For the last few weeks, I’ve been writing a Bible study discussion guide series for my local church following the weekend message series called “Brave.” Since I haven’t been able to update much here, I thought I’d copy the discussion guides here for you to read. Links to the original sermon messages for wax week’s discussion are given, as well as follow up tips to help in applying the message to your daily practices.
Link to that weekend’s message: http://vineyardchristian.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/marc_ladourceur_1-14-2017.mp3
Icebreaker: If you could travel back in time to change one mistake from your past, what would it be?
Opening Question/Food for thought
All too often, mistakes from our past define us. You may live your whole life regretting an action you took in your youth. Someone convicted of a crime may struggle with employment or finding a place to live for years because their mistake stays on their background check. What’s more, sometimes things from our past that aren’t even due to our own actions may live on in our hearts. We may think of ourselves as the person abandoned by a parent or a spouse for years after the fact. Or we may think we are less worthy of love because of something hurtful said to us at a difficult time in our lives. But today we learn about someone who, through God’s grace, encouraged others to move beyond their hurtful pasts.
Worship suggestion: https://youtu.be/kOa10F8YkgI
Opening Prayer: Holy Spirit, we ask for your presence this evening to guide our discussion. Open our minds to new ideas and allow our hearts to accept any correction or encouragement that you may offer through the evening. In Jesus name, amen.
Discussion/Bible Verses/Activities (writing, acting, or prayer)
Last week, we ended with a mention of Paul, who was once called Saul. He had started life out as a super religious man who led some of the early persecution of Christians, but was converted when he met Jesus on the road to Damascus. But at first, people in the church wouldn’t trust Paul. (Who can blame them?!) It took another man, called Barnabas – someone who’s nickname literally means “Son of Encouragement”- to step up and endorse Paul before he could be accepted into the church. Without this encouragement, Paul would never have had the chance to travel throughout the Roman Empire preaching the Gospel and planting churches, nor would he have had the chance to write much of the New Testament. Barnabas, the Super Encourager, made all the difference.
Discussion Question: Who is someone that’s encouraged you in your life? Where do you think you’d be without their encouragement?
Barnabas was given his nickname because he was seen as someone who was defined by his encouragement. Think about that, he was such an encourager we know him for it over a THOUSAND YEARS later!
Discussion Question: What do you think that kind of personality would look like today? Who’s someone you think of as a big time encourager?
We’re impressed by people who give this kind of encouragement, partly because it isn’t common. People don’t regularly go around encouraging each other, and you may go a whole day, even a whole week, without someone saying something encouraging to you.
Discussion Question: Why do you think we have such a hard time encouraging one another?
It’s interesting to notice that when Barnabas is first introduced, it’s mentioned that the early church was living a life of sharing everything. No one claimed to “own” things, rather they lived in complete community. This is especially different for us living in our society today, which places such a high emphasis on ownership and accomplishment.
Discussion Question: Do you think it made it easier for Barnabas to live a life of encouragement when he didn’t have to focus on competition, ownership, or personal accomplishments?
We’re first introduced to Paul, then going by the name of Saul in Acts where he is overseeing the lynching of Stephen, a preacher in the early church. After that, it says that Saul went out “breathing out murderous threats” against the church, leading a major push to persecute Christians. After he became a Christian, Barnabas came to him and invited him to come to Antioch to help build up the church there. There’s something really interesting about that though. In Acts 11:19-20 we read that the church in Antioch was founded by people who were escaping the persecution Paul had lead! Barnabas wasn’t just stepping out to encourage Paul and give him a second chance, he was standing in the gap to help heal the hurts Paul had caused! Imagine if Osama Bin Laden had become a Christian. Then became a missionary. Then he came to New York City to start a church right where the Twin Towers stood! That’s the kind of emotional situation that Barnabas is stepping into here!
Discussion Question: How do you think it felt for Paul to go to Antioch to preach knowing how he’d hurt the people there? How do you think it felt for the Christians in Antioch to see him being invited to come join their church as a teacher?
This isn’t the only time we see Barnabas helping to heal in this kind of situation. He and Paul worked together for what looks like several years (we don’t have dates given) when they traveled all over the Roman world preaching the good news of Jesus. On one of their first trips, they were joined by a young man named John Mark, who was a cousin of Barnabas. But shortly after they set out, John Mark left them to return home to Jerusalem. (Acts 13:13) a while later, Paul and Barnabas wanted to set out on another mission trip. Let’s read Acts 15:36-40 together.
Paul didn’t want to trust John Mark again, but Barnabas was willing to give him a second chance. Even though Paul had been given that chance before by Barnabas, he wasn’t willing to give it to someone else. So Paul and Barnabas split up. Barnabas took Mark to Cyprus and gave him another shot. It’s worth noting that we hear from Mark later. Not in Acts, but when he writes the Gospel of Mark, which we now think was the first of the gospels to be written down. Paul mentions him in both Colossians and Philemon. We don’t know how the two of them reconciled, but it’s a good guess that it wouldn’t have happened if Barnabas hadn’t been willing to take Mark under his wing and give him a second chance. The encouragement of Barnabas not only gave that second chance, but he also opened the opportunity to heal a broken relationship.
Discussion Question: Why do you think it’s hard to give someone a second chance when you’ve had one yourself? (like Paul with Mark)
Is there a set of people you know who have a broken relationship in need of healing? Is there a way you can use encouragement to open the door for that healing to happen?
Each morning this week, start your day by thinking of one person who you can give an honest compliment to. Pray for that person throughout the day in addition to delivering that encouragement. Try to find a different person each day.
Ending Prayer: Jesus, it’s through you that we have an opportunity to grow and move beyond the mistakes we’ve made in our lives, and we thank you for that. We ask that you walk with us this week to look for opportunities that we can share your love and grace with others to give them that same chance because of you. Watch over our hearts and speak to our minds when we are treating others with less than gracious behavior. In your name we pray, amen.
Additional Resources: The Book of Forgiving by Desmond and Mpho Tutu gives several examples of radical healing in relationships like between Paul and the christians in Antioch. It also talks about how forgiveness and healing can occur in our day to day lives through honesty and encouragement.