The Main Idea
What is the church? There are so many ideas about what the church is. This week Todd talks about some of those.
Warm Up Questions: (Choose 1 or 2)
Q1: What do you remember most about the home where you grew up?
Q2: If you had to choose between two houses that had the same square footage, would you choose one that was high or wide?
Q3: More land or more house? Explain your preference.
Dig a Little Deeper
The identity of the church is complicated. The Bible uses a lot of different examples and metaphors to describe what the church is. It is a body, it is a bride, it is a gathered community, it is a community set apart. This week Todd talked about the church as a community of people and described some of the essential characteristics found in a healthy one.
Read Genesis 28:10-19
In this passage, Jacob has an encounter with God in a dream.
Q1: What does Jacob see and how does he interpret his dream?
Q2: We often say that the “church is not a building”. Does that mean buildings (places) are not significant in our encounters with God?
Q3: We often say that the “church is not an organization”. Does that mean that the organization of the church does not matter?
The primary way that we speak of the church is as a community. A group of people, more than the sum of its parts, who are all followers of Jesus. In fact, the word most often translated in the New Testament as church is ἐκκλησία (ecclesia) which means “a called-out assembly.”
Todd identified four characteristics of this community of people. The church is a community characterized by:
- Unconditional love, grace, and acceptance
Q4: How do you deal with sin in such a place?
- Holiness and right living
Q5: Why is being set apart and living right important in the life of the church?
Q6: Does unity mean no disagreements? If that is not what it means then how would you characterize unity in the church?
Q7: How important is unity with other groups of Jesus-followers? To what extent should we go to be unified with Christians with whom we do not agree?
- Focus on a mission
Q8: What is the mission of the church?
Q9: Does the mission of each group of Jesus-followers need to look the same?
The church is the community of God: the place where God lives and the body through which he works. But how it actually looks depends on the vision of the people who gather. We must all see our responsibility to ensure that the church, in this case, the gathered community called Riverwood, displays the characteristics that Todd spoke about: acceptance, holiness, unity, and mission.
Q1: Which of the four characteristics do you have the most difficulty working out in the church community called Riverwood? What makes that difficult for you?
Q2: What part of the mission of the church are you most passionate about? What are you doing to see that mission realized?
Pray for Riverwood, that we would be able to show to the world acceptance, holiness, unity, and the mission of Jesus.
Pray for each other as you acknowledge the areas in which you are weak and where you need the strength of Jesus, through the church, to help you.
In this section we are provide the scriptures referenced in this study. Some are core to the lesson, others can optionally be read and discussed as part of your time together.
These are the scriptures referenced in the sermon.
Genesis 28:10-19 (NRSV)
Jacob left Beer-sheba and went toward Haran. He came to a certain place and stayed there for the night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place. And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And the Lord stood beside him and said, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring; and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring. Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!” And he was afraid, and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”
So Jacob rose early in the morning, and he took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. He called that place Bethel; but the name of the city was Luz at the first.
Here is a link to the Alpha video from last week. It is about 30 minutes long and well worth watching as you prepare to study this Talk it Over together.