The Community Guide below is based on Sunday’s teaching from Matthew 24. As your whole Community gathers (online or socially distanced), use the Community Guide below to give shape to your night together.
Begin by Practicing the Lord’s Supper Together (5 minutes)
Begin your night by partaking of the bread and the cup together. Have each person bring their own Communion elements. To facilitate your time, you can either ask a member of your Community to come ready with a short prayer, liturgy, or scripture reading, or assign someone to read the scripture we’ve provided below and spend a moment in silence before continuing.
Praise be to the Lord,
for he has heard my cry for mercy.
The Lord is my strength and my shield;
my heart trusts in him, and he helps me.
My heart leaps for joy,
and with my song I praise him.
The Lord is the strength of his people,
a fortress of salvation for his anointed one.
Save your people and bless your inheritance;
be their shepherd and carry them forever.
Emotional Health Check-in (10 Minutes)
As we focus in on this series, we want to continue to create space for checking in on each other, but doing so in a shorter amount of time. Take a few minutes to do an emotional health check-in with your Community, creating space for each person to answer the question below:
- What were the high and low points of this last week for you?
If the need arises, spend a few minutes praying for one another, asking God to meet needs and help each person carry what feels heavy right now.
Read this Overview (5 Mins)
Jesus was clear throughout his life and teachings that giving your life to him will bring trouble — and that many will turn away rather than persevering. In Matthew 24, Jesus describes two temptations that each of us will face: to turn away from faith in Jesus, and to lose our love for one another. Put another way, we’ll face seasons that will test our nerve, and seasons that will test our hearts.
A failure of nerve, author Tod Bolsinger writes, is caving to the pressure of the anxiety of the group to return to the status quo. We see examples of this throughout the Bible and in our own lives. Perhaps it comes through a shift in the culture that bumps Christianity out of the comfortable “cultural norm” position. Or, through a charismatic and dominant personality in our lives that questions us. Or still maybe it comes from a season of uncertainty, confusion, or from being tired of waiting on God.
Failure of heart, on the other hand, is what happens when we power through doing all the right things, but abandon our inner lives, losing our love and affection for God and his people in the process. This too is portrayed in Biblical stories from Moses to Judas. Perhaps you too have found yourself going through the motions, while the difficulties of doing Community with real live flawed people erodes your patience and love.
With these kinds of pressures against us — as relevant today as they were in the time of Jesus — how do we gird ourselves against losing our nerve, heart or both? Simply put, it cannot be done without the full power of the Holy Spirit and the love of our heavenly Father rooting us in our identity as his beloved children.
To stand firm, we’ll need a rock solid sense of who God says we are, and who he has made us to be. Think of Jesus himself before he was tempted, he had his Father’s words ringing in his ears: this is my son whom I love. God himself has created you and uniquely gifted you to further his kingdom in our time. There’s an upward call to follow Jesus at all costs, living out our unique role in service of God and others.
This week, we’ll take time to pray and ask God for the help we each need to persevere and stand firm to the end.
Debrief this Sunday’s Teaching (20 Minutes)
With that in mind, work through the following discussion questions as a Community:
- At this time in your life, would you say you’re up against any of the pressures described in the teaching, such as pressure to conform, disappointment with God, or difficulty maintaining love for others? What has that been like for you?
- Have you experienced times where you felt a failure of heart or nerve? Is there one you most commonly struggle with?
- If you were to ask God for one thing in order to persevere through our cultural moment, what would that be?
Practice For The Week Ahead: Praying for Power and Love (5 Minutes)
This week, we want to take some time to evaluate where our struggles and temptations lie, and pray for what we need to “stand firm” to the end.
Intentionally schedule some time this week to sit before God. Invite the Holy Spirit to search you and know you. With your journal or just in your mind, consider the two pitfalls described in this week’s teaching — failure of nerve, and failure of heart. Ask, is there a pressure from within me or from those around me pushing me toward either of these?
- If after spending time in prayer, you think you’re beginning to experience a failure of nerve (perhaps due to cultural shifts, dominant voices, or simply disappointment with God) pray for a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit. You can do this in your time of prayer right now, in specific moments you’re feeling tempted, or simply through our your day. Pray, “come Holy Spirit,” “God, help me to stand firm,” or simply “Help me!”
- Should you feel you are experiencing a failure of heart in this season, maybe due to criticism of people you’re leading or living life with, irritation, or love of the world, pray not just for power, but to receive the love of God. Pray that God himself wout strengthen you and expand your capacity to really receive the fullness and reality of his love for you, that you might overflow with love for others.
- It may be you are experiencing neither of these things! Pray and ask God for more of his Spirit and protection from temptation.
Finally, ask God to give you a firm sense of who you are in Him. What does God call you? Who has he made you to be? Remember, the Holy Spirit will speak words of life to you — while there may be conviction, Jesus does not use shame as a tool. God says His love leads us to repentance.
Prayer (10 Minutes)
As you close your night together, spend some time in prayer with and for one another in a large group or broken off into small groups. If there is anyone among you feeling acute pressure on their faith, pray for the power of the Holy Spirit to strengthen and fortify them against temptation. For those who feel they are losing their heart of love, pray that God himself would enlarge their capacity to receive and understand the depth of God’s love for them, that they might love Him and others well.