The Marks of an Impactful Church – 3 John (Aug 11-12)

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Interacting with the Sermon

Synopsis of the Sermon

This weekend, Pastor Rich Nathan spoke about the kind of church Vineyard Columbus seeks to be.  Along with the churches in Philippi and Antioch, the church mentioned in John 3 was an impactful church.  While no church is perfect (vv. 8-14), this church was faithful to the truth (v. 3) and to sending missionaries (v.5) – which Pastor Rich believed was a causal relationship. We were reminded that some churches have gutted key components of Biblical faith by reducing the resurrection to a “metaphor” or removing the conditions of repentance to receive salvation. When we remove the convictions that God incarnate died unjustly, but willingly for our sins, and was raised by God’s power to break the power and penalty of sin – we no longer care enough about passing along a robust Christian faith to our children and grandchildren. We were asked, “what things are we passionate about and sacrifice for?”  If not Jesus, what fills that place in our lives? If not Jesus, then Jesus is just an idea, not a living reality.

Impactful churches are faithful senders. God is a sending God, seen in the lives of Joseph, Moses, and Paul (to list a few). And this church cared well for their missionaries – by providing food, money, shelter, and prayers. The church uses our tithes to do the same.

Impactful churches are faithful to be goers. In v.7 the church went “for the sake of the Name [of God]”. God is not an abstraction, he is known to us personally through Jesus. When we pray “our father in heaven, hallowed be your name, we’re saying “Lord, I want you to have a wonderful reputation and be regarded by the world as a great, kind, involved, self-sacrificing and holy God by everyone far and near”.  God cares about His name in this world. What are you willing to do to give God a better reputation in this world, to have people think more highly of Christ than they currently do?  What prayer would God have you pray so that you could better live for the sake of his name?  What dream would God put in your heart, if you asked him to, for the sake of his Name?  What risk would God have you take for no other reason, other than the sake of his Name?  Where might God wish to send you, if you said to God, “I am available to you to go?  What might God want to do through you for no other reason than the sake of his Name?

God is looking for people through whom He can do the impossible, what a pity that we plan only the things we can do ourselves.  – AW Tozer

In 5 minutes or less, briefly give a synopsis of this week’s sermon.  What insight, principle, or observation from this weekend’s message did you find to be most helpful, eye-opening, or troubling?  Explain.

Getting the Conversation Started

These questions can be used as ice-breakers in the beginning OR interwoven between the questions below to draw the group into the discussion.

  • What are one or two things from this weekend’s sermon that really stood out to you?
  • Has anyone been impacted by serving on a missions team or supporting a missionary? In what ways has your mission/outreach been impacted at home as a result from your missions engagement?
  • Name one false belief you had about Christianity or God that has since been sorted out. What impact has thinking/believing differently had on how you live your life?

Scripture Study

Study Goal: Our God is a Sending God.  God is not a god who just wound up the world and is content to let the battle of good vs. evil run its course.  He personally stepped in and initiated the Master Plan, through his Son Jesus, to save this world. The plan didn’t end 2000 years ago, but rather God chose to accomplish his ongoing purposes and plans  in this world through people – like you and me.  He longs to use us as the instruments of his work in the world.

The heart of our God is to send us to fulfill his will and purpose in this world.  We wants us to be instruments in his Kingdom.  We can either come alongside what Jesus is calling us to, where his spirit is calling us to be obedient, or we can choose our own way.

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10

Context: Acts 9:1-7 is the story of God meeting Paul (then known as Saul) on the road to Damascus to capture and ultimately kill Christians.  He had gathered letters of approval from the High Priest to distribute and hope persuade other Jews (who didn’t have any real reason to hate the people of THE WAY).  On his way, he encounters a bright light where Jesus reveals himself, overwhelms Saul with his presence, and then leaves him blind on a desert road. (Anyone have a similar experience when they first met Jesus?)

If you think about it, Paul was in the middle of a criminal and sinful act – plotting the murder of others – and God breaks in and reveals himself to Paul. As a side note, God can break in even in the midst of direct disobedience to him or our direct opposition to His plans and purposes – just like with Paul.

The story of the early church in Acts proceeds with an odd inclusion from Luke, the physician, who is carefully writing an anthology of Jesus and the early church.  His written history often includes the big players – Peter, Saul, and Barnabas – but take note when in comes this little guy from Damascus (a Syrian city outside of Palestine) called Ananias.

Read Acts 9: 10-19

10 In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!”

“Yes, Lord,” he answered.

11 The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”

13 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your people in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”

15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

17 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength.

  • (v.10) What is the first thing we learn about Ananias? (a. He was a disciple – not a big “D” Disciple like Peter or John). What does it mean to be a disciple? (a. An imitator of their rabbi/teacher…Ananias is known as an imitator of Jesus).
  • God calls out Ananias’ name – he knows him by name. What was Ananias’ first response? (a. “Yes lord”).  Read John 10:14 – How can you connect this passage with the story of Ananias? What is the relational context for calling to emerge?
  • How do you know God’s voice and is it discernible from all the other voices calling for your affection and attention in this world? Is their any voice particularly distracting you from your father’s?
  • (vv 12-14) What is the content of God’s directions? What is the motive behind Ananias’ objection? (a. Paul was a violent man, he was leading a militia to kill Christians). Has God ever called you to something “scary”? Please share briefly.
  • (vv 12-16) Have you ever had a dialogue with God like Ananias’ – God says “go, do something…” and you reply “really, Lord?” How did God respond to you in the past? How does God respond to Ananias? (a. God actually responds to his children’s’ concerns.  He takes time to explain to us when we don’t understand.  He still presses for obedience, but responds out of Grace.) Does that give you more or less confidence to ask God to use you? Why or why not?
  • (vv. 15-16) God revealed to Paul very early on what He’s called him to do – did you sense God’s call early in life or early in your Christian faith? What have you done with that calling or passion God gave you?
  • (vv. 17-19) What does Ananias ultimately do? Why does an all-powerful God, who can instantly  blind someone opposing God’s plans, require a messenger like Ananias? What is God up to? (a. Because life with God is a participatory life we can’t – no matter how insignificant we feel – sit on the edges of the kingdom of God.  We live in a spectator culture where the many watch the few.  Not so in the kingdom.  There is no one who posses all the talents to do all that God wants.  Everyone in the crowd is invited to play and every position is vital.)

Ministry Application

Below you’ll see some options for ministry time with your group. We always encourage you to reserve time in your group to pray for one another and wait on the Holy Spirit.

  • A challenge to everyone who feels they are sitting on the sidelines, not really participating in the kingdom, and specifically in the life of this small group – it’s time to either respond to the specific ways God is asking you to play a part or you need to go to God and ask him to reveal the specific ways for you to play.  What do you need to start actively serving?
  • Most people see the seed planted and walk away and say, well god, if you want it to grow – go ahead. How do you water the things God speaks to you, how do you nature the leading of the Holy Spirit? Perhaps talk with other group members and pray that you can walk faithfully.
  • Is there something scary or impeding you from doing what God asks, however small? Share with another group member and get some prayer. Pray that God would break off fear and ask for courage and faithfulness.
  • Leaders – encourage your group to get alone with God and hear the Good Sheppard speak.  Resist the temptation to just “throw one up there” and assume you’re not a part of God’s plans.  Get in the Word.  Start seeking God.  And then, if still nothing, come together the leaders or close friends because sometimes God will speak through others – just like God used Ananias to reveal his plans to Saul.