessary. (5:2)
  • We have hope. (5:4)
  • God has reconciled us to himself; we are made new. (5:17)
  • We work for reconciliation in all relationships: human to God, human to human.

Which of the above points encourages or challenges you most? Why?

2. What is good about conflict?

3. Read Matthew 18:15-20. In your own words describe and discuss the steps toward reconciliation.

  • How do you know that this passage is not about ostracization? What is the priority?
  • What are some principles of reconciliation?

4. “Too often, I contend, leaders foreclose the discipline of reconciliation in their need to take control, act from the top, and impose a policy they think will solve the problem. But we can see…how God indeed transforms people’s lives through the practice of his presence through reconciliation.” (Fitch, 85)

  • How might the practice of reconciliation change the way Christians work through conflict within the church and wider culture? Give examples.

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October 6, 2019

This Week’s Readings:
Psalm 112:1-9, Isaiah 61:1-4, 1 Corinthians 2:1-12, Luke 4:14-21

Faithful Presence Series, Week 5 – The Discipline of Proclaiming the Gospel
(These questions relate to Ch. 5 of Faithful Presence.)

1) Is there an area of your life in which you don’t acknowledge God’s presence?

2) Is there a broken area of your life in which you find it hard to believe that Jesus has a powerful and redemptive plan?

3) What might it look like to declare the Gospel over all of your life?

4) What might it look like to declare the Gospel in your family? At work? With friends?

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October 13, 2019

This Week’s Readings:
Psalm 100, Deuteronomy 26:1-11, John 6:25-35, Philippians 4:4-9

Thanksgiving Reflections
Philippians 4:4-9

1. Read Philippians 4:4-7. What does it mean to “rejoice [be glad, be delighted] in the Lord always?” What is the significance of the phrase “in the Lord?” How is this text misunderstood when “in the Lord” is ignored?

2. See verse 5. Gentleness is “peaceable and controlled kindness, the opposite of arrogance or domination.” (New Dictionary of Biblical Theology, 2000). God is gentle. Godly people are characterized by “gentle forbearance with others.” (Fee, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, 1995). Why does rejoicing in the Lord lead to gentle forbearance with others?

3. “The Lord is near” is a statement of future hope; the Lord is coming. How does our future hope that all will be well help us to rejoice in the Lord and be gentle toward others now, in all circumstances?

4. See verse 6. Pause. Take 5-10 minutes to pray as encouraged in this text: “…by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Go ahead and unburden yourselves; present your requests to God, with thanksgiving. (Remain in silence for a couple of minutes at the end of your prayer time.)

5. To give thanks is to say, “every good gift comes from you, God.” Thanksgiving leads to generosity. Why?

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October 20, 2019

This Week’s Readings:
Psalm 95:1-7a, Ezekiel 34:11-16,20-24, Ephesians 1:15-23, Matthew 25:31-46

Compassionate Care
(These questions relate to Ch. 6 of Faithful Presence – The Discipline of Being with the “Least of These”.)

1. What keeps me from wanting to enter into another person’s story?

2. Have you ever prayed, “Lord, help me see this person and these moments through your eyes?”

3. Have you ever prayed, “Lord, what would you have me do or say in this moment?

4. The first fruit of the Spirit is Love. What does that say about how people should see us?

5. Who are the Poor or the Least of These around you?

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October 27, 2019

This Week’s Readings:
Psalm 134, Psalm 78:1-8, Ephesians 6:1-14, Matthew 18:1-5

The Discipline of Being with Children
(These questions relate to Ch. 7 of Faithful Presence.)

1. Read Matthew 18:1-5. When Jesus says, “you must change and become like little children” what do you think He is referring to? Take into consideration what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3:2 and 13:11, where he refers to immature believers as in infancy/childhood.

2. How can the willingness of a believer to be present with children, while tending to the presence of Christ, work to mature that believer?  (Matthew 18:5)

3. As Jesus followers what we can offer children, exclusively from any other program/person/platform, is the knowledge that they are more than their failures or success; that they are loved unconditionally by a perfect Father. This is where they find security, value, hope, acceptance, purpose.
Acknowledging that, what prevents you from being present to children in such a way as to acknowledge/tend to the presence of Christ in that space (as parent, family friend, grandparent, teacher, leader, volunteer etc)?

4. “Being with children… is not a spiritual gift. It is never mentioned in the Scripture as a spiritual gift.  Instead, the church brings all its gifts to the space of ministry with children.” (Fitch p.137) What do you think of this quote? How could you use some of your gifts in the spaces where you could be present to children?

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November 3, 2019

This Week’s Readings:
Psalm 46, Jeremiah 31:31-34, Ephesians 4:1-16, Mark 10:35-45

The Discipline of Exercising our Spiritual Gifts
(These questions relate to Ch. 8 of Faithful Presence.)

1) Read Eph. 4:1-4. In v. 1, Paul urges the church at Ephesus to “live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” According to v. 4, what is the church’s calling?

2) At different points in history, there are different powers which take stage front. Hopelessness has taken stage front in our time. It’s one of the current Powers that Be. Hopelessness has a voice of authority. It is a spirit of our age. Where have you noticed hopelessness? How has it affected you or your loved ones? Read Eph. 1:18-23. What is the “hope to which he has called you”?

Read Eph. 3:10. The church’s job is to show the Powers that Be what’s what…Hopelessness is not Lord. Jesus is! We call bluff on hopelessness! Pause and pray. Name situations which seem hopeless and declare “Jesus is Lord” over each one. How did the prayer exercise affect you?

3) Christ has gifted the church to live our calling as a united, hopeful people. Each one of us reflects or offers hope differently. What’s your gift? How do you reflect hope within the church?

4) Who has influenced you to hope in Jesus? Who has preached – in word or deed – the Good News of Jesus to you? What were their gifts? How did God build hope through them?

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November 10, 2019

This Week’s Readings:
Psalm 139:1-12,23-24, Exodus 34:29-35, Matthew 6:5-13, Romans 8:18-30

The Discipline of Kingdom Prayer
(These questions relate to Ch. 9 of Faithful Presence.)

1) Share a time when you experienced God answering prayer. How did you know?

2) What motivates you to pray (ie. duty…fear…desire to connect with God)?

3) Discuss what prayer is and why it is necessary if we are to be a faithful presence.
Read John 3:2 and discuss how prayer is a factor in Nicodemas’ comment on Jesus

4) Why is it significant that Jesus teaches us to pray starting with, “Our Father?”

5) Do you set aside a regular time for prayer? If yes, please share what works best for you. If no, please share some of the obstacles.

6) There are many aspects to prayer: adoration, confession, intercession, thanksgiving, being silent, praying in solitude or with others, to name a few. Discuss  what you find easy or what you find difficult. Feel free to list other aspects of prayer.

7) Spend some time in prayer. Take time for a minute of silence, and time for thanksgiving, adoration, and intercession. Conclude by praying the Lord’s Prayer together.