Dear Church 2018

Dear Church| Week 7 - Philadelphia

Jesus' letter to the church in Philadelphia contained no criticism, just encouragement. This church was faithfully following Jesus and holding onto the word of God. As a result, the church in Philadelphia lasted longer than all of the other seven churches. This is certainly a church we should look to learn from and imitate.

This Week's Action Step: 

For the church in Philadelphia to receive this letter from Jesus had to be a great encouragement. Be like Jesus this week and encourage someone.

Small Group

 

Small Group Questions:

Revelation 3:7-13

1.  In Rev. 3:7 Jesus refers to having a key that can open and shut (presumably a door of some kind).  Then in verse 8 he also mentions “an open door that no one is able to shut.”  What does this “door” refer to?  What does Jesus mean when he says, “no one is able to shut it?”

2.  One of the things that Jesus is most impressed with about the church in Philadelphia is their faith.  Hebrews 11:6 says that without faith it is impossible to please God.  Then Hebrews 12:2  tells us that Jesus is the “author and perfecter of our faith.”  What are some ways that Jesus grows, stretches, or prefects our faith?  How has God specifically grown, stretched, or perfected your faith over the years?

3.  In verse 10 Jesus mentions the church’s “patient endurance.”  One thing we’ve talked a lot about focusing on this year at the Vista is “patient discipleship.”  Why is patience so important when it comes to spiritual growth?  What could be some of the problems with trying to rush the process or hurry it along too quickly?

4.  In verse 11 Jesus mentions a crown.  What does this crown refer to?  How might someone (or even Satan) try and "seize your crown?”

5.  This letter must have been incredibly encouraging for the church in Philadelphia to receive.  We all need encouragement from time to time.  Take some time as you wrap up your group and encourage one another.  You can do this by simply going around and letting those who want to share words of encouragement about how the group has blessed them, or you could have note cards available and have members of the group write short notes of encouragement to everyone in the group.  However you want to do it is fine, just take some time and encourage each other.  

Songs from Today

Glory To Glory by Lauren Evans, Rick Seibold, and William Matthews

No Longer Slaves by Jonathan David Helser and Melissa Helser

Sons And Daughters by Brett Stanfill

Jesus We Love You by Hannah McClure, Kalley Heiligenthal, and Paul McClure

Dear Church| Week 6 - Sardis

Jesus calls the church in Sardis a "dead church." They are sort of going through the motions of religious activity, but they don't have any real faith and therefore no real life. This raises the question for us... how does this happen? How does a church go from life to death? It doesn't happen overnight. So, what are the things we need to watch out for so that we can avoid becoming like the church in Sardis?

This Week's Action Step: 

Who are you making room for? Commit to regularly pray for, and look for opportunities to invite, the person(s) you wrote on your notecard.

Small Group

 

Small Group Questions:

“Dear Church” - (part VI) - The church in Sardis

Revelation 3:1-6

1.  In your opinion, what are the characteristics of a dead or dying church?  In other words, how do you recognize if a church is dead or dying... because apparently the church in Sardis was unaware they were dead?

2.  In your opinion what are the characteristics of a church that’s alive?  What do you look for in a healthy church?

3.  In Rev. 3:2 Jesus says to the church in Sardis, “I have not found your works complete.”  What do you think he means by that?  How might this apply to churches today?  What kinds of “works” might Jesus find incomplete?

4.  Change is necessary in a healthy organization.  Are you someone that has a hard time with change?  Why is change often so hard for people to accept both personally and/or corporately?  

5.  Remembering moments of positive change can help us be more willing to accept moments of future change.  With that in mind, can you think of a change that was hard for you to accept, either personally or corporately, but in hindsight it turned out to be a really good thing?  

6.  How can we avoid becoming consumers in a church rather than contributors?  What steps can/do you personally take to avoid simply becoming a church consumer?

Songs from Today

This Is Amazing Grace by Josh Farro, Jeremy Riddle, and Phil Wickham

Heroes by Amanda Cook, Jason Ingram, and Paul Mabury

10,000 Reasons (Bless The Lord) by Jonas Myrin and Matt Redman

It Is Well by Horatio Gates Spafford, Kristene DiMarco, and Philip Paul Bliss

Give Me Faith by Mack Brock, Chris Brown, London Gatch, and Wade Joye

Dear Church| Week 5 - Thyatira

Apparently, in Thyatira, there was a woman who was actively living in sin and leading others to follow her into sin. Jesus sharply criticizes the church for tolerating this woman. Basically, the church was .turning a blind eye and ignoring what she was doing. This brings up two very important topics for the church... 1. tolerance and 2. discipline. How tolerant should we be and what does discipline look like for those living in unrepentant sin?

This Week's Action Step: 

Identify someone in your life who loves you enough to always tell you the truth. Take them to coffee or lunch this week and thank them for their friendship.

Small Group

Small Group Questions:

Dear Church (part V) - Thyatira

Revelation 2:18-29 & Matthew 18:15-20

1.  In Rev. 2:20 Jesus calls out the church in Thyatira for “tolerating” the woman Jezabel.  What does “tolerance” mean?  Do you consider yourself a tolerant person?  Why or why not?

2.  Should Christians be tolerant people?  How tolerant… should there be limits to our tolerance?  Should our tolerance of non-Christians be different than our tolerance of believers in the church?

3.  In Matthew 18:15-17 Jesus lays out a pattern for how church discipline should be practiced toward those who are living in sin.  Have you ever followed this pattern in order to help correct someone who was in sin?  Has someone else ever followed this pattern in order to help correct you?  How did it go?

4.  Why do you think it’s important that discipline/correction happen in the context of community… among friends who love and care about us?  What are the dangers of it not happening in that context?  

5.  In Matt. 18:17 Jesus says that if someone refuses to listen to the church, “let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”  What does he mean by that?  

Songs from Today

At Your Name by Tim Hughes and Phil Wickham

Death Arrested by Adam Kersh, Brandon Coker, Heath Balltzglier, and Paul Taylor

Great Are You Lord by Steve Cook and Vikki Cook

Do It Again by Chris Brown, Mack Brock, Matt Redman, and Steven Furtick

Cornerstone by William Batchelder Bradbury, Eric Liljero, Reuben Morgan, Edward Mote, and Jonas Myrin

Dear Church| Week 4 The Church in Pergamum

Many in the church in Pergamum were faithful in spite of persecution. However, Jesus calls them out because there are some who are being led astray by false teachings. These particular false teachings were teaching people that they could basically live their lives however they wanted (including sexual sin) and be fine. Jesus instructs them to repent. How we live our lives matters to God.

This Week's Action Step: 

Spend some time this week evaluating every area of your life. Where do you have a hard time allowing Jesus to be Lord?

Small Group

Small Group Questions:

“Dear Church”  (Part 4) - The church in Pergamum

Text: Revelation 2:12-17 & Acts 6:1-7

1.  Twice in verse 13 Jesus says that the place they live (Pergamum) is a place where “Satan’s throne is,” or “Satan Dwells.”  What does he mean by this?  Are there certain places/locations where Satan’s opposition is more prevalent or stronger?  Have you ever been to or seen such a place?

2.  In verses 14-15 it is clear that some in the church are being led astray by false teachings.  How are people in our day also “lead astray?”  What are some practical things we can do to avoid being led astray?

3.  The two heresies mentioned in Rev. 2:14-15 basically taught the same thing… that you can believe in God/Jesus but continue to follow and practice all of the sensual desires of your heart.  In other words, how you live your life doesn’t really matter just as long as you believe in God/Jesus.  What’s the problem with this way of thinking?  If salvation is by grace alone (as we believe it is) and not based on works, then why can’t we just live however we want?

4.  Part of the reason some of the believers in Pergamum were so easily led astray is because the culture of the city made them feel like it was normal.  Obviously, our culture today makes a lot of sin seem normal as well.  The question is… is our identity found in Christ or in culture?  How can we check, or gage this?  

5.  In Acts 6:1 the text refers to all the believers as “disciples.”  What does/should this teach us about what it really means to be a Christian?

6.  In Rev. 2:17 Jesus declares that those who overcome/conquer will receive some rewards.  Specifically he mentions “hidden manna,” “a white stone,” and “a new name.”  What do these rewards refer to and what do they mean for us?

Songs from Today

Faithful To The End by Brian Johnson, Hannah McClure, Joel Taylor, and Paul McClure

Reckless Love by Caleb Culver, Cory Asbury, and Ran Jackson

Good Good Father

Do It Again by Chris Brown, Mack Brock, Matt Redman, and Steven Furtick

Build My Life by Brett Younker, Karl Martin, Kirby Kable, Matt Redman, and Pat Barrett

Dear Church| Deliver Us From Safe

What can we learn from a church that is nothing like us? A church that was small, poor, powerless, and persecuted? We can learn how to live bravely in a scary world.

This Week's Action Step: 

Pray for bravery instead of safety. 

Small Group

Small Group Questions:

Do you think the world is becoming a more dangerous place?

Why?

o Were/Are you surprised to learn the world is actually becoming a much safer place?

• Why do you think we think the world is becoming more dangerous although it’s actually becoming safer?

• If mass media makes us feel like the world is a scarier place than it really is, what are some practical ways we can stay aware of what’s going on in the world without taking in too much mass media?

• “As our world has become safer, we’ve become more accustomed to safety, and as we’ve become more accustomed to safety we’ve also started to feel more entitled to safety. We think Jesus is obligated to keep us safe.”

o Discuss. Do you agree or disagree?

• Do you think you’re too concerned with your or your family’s safety? Are there ways your hyper-concern for safety might be hindering your ability to be brave and faithful to Christ?

• In Revelation 2:10, Jesus tells the church at Smyrna to not be afraid, even though they were going to suffer. He didn’t tell them to not be afraid because he would deliver them from suffering, or because the world was such a safe place.

Is your courage rooted in Jesus’s victory over sin and death, or is your “courage” rooted in your ability to control your environment and stay safe?

Songs from Today

The Lion And The Lamb by Brenton Brown, Brian Johnson, and Leeland Mooring

Give Me Faith by Mack Brock, Chris Brown, London Gatch, and Wade Joye

All The Poor And Powerless by Leslie Jordan and David Leonard

I Will Exalt by Amanda Falk

Take Courage by Jeremy Riddle, Joel Taylor, and Kristene DiMarco

Dear Church| Week 2 Ephesus

The church in Ephesus was doing some really great things and they are commended by Jesus for what they are doing well. However, Jesus tells them that they have abandoned their love for Him. Ephesus shows us that it is possible to have a church that looks good on the outside, but has no real love and affection for Jesus.

This Week's Action Step: 

Think about what really grows/stirs your affection for Jesus and spend some extra time this week doing more of that.

Small Group

Small Group Questions:

1.  Read Rev. 2:2-3.  Discuss the things that the church in Ephesus was doing well/right.  What’s good about this church?

2.  In verse 4 Jesus only has one thing against the Ephesian church, but it’s a big one… they have lost their love and affection for Him.  Why is it so important that our works/service/ministry be rooted in a love for Jesus?  What is the danger if it’s not?

3.  In verse 5 Jesus tells them what to do about it… specifically three things.  1. Remember from where you have fallen.  2. Repent.  3. Do the works you did at first.  In your spiritual journey have you ever felt God leading you through a similar pattern to draw you back to himself (remember a time or season where you felt really close to him, repent, and do something you’ve done before)?  

4.  What does Jesus mean at the end of verse 5 when he says, “If you don’t repent… I will come to you and remove your lampstand.”?

5.  The main goal of the Christian life is not to avoid sin, it is to love Jesus.  What disciplines do you practice that help you grow and maintain your love and affection for Jesus?  

Songs from Today

Only King Forever by Mack Brock, Chris Brown, Steven Furtick, and Wade Joye

Death Arrested by Adam Kersh, Brandon Coker, Heath Balltzglier, and Paul Taylor

This I Believe by Ben Fielding and Matt Crocker

No Longer Slaves by Jonathan David Helser and Melissa Helser

Rising Sun by Leslie Jordan, Kyle Lee, and David Leonard

Dear Church| Intro

Despite all her flaws, the church is still the Bride of Christ. Jesus loves the church, died for the church, protects the church, and purifies the church. To rightly love Jesus means to love what Jesus loves... that means we should love the church as well.

This Week's Action Step: 

Write down, or discuss with friends and family, what you love about your church and then spend time praying for your church this week.

Small Group

Small Group Questions:

1.  The author of the book of Revelation is identified as the apostle John.  What all do we know about John’s life?

2.  Why do you think John chooses to introduce himself in verse 9 as “your brother and partner in tribulation…” rather than stating his authority as an apostle of Jesus Christ (as was more common)?  Any significance to that?

3.  John sees Jesus in his glorified state rather than his incarnate state.  In other words, John sees Jesus not as a humble, marginalized, Galilean peasant, but as a glorious Sovereign King and ruler of all.  Why is that important?  Why might this view of Jesus be particularly encouraging to John and the church in the midst of trials and tribulations?  

4.  Have you ever heard someone say something like, “I love Jesus, I just don’t care for the church?” Why is that problematic?  What causes some people, including some people who claim to be Christians, to despise the church?  What can you say/do to help change their opinions of the church?

5.  It’s easy to be critical of the church.  There’s plenty to be critical about.  But part of the action step this week was to discuss what you love about your church with friends or family.  As you wrap up your time together as a small group, take some time and do that.   Discuss what you love about your church.  

Songs from Today

Unstoppable God by Chris Brown, Steven Furtick, and Wade Joye

Jesus We Love You by Hannah McClure, Kalley Heiligenthal, and Paul McClure

God I Look To You by Jenn Johnson

Ever Be by Bobby Strand, Chris Greely, Gabriel Wilson, and Kalley Heiligenthal

Come To The River