Week 5--Becoming Committed (Luke 17:11-19)

Houston First United Presbyterian Church Mission Study

Houston First United Presbyterian Church Mission Study

Week 5—Becoming Committed (Luke 17:11-19 NIV)
11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance 13 and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”

14 When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.

15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.

17 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

 Luke 17:11-19 (The Message)
11-13 It happened that as he made his way toward Jerusalem, he crossed over the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten men, all lepers, met him. They kept their distance but raised their voices, calling out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”

14-16 Taking a good look at them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.”

They went, and while still on their way, became clean. One of them, when he realized that he was healed, turned around and came back, shouting his gratitude, glorifying God. He kneeled at Jesus’ feet, so grateful. He couldn’t thank him enough—and he was a Samaritan.

17-19 Jesus said, “Were not ten healed? Where are the nine? Can none be found to come back and give glory to God except this outsider?” Then he said to him, “Get up. On your way. Your faith has healed and saved you.”

 Bible Study (Individually)

We were asked to listen quietly as Bible story was read then to spend five minutes individually contemplating the passage:

o   Linger on each word

o   Consider the word’s impact on your heart and mind

o   Perhaps underline one or two words that carry the most impact.

Jot down your responses to the passage, completing one or more of the following sentences:

o   The heart of the matter is . . . (Participant Responses)

  • . . . is that people are in need. We forget when not

  • . . . we have to give God the glory

  • . . . grace is for everyone

  • . . . sometimes we don’t share grace with others

  • . . . lack of faith; part of the healing process.

How would you personally finish this sentence: “The heart of the matter is . . . “


o   To me this passage means . . . .

  • I need to accept God’s grace

  • I need to take time to be thankful (note that only 10% of those healed said “thank you.”

  • The other 90% expected healing/felt entitled.

How would you finish this sentence: “To me this passage means . . . “


o   This passage perplexes me because . . .

  • They were doing what Jesus told them to do. Why did he complain? (because they were doing the letter of Jesus’ command but not expressing thankfulness for what He had done.)

    How would you personally finish this sentence: “This passages perplexes me because . . . “



Group Activity

We divided into two groups:  The Lepers and the Jesus Team and answered the following questions:

o   Lepers: 

Think about the issues of your church in terms of its present needs for healing and growth and preparation for new pastoral leadership.  For what are you thankful as a church?
We need to prepare with outreach (personal, each one reach one), recognize needs in the congregation; follow through, but this requires commitment. We need to celebrate the gifts in our congregation and to stabilize/steady our finances.

What are your answers to these questions? Do you agree that the problem with “unsteady” finances may be a faith issue?

o   Jesus Team: 

Think about the ways in which this church could be healed and how this church might move forward?
Answers: With communication and commitment/involvement by all; reach out to pat members. Future is uncertain, but God is in it.
What are your answers to these questions?


We gathered back together and offered the following perspectives about the good of the church.

o   Personal relationships to the church
Perceptions offered:

  • Express our selves

  • Take action; try new ideas

  • Set a good example, be helpful

  • Volunteer in areas where we are capable and also try something new

  • Do everything with joy and to the glory of God

  • Be outgoing and inclusive

  • Emphasize youth ministry

What are your perceptions in this area?

o   The future of the church

  • Making change and moving forward is daunting

  • We need leadership

  • Education is important

    What are your perceptions in this area?



o   Commitments which need to happen

  • Sacrifice

  • Concentrate on the important

  • Challenge myself and others

  • Lead by example

    What are your perceptions in this area?


o   Accountability of members

  • Emphasize the everyday, not just special occasions

  • Encourage involvement

  • Reach out to new members or those we haven’t seen.

    What are your perceptions in this area?


Week 4--What Is Our Call? (Jeremiah 1:4-10)

Houston First United Presbyterian Church Mission Study

Week 4—What is Our Call? 

Read Jeremiah 1:4-10 aloud, then read it again slowly and prayerfully.

NIV

4 The word of the Lord came to me, saying,
5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
    before you were born I set you apart;
    I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”
6 “Alas, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.”
7 But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. 8 Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.
9 Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I have put my words in your mouth. 10 See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.”


The Message
This is what God said:
5 “Before I shaped you in the womb, I knew all about you.
Before you saw the light of day, I had holy plans for you:
A prophet to the nations—that’s what I had in mind for you.”
6 But I said, “Hold it, Master God! Look at me. I don’t know anything. I’m only a boy!”
7-8 God told me, “Don’t say, ‘I’m only a boy.’ I’ll tell you where to go and you’ll go there.
I’ll tell you what to say and you’ll say it. Don’t be afraid of a soul.
I’ll be right there, looking after you.”
9-10 God reached out, touched my mouth, and said,
“Look! I’ve just put my words in your mouth—hand-delivered!
See what I’ve done? I’ve given you a job to do among nations and governments—a red-letter day!
Your job is to pull up and tear down, take apart and demolish,
And then start over, building and planting.”

 Spend a few minutes looking at your own picture/name, while contemplating the words:  “Behold, I have formed you in the womb and I have put my words in your mouth.”

 Read Jeremiah 1:4-10 again, then answer the following questions.  After doing so, consider meeting up with someone else in the congregation to share your answers with one another, so as to get to know one another better and to discern our gifts and areas of ministry..

What does this passage mean to your call?
Participant answers:  God sees what we need; Be open, listen to God; Reassurance that God has a plan for me;
Your Answer:



What does this mean to you for the interim period?

Participant answers:  Go out and tell others; Find a purpose; We need leadership and new ideas; we need to find a pastor; Support those who are leaders in any area; Depend on God to get us through; Listen; be patient; move forward; Grow, yet stay together
Your Answer:



What personal gifts and strengths do you contribute to the church and this interim period?
Participant answers:  Leadership and new ideas; supporting the plan; Youthful perspective/devotion; experience serving on previous PNC; Whatever is needed, I will be there; long-term membership and regular attendance; decorating, teaching, research, cooking, cleaning; Personnel experience
Your Answer:



What areas of weakness might you name, and do they give you pause?
Participant answers:  lack of contribution/participation; my attendance; lack of patience; selfishness and failure to listen to God;
Your Answer:


How do you respond to the content of the prophet’s word to God’s people?
Participant answers:  I am in strong agreement; God has a purpose for all of us; we must listen for guidance; Take comfort; Encourage one another; Try to be helpful and communicate, get people together; “Get busy”; God knows the outcome.  Don’t be fearful.
Your Answer:

 

Discussion and Feedback:  Participants shared their answers with one another then we grouped them together on the board.
Group discussion 
:

The patterns on the board where we believed participants were called included Leadership, Service, Christian Education, Family/Fellowship.  We have a wide range of gifts in the church
What areas of call do you sense you are called to in the congregation?



What is it that we could be doing during this interim to become more attuned to God’s call? 
Be patient, be involved.  Trust God and one another, Pray.
What is it that you can do to become more attuned to God’s call?


In what ways do we want to keep the status quo?  In what ways do we need to change?
We should keep the good things; participate in conversations  and we need to respect decisions that are made, communicate with one another, improve outreach to those who are inactive and to those outside our congregation
In what areas do you wish to keep the status quo?  In what ways do we need to change?



Week 3--Becoming the Body of Christ

Houston First United Presbyterian Church
Mission Study

Week 3—Becoming the Body of Christ
We studied 1 Corinthians 1:10-17, 26-31 by reading it aloud then participants read it again slowly and prayerfully. 

Participants were asked to name perceived ministries of the congregation.  Those mentioned were:

·         Community Outreach

·         Missions

·         Youth Ministry

Questions for Additional Consideration:

·         Are there other perceived ministries you might have named?  If so, what are they?

 

We asked the subgroups to identify what it is that they want the church to know about their group’s perspective during this interim time:

The Youth Ministry subgroup answered the following questions:

What is working in this area? 
Sunday school (we are few but mighty) VBS, Rock the Block, Youth group, Pumpkin Festival

What is not working?
Attendance low with few new members
Same people doing the same work.

What does our group offer?  (No answer provided)

What needs improvement?
Introduce and try new approaches, ideas, points of view.

Questions for Additional Consideration of “Youth Ministry” Subgroup Responses:

What is your view of the Youth Ministries of our church? 

Do you attend Sunday school and encourage your children to do so?  Why or why not?

What do you think we can do to bring in more young people?  Would you be willing to help accomplish this?  Why or why not?


How can we get congregation excited about youth and children’s ministry?


The Missions subgroup answered the following questions: 

What is working in this area? 
Meals on Wheels, Boy Scouts, Tuesday Women’s NA Group, Vacation Bible School, Open Door Nursery, West Virginia Mission Trips, support of Foreign Missionaries

What is not working?  (No Answers provided)

What does our group offer?  (No Answers provided)

What needs improvement?

·         Bible school needs more help

·         WV Mission needs more help

Questions for Additional Consideration of Missions Subgroup Responses:

How much are we (the rest of the congregation) actually involved in these missions?  Are we involved or spectators providing a place? 


Do you think we as a congregation truly understand what “mission” is?

A leadership journal states, “Missions is basically Jesus calling us to others.”  If this is true, in your opinion, are we answering that call to be “fishers of men”?  Why or why not?


The Community Outreach Group answered the following questions:

What is working in this area? 
Visiting Shut-ins, Serving those who mourn (funeral/memorial service lunches), Supporting the food pantry, providing toys for children.
Other outreaches include Pumpkin Festival and
Christmas Tea (mostly deacon activities)

What is not working? 
Communication
Ability to get new members (to the church)

What does our group offer? 
Love, comfort, help

What needs improvement? (No Answer)

Questions for Additional Consideration of Community Outreach subgroup Responses:

Have you been involved in any of these community outreaches?  If so, what is your evaluation of them? 


What are some community outreach activities you have identified in your life and ministry? 

 

Should we, or how can we be, more involved in membership and community outreach?  What are your ideas?



What do we have to offer to those outside of the church?  How can we express that to those who don’t know who we are?

Week 2— Discovering Barriers to Healing (John 5:1-17)

We studied the story of Jesus healing the paralytic then split into four groups to answer questions specific to each group.  After a period of discussion, we gathered back together and shared our thoughts as follows.  Read the Scripture passage above to better understand the responses.

The Narrator Group answered the following two questions: 

How do you think an outsider would see our church at this time?  An outsider would probably see us as a small church that is in need of leadership.  The might see us as broken because of what we have been through, and old church (perhaps that isn’t relevant?) filled with lost sheep)

How do we see ourselves and our role as a church? 
We are active in our community.  We host Meals-on-Wheels and the Open Door Nursery.


Questions for Additional Consideration of Narrator Responses:
Why do you think an outsider would see us this way?  Is this the way we see ourselves?  Do you have a different answer?

What leadership do we have today, and why do we feel we don’t have any? 
Can you identify current leadership and how to support it?

The group identified our activity in the community and specifically mentions MOW and ODN.  How would you describe our role as a church in the community?  Is there more happening that we are not seeing or recognizing, causing us to feel like we are “not enough”?

The Jesus Group answered these questions:

What do you see as the potential for health in this church? 
We are a God-based congregation with good potential to be a healthy church.

How would Jesus’ method for healing apply to our church? 
We need to “pick up our mat” and get it done.

Questions for Additional Consideration of “Jesus” Team Responses:

  • What signs of “potential” do you identify in our congregation? 

  • What does a “God-based” congregation look like?  What might be missing? 

  • What does “picking up our mat” look like?  How do we do that.  Identify the “mat” (what we need to pick up)

  • What does picking up your mat look like?  Where does God want you to move forward?

  • How do we “get it done”?  Identify specific areas and steps we could take.

 

The Paralytic Group answered the following two questions: 
What is paralysis?
  Not volunteering.  Inaction.  Frozen.  Lacking leadership.  Lack of direction.

For how long have we been paralyzed?   Three-plus years.

In what ways do we as a church feel paralyzed at this time?  Being unwilling to adjust to change.

 Questions for Additional Consideration of Paralytic Team Responses:

  • In what areas do you feel the church has a lack of direction?

  • Do you think there is a lack of volunteerism? 
    If so, why do you think that exists? 
    What can we do to encourage you and/or others to be involved?

  • In what areas do you think the church might be paralyzed, and why?

 The Jewish Leaders Group answered the following two questions:

In what ways do we want to keep the church the same and/or play by the same rules?
We want to keep the same fellowship we had.

We want to continue to be servants.

Of what do we have a hard time letting go?  Tradition.

 Questions for Additional Consideration of Jewish Leaders Team Responses:

  • Is it possible for a fellowship to stay the “same”?  What changes happen regularly?

  • Is it feasible to keep everything the same without examining what we are doing to determine its effectiveness?

Week 1—Discovering Our Hunger (Psalm 107:1-9)

Week 1—Discovering Our Hunger (Psalm 107:1-9)

After asking ourselves the questions provided at the beginning of the exercise, we wrote poems including our answers.  Then the groups shared their responses with all of us in response to what we hear about the church, what we notice about our feelings, and what we need to ask from God for this interim time. Click here to read the poems.

1.  First of all, we noted that participants were being honest and open, feeling as if they can express what they are feeling without fear of being rejected.  They admitted to being upset and feeling lost and having high emotions about the process.  They want change, but they want it NOW, frustrated with the process.  Our congregation includes realists and idealists, and we are trying to bring both camps together to find a common path. 

Questions for Additional Consideration:

  • What are your emotions at this time? 

  • If you are frustrated, is your frustration with the process (length of time, type of activities or seeming lack of activity, etc.) causing anxiety and, therefore, fear?

  • Do you feel comfortable expressing your concerns and ideas?  Why or why not? 

2.  Generally, the group expressed that we are choosing to remain positive and prayerful and choosing to be unwavering toward our goals.  We are looking for leadership and are accepting of it.  We are seeking guidance and direction, peace and joy, as we wait for God’s vision and patience as we wait for one another. 

Questions for Additional Consideration:

  • Toward which goals are we unwavering? 

  • Are we willing to compromise and/or adjust our focus? 

  • Which leadership are we accepting of, the leadership we will find with a new pastor, the leadership we have at this time, or both?

  • Could opening our minds to new possibilities lower our anxiety?

  • 3.  Finally, the group described our congregation as one based in servanthood and caring, supportive of the process and especially of the common good.  This makes us hopeful and positive.  We ask God for loving hearts, able to accept and understand one another, able to compromise, and able to forgive one another and ourselves.  We hope to be tolerant of one another and to have the strength, courage, and faith to speak to one another in love.  One person suggested that we are distracted by certain things and forget what is truly important to God.

  • Is there someone in the congregation (please don’t name out loud!) for whom you are intolerant or to whom you feel you cannot speak openly?  Pray for that person, for their needs, for their healing, for God’s blessing on them. 

  • Spend time in prayer, asking God what you can do to be a part of change and seeking to hear God’s voice and leading in your own heart.

  • Ask God to give you the clarity to express your thoughts in a manner that the other person can hear, and to help you hear what he or she is saying.  Ask God for the courage and faith to forgive, even if they he or she has not requested it.

  • Ask God to heal our anxiety and turn it into faith and love, for God, for one another, and for our community and world.