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STEVE GLADEN, SADDLEBACK CHURCH,

Seeking First the Kingdom

General Editor

Episode 5


...as expressed by

Micah Kandros, Hendersonville, TN

Send us your expression of “Life.� For more information e-mail darin.clark@lifeway.com


Creative Group

Table of Contents

Steve Gladen General Editor

Episode 5, Scenes 1-6

Josh Howerton and Rick Howerton Writers

How to Use Small Group Life

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From the General Editor

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Brian Daniel Editorial Project Leader Brian Gass Content Editor Darin Clark Art Director & Designer Juliana Duncan Production Editor Phil Davis Marketing Louann Dickson, Lynne Weaver, and Nathan Sledge Production Rick Howerton and Ron Keck Small Group Life Consultants

Scene 1

Replacement God Second Take Scene 2

The King’s Character Second Take Scene 3

Metaphors Second Take Scene 4

The King’s Subjects Second Take Scene 5

Kingdom Now Second Take Scene 6

08 16 24 32 40 48 56 64 72 80

Paradise ... Finally! Second Take

88 96

Leader Notes

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Welcome to Community!

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Sharing Your Stories

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Sharing Your Lives

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Leading a Small Group

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From the Edge of Life Since reading Dallas Willard’s The Divine Conspiracy, one of my favorite books of all time, I’ve wanted Small Group Life to take a deeper dive into Luke 17:20-21 and “the kingdom among us.” Jesus’ revelation that the kingdom will not come with “something observable,” but that God’s kingdom is here, now, “among you” is absolutely profound. His revelation opposes the temptation to wait on signs when action is clearly required. The original concept for Episode 5, however, just never came together. And I’m grateful. I’m grateful because my good friend and smallgroupologist Rick Howerton—author of Destination Community—agreed to cowrite this experience with his pastor son Josh. Rick and Josh took our original concept, built on it, and have made it into one of the most dynamic small-group experiences examining one of the most relevant subjects in today’s culture: God’s kingdom. Not only is this journey going to be one of the most important you’ll experience together, but it also serves as a guide for you personally as you seek first the kingdom of God. We’ll begin with a people’s cry for a “real” king in place of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and how God honored that request. From there we will wind through various attributes, character traits, kingdom metaphors, and the aforementioned “kingdom among us” before finally stirring the deeper waters of a kingdom restored. We can hardly wait to hear about your group’s experience.

Brian Daniel

Editorial Project Leader, Small Group Life


How to Use Small Group Life

Scene Introduction An introductory paragraph has been included to prime the group for your small-group conversation. Also, the graphic opposite the introductory paragraph(s) is no accident. We recommend asking group members to interact with these images in devotional settings outside of group time.

Quote

Connect It’s unreasonable to assume your group can go “zero to sixty” without some intermediate step. Connect includes an icebreaker and a relevant quote. The quote can be incorporated into the group discussion or used as a mid-week (or off-week) “teaser” for the next Small Group Life meeting.

Grow Grow is the heart of the Small Group Life experience. This is the Bible study portion of your small-group time. Grow employs an incremental discipleship model. Small Group Life has been created to guide groups on a redemptive journey that leads to incremental discipleship and spiritual growth—building healthy disciples along the way. It has been streamlined to help your group remain engaged, manage time, and stay on task. Look for callout material that provides additional background or insights pertinent to your conversation.

Callout

Second Take The Second Take is a second look at any given topic. It has been included as an additional small-group experience for groups wishing to spend more time in any of the topics or for groups who meet weekly.

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Serve/Go Serve/Go develops ministry and leadership through missional challenges. The Serve/Go can be done by the entire group together, or an individual may choose to do it alone.

Scripture Notes and Commentary Commentary notes are associated with the Scriptures featured during Grow. Scripture notes: • provide additional depth • add biblical background and context • contribute unique insights

Small(er) Group Life Small(er) Group Life summarizes how the children interacted with the Scene’s theme during their time together. This page provides: • f ollow-up questions that reinforce biblical learning and spiritual growth and provide an entrance into spiritual conversation with your children • easy-to-lead family devotions

Video Downloads Videos are available online to enhance your Small Group Life experience. Our video downloads are designed to be shown either during group sessions or watched by group members before getting together. Videos can be downloaded at www.lifeway.com/smallgrouplife.

Leader Notes and Leader’s Guide Small Group Life includes Leader Notes to help the group facilitator create the best small-group environment. These notes have several functions: • contribute to leader development • provide additional instruction • add insight to specific questions A Leader’s Guide starts on page 104 and provides specific instructions on materials needed and the flow of the meeting for the group leader.

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Episode 5

Most of us grow up dreaming about fantasy kingdoms and faraway places that we will never really be a part of. Whether our individual fairy tales are more classic like Disney’s Cinderella or twisted like DreamWorks’ Shrek, we know instinctively that there must be more than what we see around us. You can trust your gut on this one—there really does exist a promised kingdom to roam and one in which to reign. Old Testament Scripture foretells of a King who would come to rule and a kingdom that would last forever. It describes this King in great detail and causes us to yearn to follow Him. It illustrates His kingdom in terms of beauty and power. It paints the kingdom inside of time, yet somehow just beyond. When Jesus walked the earth, He was heralded as that King. But He had the audacity to tell those around Him that the kingdom was already in their midst. Most people were not willing to accept the mysterious kingdom Jesus offered. But the mystery of the kingdom continues to call out to us. It compels us to keep seeking, keep asking, and keep knocking, with the promise that in doing so, the door will be opened to a world beyond our dreams. Episode 5 explores kingdom by looking at six foundational aspects: replacement god, the King’s character, metaphors, the King’s subjects, kingdom now, and paradise. As you explore these areas, I pray that God will call you to enjoy His presence and to be involved in His kingdom work together. While you’re discussing these topics related to God’s kingdom, your children can also be exploring the same issues in a broader sense. We’ve added Small(er) Group Life so kids can learn what it means to be on mission with God instead of simply being baby-sat during your small-group time. Lesson plans for Small(er) Group Life are on the web at www.lifeway.com/smallgrouplife. Also, a page at the end of each Scene in this book will help you to review with your kids what they’ve learned. I think you’ll love this new twist to “building” into your kids.

Steve Gladen, Saddleback Church General Editor

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© 2010 LifeWay Christian Resources. For group use only. Not for resale or re-distribution.


Notes:

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Replacement

Kingdoms throughout human history have been devastated by impure, imperfect, self-obsessed kings and dictators. Consider the lives and nations ruined by Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar, Ghengis Khan, and more recently Adolph Hitler and Saddam Hussein. But when subjects are guided by and under the protection of the pure, perfect, people-centered True King, God Himself, they can be sure their best interest is in mind and will know they are uncomfortably safe while living their life adventure. The Israelites had this perfect King on earth, but due to a series of sad circumstances, they began to long for a human king, a fallible leader with skin and bones. EVERY KINGDOM HAS A KING AND EVERY KING HIS SUBJECTS.

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10 min. Leader: The Conn ect questions serve a dual purpose: to create a conversational environment and to begin involving everyone. Go aroun d the room and make sure everyone responds to the questions below.

Introduce yourselves to one another (if this is your first meeting together). Then tell which of the following statements best describes you. Given the choice of working for someone else or being the boss, I’d rather be the boss. Given the choice of working for someone else or being the boss, I’d rather work for someone else and let them make the hard calls.

What gift did you once buy for someone that you wish you’d kept for yourself?

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40-50 min. This session’s video can be streamed or downloaded at www.lifeway.com/sgl

Leader: Throughout this experience you will come across text similar to the following paragraphs. As you prepare to lead this week’s study, decide how you want to present this material to the group. Wherever God is recognized as King, His kingdom is established there. In our human nature, we tend to desire self-rule or to let someone other than God take the lead and determine what is best for us. But when God is the primary authority in our lives, life begins to feel purposeful and our journeys become transformational. The passage below marks the beginning of a new, tragic era in redemptive history. To this point God has been King of Israel, judges have led the nation under God’s law, and the nation has prospered when the people have followed God. But from this point on, men will be kings over Israel, their law will rule, and the kingdom will experience suffering in the absence of its rightful, perfect King.

Leader: Invite someone to read these verses aloud. When Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons as judges over Israel. 2 His firstborn son’s name was Joel and his second was Abijah. They were judges in Beer-sheba. 3 However, his sons did not walk in his ways—they turned toward dishonest gain, took bribes, and perverted justice.   4 So all the elders of Israel gathered together and went to Samuel at Ramah. 5 They said to him, “Look, you are old, and your sons do not follow your example. Therefore, appoint a king to judge us the same as all the other nations have.” 1 Samuel 8:1-5

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1. Why do you think the people wanted a flesh-and-blood king?

Leader/ Question #2: While many people will have an example in mind, try not to let members’ past bad experiences become the focus of the lesson. page 12


2. When Christian leaders fail, why do you think we have a tendency to set God aside?

Leader/ Question #3: Questions asking our opinion about what a biblical character might have been feeling are important. A group member’s response usually tells us what that member would have thought or felt in that situation. 3. What do you think went through Samuel’s mind when the elders told him they wanted to set aside God as King and have a human king instead?

When they said, “Give us a king to judge us,” Samuel considered their demand sinful, so he prayed to the Lord. 7 But the Lord told him, “Listen to the people and everything they say to you. They have not rejected you; they have rejected Me as their king. 8 They are doing the same thing to you that they have done to Me, since the day I brought them out of Egypt until this day, abandoning Me and worshiping other gods.  1 Samuel 8:6-8

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Leader/ Question #4: This question is an opportunity to start getting to know one another’s stories. Community is a key spiritual discipline. 4. Choosing other “gods” over the one true God is what causes us to reject His leadership. Read verses 6-8. What things or people have you chosen in the past that have caused you to reject the leadership of God in your decisions? How did giving the “little g” gods precedence over the “big g” God affect your thoughts, feelings, and actions?

“The human mind is, so to speak, a perpetual forge of idols.” 1 – John Calvin page

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“Listen to them, but you must solemnly warn them and tell them about the rights of the king who will rule over them.”   10 Samuel told all the L ord’s words to the people who were asking him for a king.   19 The people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We must have a king over us. 20 Then we’ll be like all the other nations: our king will judge us, go out before us, and fight our battles.”  1 Samuel 8:9-10,19-20 9

Leader/ Question #5: Refer to your Bible and summarize some of the negative things God warned would happen in verses 11-18. 5. Why do we sometimes choose gods other than the one true God?

Samuel listened to all the people’s words and then repeated them to the L ord . 22 “Listen to them,” the L ord told Samuel. “Appoint a king for them.”   Then Samuel told the men of Israel, “Each of you, go back to your city.”  1 Samuel 8:21-22 21

Leader/ Question #6: Making time for this question is important because we are establishing the true character of God. It also helps us identify some important attributes of Christ. 6. What does it tell you about God that He allows us to decide who/what will rule our lives?

Will of God

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Scripture speaks about the “will of God” in two ways—the hidden will of God and the revealed will of God. The hidden will of God is what God, in His sovereignty, determined from eternity would happen throughout history. No one can interrupt it and it is hidden from us. The revealed will of God is what God has revealed to us in Scripture that He desires for us to do and be. This is the will of God we can disobey or fail to do. The kingdom of God is present wherever the revealed will of God is obeyed.


Leader/ Question #7: Remember and reiterate answers to this question so group members realize that there is a battle raging for their hearts. 7. What does the historic event laid out in today’s Scripture passages reveal to you about the Enemy’s strategy to take control of your heart?

In Isaiah 14 Satan’s rebellion strategy is described in two stages: a desire to displace God from His throne and then to replace God himself. Whatever or whoever occupies a throne exercises a controlling position. If anything besides God occupies the primary controlling position—or throne—in our hearts, the first stage of Satan’s rebellion strategy is accomplished in our lives.

Leader/ Question #8: Because this question is very personal, you’ll want to answer it first so that others can begin to test the waters of transparency. 8. When you reflect on how you spend your time and money, what is it that seems to rule over you? What might be keeping you from setting those things aside so that God can be your only King?

The story you’ve been discussing is the turning point in Old Testament kingdom history. The Israelites got what they asked for: a human king. The outcome was devastating. As you move beyond this conversation, take the time to ask God to reveal to you what sits upon the throne of your life. Ask God to help you worship Him so passionately that those idols become vague memories to your heart.

Leader: Close in prayer before transitioning to Serve/Go, found on page 21.

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10 min. ons Leader: Be sure each person responds to the question/questi you choose to use. Hearing one’s own voice leads to confidence in speaking later in the meeting. When you were a teenager, what celebrity did you want to be like? What characteristics did he/she exhibit that you wished were yours?

Which of the following might best represent your hopes and dreams? Becoming a movie star with a huge fan base Eating an exquisite meal at the most expensive and best restaurant in Los Angeles for free Being made the CEO of a Fortune 500 company without having to work your way up Getting a big raise by doing anything your boss asks, even if it means compromising your morals Other: __________________________________

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40-50 min.

Leader: Read this paragraph aloud to your group. Journeying with God as our King is a great honor. Even before Jesus showed up on earth, God was proving His love to us by unveiling guidelines for life which allow us to have an intimate relationship with Him.

Leader: Ask someone to read these verses. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery.   3 Do not have other gods besides Me.   4 Do not make an idol for yourself, whether in the shape of anything in the heavens above or on the earth below or in the waters under the earth.  Exodus 20:2-4 2

The Ten Commandments

The Ten Commandments are not rules given in a vacuum. They are one aspect of a covenant relationship between God and His people. God gives Israel these guidelines for their covenant relationship with Him just after His awesome demonstration of love for them against the Egyptians.

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Leader/ Question #1: If group members are slow to respond, spend about 60 seconds brainstorming some specific things God did for the Israelites to get them out of Egypt or actions God took on their behalf while they were in the desert for 40 years. 1. Before God tells the Israelites that they are never to make any other gods, He reminds them of what He has done for them in the past. Why do you think He does this?

Leader/ Question #2: This question was placed here to help connect group members’ stories to God’s provision. 2. What has God done for you in the past that serves as a reminder that you can trust Him with your future?

Leader/ Question #3: Questions like this one allow group members to realize that other people are fighting the same battles they are fighting. 3. Why do we sometimes set God’s directives aside when an ungodly opportunity or temptation crosses our path?

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You must not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the fathers’ sin, to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6 but showing faithful love to a thousand generations of those who love Me and keep My commands.  Exodus 20:5-6 5

4. Is there a difference between bowing down to an idol and worshiping an idol? If so, in what way might they be different?

5. The emphasis of this passage is not upon judgment but upon the faithful love to many future generations. How have you seen that love in your family? In what ways do you hope to see it?

Leader/ Questions #6 and #7: These questions are designed to help group members wrestle with the tension we feel when one of God’s character traits causes us to fear Him, and to establish that God’s jealousy is different from human jealousy. 6. What would have gone through your mind if you had been Moses and the all-powerful God announced to you that He was a jealous God?

7. Think of a time when someone made you jealous. When hearing about one of God’s character traits, we tend to relate that trait to someone we know. But be careful equating God’s traits to human traits. How is God’s response to you when He is jealous different from the response of a jealous person you know?

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Fear Yahweh your God, worship Him, and take your oaths in His name. 14 Do not follow other gods, the gods of the peoples around you, 15 for the Lord your God, who is among you, is a jealous God. Otherwise, the L ord your God will become angry with you and wipe you off the face of the earth.  Deuteronomy 6:13-15

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8. There is nothing and no one we should worship other than God. Sometimes God’s response to a past life situation is used by the Enemy to cause us to distrust God. Describe a life situation from your past that could make you hesitant to trust God.

Ask Jesus to meet you in that place and show you what He was really up to in your life at that time. While the Enemy is the master of lies and deception, Jesus is the Author of truth!

Leader: Close in prayer before transitioning to Serve/Go, found on page 21, if you did not do it last week. Ask the group to pray about an issue this study has stirred in their hearts.

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10 min. God our King determined before time began that we would be made in His image, reflecting His glory. When we do acts of kindness, we do just that. There are many people who need a helping hand or just need to know that they have not been forgotten. Below you’ll find a few suggestions that you might consider doing as a group or individually in order to reflect the image of Christ and cause others to seek after the true King.

In the next week: Before leaving a restaurant, think of a way to encourage your server. Also, leave an extravagant tip. Invite a neighbor to join you for lunch, dinner, or coffee. Take dinner to a single-parent household and thank him/her for letting you serve in that way. Invite an elderly person in your neighborhood or church over for dinner. Ask him or her to tell you a memorable life story. Affirm a discouraged coworker by mentioning characteristics or abilities you’ve seen in him/her that encourage you to be a better person.

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1 Samuel 8:1-5  Samuel was the third Levitical judge mentioned in the Bible. He obeyed the Torah by appointing judges—in this case his sons—to function as judges in Beersheba. Israel’s experiment with hierocracy came to an abrupt halt when Samuel’s sons “turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice” (v. 3, NIV). The apparently imminent return to the dismal pattern of failed judgeships would not be tolerated by the people. 1 Samuel 8:6-8  Samuel is consistently portrayed as the ideal prophet. As such, he was necessarily a supporter of the Torah. Not surprisingly, therefore, the elders’ request “displeased Samuel” (v. 6). Samuel waited for the Lord to weigh in before taking any actions on the matter. Samuel was stung by the people’s rejection of his efforts, but the source of their demand was not to be found in their relationship with him or his sons. Instead, it lay in their troubled relationship with God; Israel had rejected the Lord as their king. 1 Samuel 8:9-10  Having received the word of the Lord, the prophet carried it back to the people. He provided the people with a sober description of what they could expect from a king. 1 Samuel 8:19-22  In spite of the prophet’s sober warning, the people “refused to listen to Samuel” (v. 19). In dutiful fulfillment of his mediatorial role as a prophet, Samuel repeated the peoples’ words “before the Lord” (v. 21). The Lord agreed to their request and commanded the prophet to “give them a king” (v. 22). Thus was set in motion the events that gave Israel a king who was far more “like all the other nations” than anyone could have imagined. Exodus 20:2-4  In identifying himself, God established His rights as the sovereign Lord over Israel. The first command would outlaw polytheism and any erroneous depictions of God. In the second command, God defines what is proper worship. Since God is spirit, God forbids any attempt to capture an image of God. Deuteronomy 6:13-15  In the course of developing their relationship with God, it would not be enough simply to worship Yahweh. Israel would have to worship Him exclusively. To do otherwise meant offending the Lord, who was dwelling daily among them.

Name

Request / Praise

Answered

Unless otherwise noted, Scripture Notes are excerpted from the Holman Old Testament Commentary and Holman New Testament Commentary Series. Max Anders, general editor (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 1998–2009). Notes on 1 Samuel are from Robert D. Bergen, The New American Commentary: 1, 2 Samuel (Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 1996). C. S. Lewis quote is from Mere Christianity (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1980), 46. 1. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2008), 55.

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© 2010 LifeWay Christian Resources. For group use only. Not for resale or re-distribution.


Memory Verse “Worship the Lord your God. He is the only one you should serve.� Deuteronomy 6:13 (NIrV)

er

What they experienced

Children learned that we serve the one true God.

Scene 1: Family Devotion Idea

Children heard the story of The Prince and the Pauper. They learned that we serve the one true God, and He wants to be the King of our lives. Watch a movie that has a king or ruler. After the movie, discuss whether the king was good to the people. Talk about how God is always good to us.

2nd Take: Family Devotion Idea

Children focused on learning the memory verse. As a family, make up a song or develop a game using the memory verse. Listen to a worship music CD such as Best of Worship KidStyle, Vol. 1 or 2.

Family activity

As a parent or family, visit www.commissionstories.com. Read a story and look at pictures of people who serve another god. Pray for missionaries who work with people of other religions.

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Leader’s Guide

General Tips Tips on facilitating a great small-group experience are on pages 108–111. STUDIES FOR THE CHILDREN can be downloaded at www.lifeway.com/smallgrouplife. Each lesson will have

its own list of items you need to supply the children’s teacher or parent volunteer. SMALL(ER) GROUP LIFE is found at the end of each Scene and helps families engage their children in the

week’s conversation. A memory verse is highlighted as well as devotion ideas and a family activity. VIDEO DOWNLOADS are available to complement each week’s meeting at www.lifeway.com/sgl. These can

be e-mailed to members beforehand, or you may choose to interact with the video during each meeting. CONNECT: Each Connect section has questions with which your group can interact. A quote is also provided

on the fourth page of each Scene. You can choose to e-mail the quote to members before your session or you might decide to discuss it during your meeting. Connect questions serve as a weekly icebreaker allowing members to get to know one another better and to connect with their own hearts at a deeper level. There are no right or wrong answers. GROW: A brief description of the theme for each week’s meeting is detailed later in this Leader’s Guide. SERVE/GO: Serve/Go provides suggested missional opportunities for your group each Scene. You will

want to decide together how often to participate and what level of accountability to bring. Allowing time at the beginning of each meeting or during the Serve/Go time to celebrate “success” stories will serve as continued motivation for group members to participate! NOTES:

Scene 1: Replacement God Beginning with God's representative kingdom on earth, the nation of Israel, Scene 1 demonstrates man's rebellion against God's desires. God sought to lead His people by speaking through godly leaders. Sadly, those leaders failed and instead of seeking to restore God's best, the people began to desire the system of government the nations around them had. On the surface they wanted a monarch to replace their judge but essentially they were turning to a replacement god. CONNECT: Encourage each member to contribute to the discussion from the beginning. This will establish

a pattern of participation that enriches the community experience. GROW: This session interacts with 1 Samuel 8 and shows how Israel rejected God in order to be like the

pagan nations around them. Members will be stretched to see the ways in which they too have turned away from God and embraced idols instead. The 2nd Take focuses on the 10 Commandments and God's warning about idols. Members will continue to wrestle with ways they substitute trust in God for faith in worldly things. page

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SERVE/GO: This week’s Serve/Go gives members an opportunity to serve their true King by serving others

in the community. NOTES:

Scene 2: The King's Character It is difficult to understand the kingdom if we don't understand the One who rules over it. By getting to know the character of our King, we move closer to Him and become more like Him. Some group members will need to unlearn some things that they have believed about God to more fully understand His true heart. PREPAR ATION: Obtain a copy of the DVD Everybody's Fine. (Miramax Films, 2009) for the 2nd Take. While Robert De Niro's character is by no means holy, there are aspects of God's character we can see in him reflected in this clip. CONNECT: Encourage each member to contribute to the discussion from the beginning. This will establish

a pattern of participation that enriches the community experience. GROW: The first session centers primarily upon Colossians 1 where group members will be challenged

to explore Jesus' character as revealed in this passage of Scripture. As members get to know their King's character, they will begin to love Him even more and be inspired to serve Him with joy. The 2nd Take refers to the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15. God's character is more fully revealed as members come to know and appreciate the father in the story. SERVE/GO: This week’s Serve/Go offers the opportunity to reach out to one who might be seen as a

prodigal. Group members likely will be nudged beyond their comfort zones through this experience. NOTES:

Scene 3: Metaphors The Bible is full of figurative language used to help us better understand the kingdom of God. Scene 3 highlights various stories which Jesus told to help His followers develop not only an understanding of but also a passion for expanding His kingdom. CONNECT: Encourage participation to establish a pattern for the group dynamic. GROW: Matthew 13 is the text used for the first session and centers around an end times parable. Group

members will be warned about the villain in the story, Satan, and those who follow him. The primary purpose is to help equip followers of Jesus to be effective kingdom servants. The 2nd Take continues with Matthew 13 metaphors and concludes with various passages that emphasize discipleship. As members learn to love God's kingdom, they will be inspired to place it first in their lives. By putting His kingdom first, they place Him first. page

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SERVE/GO: This week’s Serve/Go gives members an opportunity to practice kingdom priorities. NOTES:

Scene 4: The King's Subjects After having given some explanation of the kingdom in previous sessions, Scene 4 describes the King's subjects. Group members will probably come with a lot of different ideas about what a Christian is, but they should have a clear understanding by the end of each of these sessions. This scene is an evangelistic conversation for the group. PREPAR ATION: You will need to obtain a copy of the DVD Evan Almighty (Universal Pictures, 2007) to show

during the first session. Group members will have an opportunity to engage with the topic early by viewing Evan's interaction with God. CONNECT: Encourage each member to contribute to the discussion from the beginning. This will establish

a pattern of participation that enriches the community experience. GROW: The first session explores the topic by looking at Jesus' words about childlike faith in Matthew 18

and His familiar conversation with Nicodemus in John 3. Misconceptions about childlike faith are explored as group members are challenged to consider whether or not they are indeed subjects of the King. The 2nd Take is even more direct, using familiar evangelistic passages from Romans 10 and Acts 2. This ensures that group members have a clear opportunity to become followers of Christ. SERVE/GO: This week’s Serve/Go asks members of the group to go into the world as Jesus would and did. This is an opportunity to lead others to Christ by first modeling and sharing His love. Members should see that evangelism is a natural process that flows from acting as the King's subjects. NOTES:

Scene 5: Kingdom Now Kingdom is so often discussed in terms of the future. Scene 5, however, reminds us that the kingdom is also a present reality. Kingdom living both changes lives and changes our world. Group members are therefore encouraged to embrace a radical life of obedience to the King. CONNECT: Encourage group members to contribute to the discussion. This pattern will enrich the

community experience. GROW: The first session revolves around a portion of the Sermon on the Mount, found in Matthew 6. If the

kingdom is now and we are subjects in that kingdom, our lives lived in obedience should make a difference in the present. The 2nd Take continues with lessons from the Sermon on the Mount, this time from Matthew 7. How we lead, are led, and live in community are important parts of this conversation.

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SERVE/GO: This week’s Serve/Go allows members to gather in an informal setting with someone who has

not yet become a Christ-follower. Building a friendship where spiritual conversation is a natural outgrowth of the relationship is an important part of missional living. NOTES:

Scene 6: Paradise ... Finally! The future kingdom is one to which we look forward with great hope and expectation. Scene 6 reminds group members that we are on a journey culminating in an eternal paradise. In this paradise, all that was messy, broken, and complex will be rewoven and recreated into the fulfillment of God's perfect plan. In this paradise, we will reign with God forever. CONNECT: Encourage each member to contribute to the discussion from the beginning. This will establish

a pattern of participation that enriches the community experience. GROW: Revelation 21 and Isaiah 65 are the basis for this study on the future perfected kingdom. Group

members are encouraged to look back on the brokenness and wounds in their lives so they can appreciate even more that which they have to look forward to. In the 2nd Take, parts of Revelation 21 and 22 as well as Isaiah 1 are included so group members can see a glimpse of the beauty and purity that awaits. SERVE/GO: This week’s Serve/Go involves members reconnecting with someone they met in a previous

Serve/Go. Developing a missional lifestyle rather than just participating in isolated projects is the goal for all of the King’s subjects. NOTES:

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Welcome To Community! Meeting together to study God’s Word and experience life together is an exciting adventure. A small group is a group of people unwilling to settle for anything less than redemptive community.

Core Values COMMUNIT Y: God is relational, so He created us to live in relationship with Him and each other. Authentic

community involves sharing life together and connecting on many levels with others in our group. GROUP PROCESS: Developing authentic community takes time. It’s a journey of sharing our stories with each

other and learning together. Every healthy group goes through stages over a period of months or years. We begin with the birth of a new group, then deepen our relationships in the growth and development stages. INTER ACTIVE BIBLE STUDY: God gave the Bible as our instruction manual for life. We need to deepen our

understanding of God’s Word. People learn and remember more as they wrestle with truth and learn from others. Bible discovery and group interaction enhance growth. E XPERIENTIAL GROW TH: Beyond solely reading, studying, and dissecting the Bible, being a disciple of

Christ involves reunifying knowledge with experience. We do this by taking questions to God, opening a dialogue with our hearts (instead of killing desire), and utilizing other ways to listen to God speak (other people, nature, art, movies, circumstances). Experiential growth is always grounded in the Bible as God’s primary revelation and our ultimate truth-source. POWER OF GOD: Processes and strategies will be ineffective unless we invite and embrace the presence

and power of God. In order to experience community and growth, Jesus needs to be the centerpiece of our group experiences and the Holy Spirit must be at work. REDEMPTIVE COMMUNIT Y: Healing best occurs within the context of community and relationships. It’s

vital to see ourselves through the eyes of others, share our stories, and ultimately find freedom from the secrets and lies that enslave our souls. MISSION: God has invited us into a larger story with a great mission of setting captives free and healing

the broken-hearted (Isaiah 61:1-2). However, we can only join in this mission to the degree that we’ve let Jesus bind up our wounds and set us free. Others will be attracted to an authentic redemptive community.

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Sharing Your Stories The sessions of Small Group Life are designed to help you share a bit of your personal lives with the other people in your group as you experience life together. Through your time together, each member of the group is encouraged to move from low risk, less personal sharing to

HIGH RISK HIGH RISK-TAKING BEHAVIOR MEDIUM RISK-TAKING BEHAVIOR

higher risk communication. Real community will not develop apart from increasing intimacy over time.

LOW RISK-TAKING BEHAVIOR

BEGINNING

Group Process

Levels Of Sharing

NO RISK

MATURING

Sharing Your Lives As you share your lives together during this time, it’s important to recognize that it’s God who brought each person to this group, gifting the individuals to play a vital role in the group (1 Corinthians 12:1). Each of you was uniquely designed to contribute in your own unique way to building into the lives of the other people in your group. As you get to know one another better, consider the following four areas that will be unique for each person. These areas will help you get a “grip” on how you can better support others and how they can support you. G – SPIRITUAL GIF TS:

God has given you unique spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12; Romans 12:3-8; Ephesians 4:1-16). R – RESOURCES:

You have resources that perhaps only you can share, including skill, abilities, possessions, money, and time (Acts 2:44-47; Ecclesiastes 4:9-12). I – INDIVIDUAL E XPERIENCES: 

You have past experiences, both good and bad, that God can use to strengthen and encourage others (2 Corinthians 1:3-7; Romans 8:28). P – PASSIONS:

There are things that excite and motivate you. God has given you those desires and passions to use for His purposes (Psalm 37:4,23; Proverbs 3:5-6,13-18). To better understand how a group should function and develop in these four areas, consider taking your group on a journey in community using the Serendipity study entitled Great Beginnings.

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Leading a Small Group You will find a great deal of helpful information in this section that will be crucial for success as you lead your group. Reading through this section and utilizing the suggested principles and practices will greatly enhance the group experience. First is to accept the limitations of leadership. You cannot transform a life. You must lead your group to the Bible, the Holy Spirit, and the power of Christian community. By doing so your group will have all the tools necessary to draw closer to God and to each other, and to experience heart transformation. MAKE THE FOLLOWING THINGS AVAILABLE AT EACH SESSION:

+ Small Group Life book for each attendee + A Bible for each attendee + Snacks and refreshments (encourage everyone to bring something) + Pens or pencils for each participant

The Setting and General Tips #1 Prepare for each meeting by reviewing the material, praying for each group member, asking the Holy Spirit to join you, and making Jesus the centerpiece of every experience. #2 Create the right environment by making sure chairs are arranged so each person can see every other attendee. Set the room temperature at 69 degrees. If meeting in a home, make sure pets are where they cannot interrupt the meeting. Request that cell phones be turned off unless someone is expecting an emergency call. Have music playing as people arrive (volume low enough for people to converse) and, if possible, burn a sweet-smelling candle. #3 Try to have soft drinks and coffee available for early arrivals. #4 Have someone with the spiritual gift of hospitality ready to make any new attendees feel welcome. #5 Be sure there is adequate lighting so that everyone can read without straining. #6 Think of ways to connect with group members away from group time. The amount of participation you have during your group meetings is directly related to the amount of time you connect with your group members away from the group meeting. Consider sending e-mails, texts, or social networking messages about the image opposite each Scene intro or the thought-provoking quote. Members could also be encouraged to view the video download for the Scene at some point during the week.

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#7 There are four types of questions used in each session: Observation (What is the passage telling us?), Interpretation (What does the passage mean?), Self-revelation (How am I doing in light of the truth unveiled?), and Application (Now that I know what I know, what will I do to integrate this truth into my life?). You won’t be able to use all the questions in each study, but be sure to use some from each. #8 Don’t lose patience about the depth of relationship group members are experiencing. Building real Christian community takes time. #9 Be sure pens or pencils are available for attendees at each meeting. #10 Never ask someone to pray aloud without first asking their permission.

Leading Meetings #1 Before the Connect sections, do not say, “Now we’re going to do an icebreaker.” The entire session should feel like a conversation from beginning to end, not a classroom experience. #2 Be certain every member responds to the Connect questions. The goal is for every person to hear his or her own voice early in the meeting. People will then feel comfortable to converse later on. If members can’t think of a response, let them know you’ll come back to them after the others have spoken. #3 Remember, a great group leader talks less than 10 percent of the time. If you ask a question and no one answers, just wait. If you create an environment where you fill the gaps of silence, the group will quickly learn they don’t need to join you in the conversation. #4 Don’t be hesitant to call people by name as you ask them to respond to questions or to give their opinions. Be sensitive, but engage everyone in the conversation. #5 Don’t ask people to read aloud unless you have gotten their permission prior to the meeting. Feel free to ask for volunteers to read. #6 Watch your time. If discussion extends past the time limits suggested, offer the option of pressing on into other discussions or continuing the current content into your next meeting.

REMEMBER: People and their needs are always more important than completing your agenda or finishing all the questions.

#7 Use sub-grouping if there are more than eight people in the group, particularly during Grow.

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Group Directory Pass your books around and ask your group members to fill in their names and contact information in each other’s books. NAME:

NAME:

ADDRESS: CITY:

ADDRESS: ZIP CODE:

CITY:

HOME PHONE:

HOME PHONE:

MOBILE PHONE:

MOBILE PHONE:

E-MAIL:

E-MAIL:

SOCIAL NETWORK (S):

SOCIAL NETWORK (S):

NAME:

NAME:

ADDRESS: CITY:

ADDRESS: ZIP CODE:

CITY:

HOME PHONE:

HOME PHONE:

MOBILE PHONE:

MOBILE PHONE:

E-MAIL:

E-MAIL:

SOCIAL NETWORK (S):

SOCIAL NETWORK (S):

NAME:

NAME:

ADDRESS: CITY:

CITY:

HOME PHONE:

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MOBILE PHONE:

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E-MAIL:

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SOCIAL NETWORK (S):

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NAME:

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ADDRESS:

CITY:

HOME PHONE:

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MOBILE PHONE:

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E-MAIL:

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SOCIAL NETWORK (S):

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NAME:

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ADDRESS:

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NAME:

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CITY: HOME PHONE:

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ZIP CODE:

ADDRESS: ZIP CODE:

HOME PHONE:

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Small Group Life: Kingdom