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Musselburgh Baptist Church
Oaks of Righteousness
Growing Others

Going on to Maturity

A study about the importance of Christian Maturity and what it
looks like in practical terms.


INTRODUCTION

For every living thing on this planet, becoming mature is everything. Only mature life forms can reproduce, and so the natural process works towards this because without reproduction, the species will die out. Maturity in the spiritual realm is similarly as important, but not necessarily as natural.

It is because of this issue we have designed the following series of studies is to help us look at what it means to be mature and explore in some depth what that looks like in both our personal lives and that of the Church. In traditional Church terminology this is called sanctification

STUDY ONE

Getting an eye on the goal.

This first study looks at a single piece of scripture that picks up some of Paul’s concern about the lifestyles of the Christians in the city of Ephesus where he had been teaching them for three years. It is obvious that there was some growing up to do. We pick up the story in the fourth chapter.


Read Ephesians 4:11-32

This passage is significant because it highlights both the importance of maturity and what it looks like by contrasting the lifestyles of those who are mature with those who are not. The following questions relate to the passage and ask you to consider that maturity in this context is not just about the individual but the whole community of the Church.

Look at verses 11-16

1. What are the goals that Paul has for the Church and its people?
2. Why is maturity/perfection important according to this passage?
3. How are these goals achieved? Look carefully at whom is responsible for what. Where does personal responsibility come into this?

To understand this passage more it is helpful to grasp that the word “mature”, “perfect”, “complete” or “finished” is from the same Greek word “τελειοσ” (teleios) which essentially carries the idea of “complete, lacking nothing, all it is meant to be”. It should also be noted that most often it should be read as a present participle which gives the idea of process, that is, “being completed” being made perfect” of becoming mature”

1. Considering the further dimensions of the word, does this help you understand the passage?
2. What do you think it means to be mature or complete or perfect?

Read Ephesians 4:17-32
Use the following table to contrast the attitudes and behaviours of mature vs immature Christians. Look also at the rest of the chapter and consider that which is implied. Would you add others to the list? Where would you find tolerance?


Mature Christian Immature Christian

Review what you have read and talked about.
1. According to this passage, what do you think are the factors involved in having a mature outlook?

Getting down to tin tacks!
1. What part of this study has spoken most to you?
2. Has this study highlighted any area of your life that requires attention?
3. What processes does the passage prescribe for becoming mature?
4. How can this work for you and the church?

Next time
What it takes to grow up.


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Musselburgh Baptist Church
Oaks of Righteousness
Growing Others

Going on to Maturity

A study about the importance of Christian Maturity and what it
looks like.

INTRODUCTION
Last time we looked at Ephesians 4 and Paul‟s desperate plea for the Christians at Ephesus to continue growing up in their faith towards maturity so that they would
a) Fulfill their personal calling (v1)
b) Undertake their spiritual responsibility to help grow others in the Church (v11-13,16)
c) Become unified under Christ. (v13)
d) Become like Jesus himself. (v 13)
e) Become stable and assured in their faith and so would not be rocked by divergent teaching (v14)
f) Develop a pattern of behaviour that sets them apart from the corruption and licentiousness of the surrounding community (v 17ff)

The important thing is that they “grow up in their faith”. Part of the previous study involved making an inventory of what mature vs immature looks like. While this is helpful it is important to remember that while Christian maturity is evidenced by a set of behaviours, those behaviours are not necessarily a sign of a growing faith. In this regard this weeks study is about clarifying what defines Christian maturity.

Take a moment and consider for yourself. What makes a Christian, mature? Write it in the space below then discuss as a group.





The following working definition may also be helpful.
“Christian maturity is a growing spiritual walk with God evidenced by a lifestyle that shows more and more the characteristics of God worked out with other people.”

THE STUDY

Read 2 Peter 1:1-15

This passage picks up on a number of issues raised by Paul in Ephesians 4 and takes us a little further.
1. What are the writers‟ goals for his readers in this passage from Peter?

You will note the commonality of God's "calling" in both the Ephesians and 2 Peter passages. If not discussed earlier, take some time to consider what is meant by this term.

2. What is God's "calling"? Consider it both in general and as it relates to you specifically. How is a calling is fulfilled?

The writer goes on to specify in practical terms how a Christian might become fruitful in their faith. Before discussing the process in detail it is important that we note what all Christian activity is founded upon. Read again 2 Peter 1:1-4.

3. What are the foundations of our faith which are outlined in this section?

Lastly let us look at the practical steps. Read the whole passage again and consider how this may apply to Christian growth and maturity.

4. What are all the steps the writer outlines?
5. Are these things about behaviours, attitudes, spiritual discoveries, a combination of all three or something else? How can we go about doing what he tells us to do?

It could be seen that these steps represent either a ladder which are taken consecutively to help progress someone upwards, or like the faces of a diamond which are together in the process of being polished. Either way, it is worth taking the time to explore more fully what it means to build up each of these attributes.

6. Go through each of the steps outlined in question 5 with your group and discuss how you can develop each of these areas including the one you find most challenging. Be as specific as possible.

Finally, read 2 Peter 1:12-15. Peter noted that his spiritual responsibility was to be a constant encouragement to other Christians to continue to strive towards these goals, whether he was alive or not. Do you think his attitude was unique or is it something we should all take hold of?


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Musselburgh Baptist Church
Oaks of Righteousness
Growing Others

Going on to Maturity 3

A study about the importance of Christian Maturity and what it
looks like.

The first study delved into Ephesians 4 and saw Paul’s cry to Christians to grow up in their faith. The second study was about reiterating that Christian maturity is a spiritual maturity generated in God and flowing through the believer. This third study takes it further by looking at a key tenet involved in developing a mature outlook.

NTRODUCTION
The Christian life is about bringing every area of our life under the Lordship of Christ. It’s about laying it all on the altar and getting his perspective on the deal. And this key to our Christian growth is one we must keep using to unlock our stubborn hearts as new issues arise in our lives that both question and challenge the faith we hold, the virtue we express and even our love for God (2 Peter 1:5-7). What this study is about is that “how to grow up in God” requires a change in thinking and practice.

Read Romans 11:33 - 12:21

Look at the concluding verses of Romans 11. It is important to start here before looking at chapter 12, because as the word Therefore...implies, we are called to a certain activity because something else has already been put in place. In this instance laying ourselves on the altar before God is because of what He has already done for us.

Take a moment to write down and discuss together the nature and characteristics of God as contained in these verses

1. What do these verses tell us about the God we serve?

2. What do these verses tell us about our relationship with God?

Read Romans 12:1-2
Now we get to the action step “in view of God’s mercy”. Note how these verses tie in worshipping the Lord with mind body and spirit (see also Matthew 22:37)

3. What does it mean to offer your body as a living sacrifice? Why is this an essential part of Christian maturity?
4. The idea of denying self is a recurring theme in the scriptures (see Mark 8:34ff, Gal 2:20, James 4:7-10). Why is that?
5. How practically can you go about denying self in your daily life? Give examples from your experience and also ponder areas where it still needs to happen for you.

This passage is expressly written to address the issue of Christians who were coming under the errant teaching of gnosticism which said that as long as your heart was good, it didn’t matter what you did with your body. Paul however ties it together and says that spiritual worship involves the God-honouring use of your body.

6. Do you think this is an issue for us? Consider the question against the background attitudes in our culture to things like self-fulfillment and self-denial.

Finally this short passage says that there is another part to our spiritual worship, if we are to live in the body of Christ as He wants. We must win the battle in our minds. (Actually this is what is meant by what is translated as repentance. The Greek word is μετανοεω. (metanoeo) which means literally “transform your mind” or change your thinking.)

7. What is so important about our minds?
8. What must we change our thinking about?
9. How do you think we can go about renewing our minds?

Read Romans 12:3-21

The last part of the chapter highlights various things that may need some renewing in our minds. Notice how these are again played out in the context of the Church community (including the fact that each of us has a gift and task to fulfill) and decide which one of these do you find most challenging? Share it with the group and make it your personal task to work through it.


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Musselburgh Baptist Church
Oaks of Righteousness
Growing Others

Going on to Maturity 4

A study in Christian maturity and what it looks like particularly in relation to
the mission of MBC in the Musselburgh Community.

INTRODUCTION
Isaiah 59:2 states that it is our sins that separate us from God and it is this state of separation from God that forms most of the theme of the scriptures. It proceeds that in seeking to get closer to God, the believer will be forced to recognise and deal with that within which is opposed to God and his ways. This study is about just that and to help us we are going to look at King David, a man with a heart yearning after God and a sinful nature pulling him in the other direction!

CAUTION
As you go through this study, it may be that a burden of guilt over sin might come to the surface which is not of the Lord. The Word of God is clear that confessed sin is forgiven (John 1:8,9) and the believer is not under condemnation but is freed from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:1,2)

THE STUDY

To begin we are going to look at one instance of David’s sin and resolution. Read the following passage and discuss:

2 Samuel 24:1-25

1. In verse 10 it states that David realised he had sinned. How do you think he recognised that it was a problem (see also v 3)?
2. Discuss together any similar experience you may have had. How did you know it was sin?
3. John 16:8ff tells us that an essential role of the Holy Spirit is helping us recognise our sin. In what ways do you think He does this?

Having recognised sin there are two possible responses. One option is to try and ignore it, or the other is to admit it and confess. David, as we will later discover, tried the first option (like most of us) before hitting on the second. The following psalm is written as a public confession in regards to another occasion that he was found doing the wrong thing.

Read Psalm 51.

4. What is David’s motivation in this psalm?
5. What are the key elements outlined in this public “confession” that bring about the resolution that David seeks? (2 Sam 12:13)
6. How might this psalm help you?

Read Psalm 32
This Psalm seems to flow nicely from the previous one in bringing some resolution to Davids confession.

7. How do you think David knew he was forgiven? Is the obvious joy that David is expressing significant in this?
8. Is it important to have the assurance of forgiveness? How can this happen?

Reread v 8,9 of psalm 32. These words are from the Lord to David, and to all that seek to follow Him.

9. What do you think this means in the life of the believer?

Finally take heed of the warning and encouragement of verses 3-6 and spend the final moments of the study before the Lord in prayer and confession seeking his will and direction in your life, and that of his Church.


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Musselburgh Baptist Church
Oaks of Righteousness
Growing Others

Going on to Maturity 5

A study in Christian maturity and what it looks like particularly in relation to
the mission of MBC in the Musselburgh Community.

INTRODUCTION

In Going on to Maturity so far, we have looked at a number of important keys to growing up in God. This week we are putting all of that in context with the most important thing, love. The classic wedding chapter, 1 Corinthians 13, states categorically that a person may have all the most desirable spiritual attributes in the world, but without love, it all means nothing! No more is this in evidence in the Pharisees whom Jesus reprimanded in Luke 11:42 for passing over the love of God while fanatically following the letter of the Law! In other words they had moved into the place of focusing on the mechanics of religion rather than living in Love. Christians likewise can be in danger of repeating this same mistake (Rev 2:4ff) and so this study is about rediscovering Love.

STUDY

Start your time together with some prayer focusing on the love of God, your experience and knowledge of his goodness and grace because „we love because he first loved us‟.

Read Luke 10:25-42

  1. What is it you must do to receive eternal life according to Jesus?
  2. Do you think the teacher of the Law knew what loving God meant? What does it mean to you?
Read the parable again (Luke 10:29-37) and Luke 6:27-36 for more of Jesus teaching on this subject. Then discuss the following
  1. What do you think the teacher of the law wanted to justify himself of? Would this be a common response?
  2. What was it about the Samaritans response that was different to the others in the parable? Would the others have acted differently had it been someone they cared for?
  3. Reflect on your response to the needs of people both specifically and generally. What motivates you in responding to others?
  4. In v37 Jesus says this is not about a nice theory. Can you think of a situation now that demands a similar response to the Good Samaritan? How will you continue to develop this aspect of your life?
Read Luke 10:38-42
  1. Do you think there is a link between these two passages?
    Discuss.
  2. It often seems that people naturally lean one way or the other in this matter. Is this true of you and what can you do to maintain the other area as well?
Read John 15:12-17
  1. Discuss together what you know, of how Jesus showed love for others (and his father). Do you think Jesus showed “love” in everything he did?
  2. “Until you know love, you cannot give love.” discuss

Finally read Ephesians 3:14-21 as a benediction together and spend some time praying this prayer for one another to know more of this love.


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Musselburgh Baptist Church
Oaks of Righteousness
Growing Others

Going on to Maturity 6

A study about Christian maturity and what it looks like.

This is the last week in the series which will deal with general principles of Christian Maturity. As such it is about finishing some more of the ground work upon which we can put up some of the specific issues that relate to being a Christian in the 21st Century.

Introduction
It maybe a little cliché, but the old picture of the Christian fish swimming a different direction to everybody else is something we must embrace if we wish to grow as a Christian. The reality of following Jesus is that it is completely counter cultural and no more so than in the issue we are looking at in this study. The place of “me‟ in the scheme of things.

To begin
  1. Take a moment in your group to discus what you see as the world‟s view of the “self”.
  2. What evidence do you see or hear that confirms this viewpoint.

What is the Christian perspective on the self.
Read 1 Corinthians 6:12-20.

  1. Do you think the statement “you are not your own” stands in opposition to the world‟s view of self?
  2. How do you personally respond to this statement?
  3. The passage talks about sexual morality to illustrate this point, but it could easily apply to other human behaviour. What are some of the other areas of life where a Christian could apply the principle, “you are not your own”?
  4. Why do you think it may be important to embrace this principle?

In kiwi culture at least there is a strong drive to consider ourselves the masters of our own destiny and this can be carried into our Christian life. However, if we take it seriously that Jesus is now our Lord and we are his servants, then our lives surely become part of his plan and not ours.

Read Esther 4:13-17 and consider how God‟s blessing was not for Esthers benefit.
  1. Verse 14 highlights both divine appointment and free will. Does this verse help to explain the reason behind the principle?
  2. Esther made a good decision in the end. What issues did she have to face? Are these similar to the issues people today might face in similar situations?
(Interestingly she had to be prepared to lose everything to fulfill the purpose of God, and yet in this instance she didn‟t need to. We will probably find that sometimes it is to our detriment and sometimes to our gain to be used by God in the situations we find ourselves in.)

Read Galatians 2:19,20 / 2 Corinthians 5:14-18
His is the basis of the Christian understanding of self.
  1. What do you think he means by being crucified with Christ.
  2. What do you think being „crucified with Christ‟ looks like on a daily basis?
  3. What do you think it means that Christ is alive in me?

Read John 5:30; 6:38, Matthew 26:39 and Philipians 2:5-12. Jesus of course told us that if we want to follow him we must deny self. Fortunately he never asks us to go somewhere he is not prepared to go himself!

  1. Could you say what Jesus said?
  2. What is your next step?

Conclude the study praying for one another and helping each other with the next step.


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Musselburgh Baptist Church
Oaks of Righteousness
Growing Others

Going on to Maturity 7

A study about Christian maturity and what it looks like.

Having laid some of the founding principles of Christian Maturity that define us as God’s people, it is time to explore how this will be revealed in some of the specific issues of our lives.

The previous studies included among other things; maturity as Gods call to us, turning away from sin, thinking different about things, realizing our lives belong not to ourselves but to God and that maturity is worked out not in isolation but within the body of Christ, that is the Church Community.

The following studies will be characterized by a similar approach to a particular issue including a discussion about the way the world seems to approach this issue; a look into some scriptures and then reviewing it in the light of the principles we have already established.

MONEY

We might as well start off with one of the easiest topics!!?

The world’s perspective.
  1. Discus what you see as the world’s view of money.
  2. What evidence do you see or hear that confirms this viewpoint.
  3. Is there consistency within the “worlds” view or are there a range of opinions?
The Christian Perspective
  1. Discus what you see as the Christian view of money.
  2. What evidence do you see or hear that confirms this viewpoint.
  3. Is there consistency within the Christian view or are there a range of opinions?
The Issue of Money
  1. What is it about money that makes it important for us as Maturing Christians to discuss it?
A biblical perspective

Check out the following verses related to money.

(This is only a small selection and may be supplemented by other scriptures that you are aware of.)

Luke 16:9-13; 1 Timothy 6:5-10, 17-19; John 12:3-8; Ecc 7:11, 10:19; Prov 3:28, 22:1; 2 Chronicles 1:12; Deut 8:7-14; Deut 15:1,2.

  1. What is the general concept you pick up from these scriptures?
  2. What is the relationship between your attitude to money and spiritual maturity? (Luke 16:11, 1 Tim 3:2,8)
Review
  1. How would you apply the lessons of the previous studies to this issue?
  2. An important aspect of Christian Maturity is that it is worked out in the body of Christ. How does that apply in this instance?
Conclusion
Make it personal.
  1. How will this study affect the way you think and behave in regards to money?

Spend time in prayer and encouragement with each other


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Musselburgh Baptist Church
Oaks of Righteousness
Growing Others

Going on to Maturity 8

A study about Christian maturity and what it looks like.

Having laid some of the founding principles of Christian Maturity that define us as God’s people, it is time to explore how this will be revealed in some of the specific issues of our lives.

The previous studies included among other things; maturity as Gods call to us, turning away from sin, thinking different about things, realizing our lives belong not to ourselves but to God and that maturity is worked out not in isolation but within the body of Christ, that is the Church Community.

The following studies will be characterized by a similar approach to a particular issue including a discussion about the way the world seems to approach this issue; a look into some scriptures and then reviewing it in the light of the principles we have already established.

Family

The world’s perspective.
  1. Discus what you see as the world’s view of Family.
  2. What evidence do you see or hear that confirms this viewpoint.
  3. Is there consistency within the “worlds” view or are there a range of opinions?
The Christian Perspective
  1. Discus what you see as the Christian view of Family.
  2. What evidence do you see or hear that confirms this viewpoint.
  3. Is there consistency within the Christian view or are there a range of opinions?
The Issue
  1. What is it about Family that makes it important for us as Maturing Christians to discuss it?

A biblical perspective
Check out the following verses related to Family.

(This is only a small selection and may be supplemented by other scriptures that you are aware of.)

Heb 11:7; 1Tim 5:8,16; 1Tim 3:1-5; Acts 6:31-34; Matt 19:29; Amos 5:4; Luke 14:12, Gen 18:19, Deut 6:1-9.

  1. What is the general concept you pick up from these scriptures?
  2. What is the relationship between your attitude to Family and spiritual maturity? (Gen 18:19, 1 Tim 3:4,5,11-13)
Review
  1. How would you apply the lessons of the previous studies to this issue?
  2. An important aspect of Christian Maturity is that it is worked out in the body of Christ. How does that apply in this instance?
Conclusion
Make it personal.
  1. How will this study affect the way you think and behave in regards to Family?

Spend time in prayer and encouragement with each other


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Musselburgh Baptist Church Oaks of Righteousness Growing Others

Going on to Maturity 9

A study about Christian maturity and what it looks like.

Having looked at money and family from the perspective of a maturing Christian, we now turn our attention to the very instrument of life.

Time

Take a moment to fill in the following Chart rounding the various time spent on each activity to the nearest half hour for the week just been

activity Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun Week
Sleep
Eat
Work
Family
Hobby
TV
Prayer
House
Friends
Other
Total 24 24 24 24 24 24 24 168

Refer back to this chart and the Maturity principles from previous studies (i.e. not your own, love, sin etc) during the study to help you consider how we use time.

Read
Ecclesiastes 3:1-14
  1. Would the things in your week make it to this writers list as an activity “under heaven”?
  2. All of these things are important in God. He wants us to eat, to spend time with friends, to work etc and yet this passage seems to call us to something more than just spending our time about the business of life. What is the writer getting at in verses 9-14.
Read
Matthew 6:16-34 and James 4:14
  1. Do these passages apply to the use of time by the Christian?
  2. Practically, what might that look like in your week?
Read
Genesis 1:3-5; 2:2,3; Exodus 20:8-11
  1. What does the Sabbath law mean for you?
  2. Is it important for Christians to uphold the Sabbath rest? How?
  3. Where in your week is the principle of the Sabbath rest taking place?

(One way of considering the Sabbath rest is to consider rest as the root word of restore, and that the Sabbath is about restoring all that has got out of balance during the week. Therefore on the Sabbath it is about restoring physical energy through resting, it is about restoring relationships through spending time with people, family members, and friendships. It is about restoring the relationship with God through worship and prayer and instruction. Etc.)




Read
Col 4:5; Eph 5:14 -18
  1. What does it mean, “Redeeming the time”?
  2. Does this happen in your week?
  3. What would this look like if you were to incorporate this in to your regular activity? Consider your involvement in instructing your children in the faith, involvement in Church and Mission projects, involvement in justice issues at work etc.

Finally
Every day we gobble up 24 hours and every week we consume 168 hours and most people complain that there is never enough of it! As Christians we are called to be smart about how we use our time for it belongs not to us, but to God. In this way our time at work actually belongs to him, as well as that in front of the TV. Pray about the use of our time and learn to invest your time and not just spend it.


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Musselburgh Baptist Church
Oaks of Righteousness
Growing Others

Going on to Maturity 10

A study about Christian maturity and what it looks like.

When we started this journey into maturity, we discovered that the biblical picture of maturity is not just about the individual getting closer to Jesus, it is about something which the people of God together advance in likeness of Him. For this reason it is appropriate that we round off this study back where we started, looking at what it means to be the people of God, the Body of Christ, the Church of the Lord Jesus.

Church

The world’s perspective.
  1. Discus what you see as the world’s view of Church.
  2. What evidence do you see or hear that confirms this viewpoint.
  3. Is there consistency within the “worlds” view or are there a range of opinions?
The Christian Perspective
  1. Discus what you see as the Christian view of Church.
  2. What evidence do you see or hear that confirms this viewpoint.
  3. Is there consistency within the Christian view or are there a range of opinions?
The Issue of Church
  1. What is it about Church that makes it important for us as Maturing Christians to discuss it?

A biblical perspective
Check out the following verses related to Church.

(This is only a small selection and may be supplemented by other scriptures that you are aware of.)

1Corinthians 12:7,12-28; 1 John 1:7; Acts 14:27; Acts 20:28 1 Cor 1:2; 1 Cor 11:17-34; 1 Cor 14:12; Eph 1:22,23; Eph 3:14-21; 2 Cor 6:16-18; Heb 10:19-25.

  1. How important is the Church, according to these scriptures?
  2. What is the place and role of the Church?
  3. What is the place and role of individuals in the Church?
  4. What is the nature of the connection between the members of the Church? Do you think that Christians in general appreciate this bond?
Review
Consider all that you have discovered in these scriptures in the light of the lessons of the previous studies.
  1. What is a Mature Christians attitude and practice within the Church?
Conclusion
Making it personal.
  1. In what way must you change so as to fulfill your place in the Church as a Maturing Christian?

Spend time in prayer and encouragement with each other

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Musselburgh Baptist Church
Oaks of Righteousness
Growing Others

Going on to Maturity 10

A study about Christian maturity and what it looks like.

Having laid some of founding principles of Christian Maturity that help to define us as God‟s people, it is time to explore how this will be revealed in the specific issues of our lives.

The previous studies included; maturity is Gods call to us turning away from sin, thinking different about things, realizing our lives belong not to ourselves but to God and that maturity is worked out not in isolation but within the boundaries of the Church Community.

The following studies will be characterized by a similar approach to a particular issue including a discussion about the way the world seems to approach this issue; a look into some scriptures and then reviewing it in the light of all we have previously covered.

Justice

Your perspective.
  1. What do you understand by the word, 'Justice'.
  2. Is yours a common viewpoint?
  3. Does the issue of justice affect you on a daily basis?

In Scripture, both Righteousness and Justice are derived from the same Greek and Hebrew words and form a major theme of Gods expectations for his people.

Read

Read Amos5:11-15, 21-24

  1. If Amos was here today would he give the same message to the Church?
  2. In what ways might the Church be neglecting justice?
  3. What justice issues do you think we need to
The Christian Perspective
  1. Discus what you see as the Christian view of Church.
  2. What evidence do you see or hear that confirms this viewpoint.
  3. Is there consistency within the Christian view or are there a range of opinions?
The Issue of Church
  1. What is it about Church that makes it important for us as Maturing Christians to discuss it?

A biblical perspective
Check out the following verses related to Church.

(This is only a small selection and may be supplemented by other scriptures that you are aware of.)

1Corinthians 12:7,12-28; 2 Corinth 12:14-19, 1 John 1:7.

  1. What is the general concept you pick up from these scriptures?
  2. What do you think is the Christians definition of “Household” or “Family”?
Review
Consider all that you have discovered over the course of this study in the light of the lessons of the previous studies.
  1. Are there principles here for a healthy perspective on Family for the Maturing Christian?
Conclusion
Making it personal.
  1. How will this study affect the way you think and behave in regards to the Church?

Spend time in prayer and encouragement with each other

Justice is so important.


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Musselburgh Baptist Church
Oaks of Righteousness
Growing Others

James 1:19 Be swift to hear and slow to speak.(KJV)

This study has been developed from data gathered in a community survey undertaken by Musselburgh Baptist Church during 2006. Through the survey, we were seeking to foster a greater awareness of our neighbours in order to help us as a Church become more responsive towards “growing others” as outlined in our mission statement based on Isaiah 61. The survey asked our neighbours questions about their understanding and beliefs regarding issues of spirituality, life and the community we live in. An overview of the questions and some results are provided as an appendix.

The study itself is about discussing what we can do in response to the community as revealed by the survey rather than a detailed analysis of the results. It is divided into three sections, namely.
  1. Learning to Listen part 1
  2. Learning to Listen part 2
  3. Learning to Speak

In all of our discussions it is imperative that we remember that the information gathered was from real people who are literally our neighbours. We honour them for being so forthright and honest in their responses and pray that this study will respect the trust they offered us.

Learning to Listen (part 1)
(What the survey tells us about ourselves)

The basis of this discussion is that the answers given by those surveyed reveal as much about us as it does about them. In this study we are seeking to hear what their response says about us and the Church and then think about what we can do about it.
(A note of warning. It would be very easy for this to end up being a finger pointing exercise but that would not be helpful to anyone. Rather, discussing our own part to play and what we ourselves can do to change is entirely appropriate. )

Task: Read the following summaries and consider the questions.

About the Church

Of the 75 people surveyed, 83% went to Church as Children and 11% are still regularly attending. 100% of those over 61 went to Church as children. 84% of those 31-60, and only 54%of those under 30. When it comes to those still attending regularly 25% of both the older and younger age groups attend (note, some of the younger still attend because they are still living at home), whereas only 4% of the middle ages attend Church.

Belief in God

Consider the above figures and contrast them with the figures regarding belief in God. 65% of all those interviewed believe in God with 83% of those over 61, 67% of those in the middle ages and 42% of the younger participants. (Note that “God” was not necessarily defined as the “Christian God”)

More about the Church

People spoke quite freely about their attitude to Church with many positive and negative comments. The following statements are a glimpse of the negative opinions that were gathered. Again look at these in respect to what it says about us.

“I’ve outgrown my need of Church”,
“No longer seems relevant”
“Church doesn’t necessarily bring you closer to God” “Having to give money”
“Find some supernatural aspects weird”
“Boring sermon”
“Unkind and picky Christians”
“Being expected to be there every week”
“Double standards”
“Opinions forced on you”
“Fitting into the lifestyle”
“Lost faith in the church”

Yet more about the Church

Although there were many negative comments towards the Church, over 80% of people believe that the church has a place in the community. In saying this, people identified that communities “Need that spiritual input that church provides” and that church “Is a collective group trying to make the world a better place”. It was also noted that Church...”Can help your marriage in ways a rugby club can’t!”

About the Community

Most people (83%) think that a sense of community is important but are too busy for neighbours. People however note that the Church does things for the community that others don’t.

Gender Issues

We didn’t ask about the roles of men and women but we did discover that Men are less likely to take an interest in spiritual things. For instance, 89% of women say they have a spiritual side and only 77% men. When it comes to God, 75% of women believe but only 52% of men. Similarly in prayer it is 75 to 52 in favour of women.

Review the above areas and answer the following.

  1. What is your impression of what people were saying about us as a Church?
  2. Do you think people trust the Church and Christians? Is this an important thing to establish?
  3. What do you think the Lord might be saying to us about our attitude, influence, style of ministry and focus through their answers?
  4. What is God’s purpose for the Church? Consider Eph 5:26- 27; Matt 28:19,20; Rom 12:1-21
Take some time to pray through all of this.
  • Prayers of repentance,
  • Prayers seeking Gods understanding and wisdom
  • Prayers for our neighbours and friends and the people of our community.
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Musselburgh Baptist Church
Oaks of Righteousness
Growing Others

James 1:19 Be swift to hear and slow to speak.(KJV)

Learning to Listen (part 2)
(what the survey tells us about our neighbours)

This part of the study seeks to hear what people are saying about themselves that will help us begin a conversation with them about spirituality and life starting where they are at.

Task: Consider the following summaries and answer the questions.

In Regards to the Spiritual Side of Life

95% of Women and 90% of men believe there is more to life than they see fell or touch. 84% of women and 77% of men believe they have a “spirit or soul” and all of those women and 60% of men have had a spiritual experience which more often than not, has affected them quite deeply. These experiences include
  • I dreamt my father died a week before he actually did
  • I had the experience of looking down on my body
  • I met a lady I didn’t know who told me something about myself that she couldn’t have known
  • I was aware of my brother’s presence after he died and felt him pull my hair

Jesus

97% believe that Jesus is an historical figure, 60% that he was the son of God and yet 86% say Jesus still has relevance today (and this is one of the only things that was consistent between men, and women.)

Prayer

67% of people pray with 75% of those praying to God. 78% of those who pray have had answers to their prayers. About 30% pray on a daily basis and the rest pray according to circumstance. The following comments help us to understand why people pray and what it means to them.

  • I was aware of my brother’s presence after he died and felt him pull my hair
  • I pray to the saints as routine
  • I never felt the need to pray
  • Prayer is more than wishing
  • I learned prayers as a child and still use them
  • I don’t want to abuse prayer and so I don’t pray for my wants and needs but instead pray for people who are very sick
  • Prayer helps because it makes me aware that there is something bigger
  • I find it helpful when others pray for me

The Afterlife

68% of people asked believe there is an afterlife and this is fairly consistent across the ages but men are less likely to believe. If there is an afterlife, most think that our behaviour on earth will affect the outcome.
  • I think we’ll have the choice to be reincarnated so we can make amends
  • I have no views on the afterlife
  • It doesn’t matter I don’t need to know
  • Everyone will go to one place but we’ll have different experiences
  • Some part of us might live on in more of a way than just being a memory

Regarding the future.

Most respondents believe the world is going to get worse. Young people particularly with 92% pessimistic about the future but only 50% of the older ones. Men are slightly more optimistic, but only just. The key concerns are environmental, youth and financial. Crime is only of a concern to 16%.

Happiness.

To be happy according to the survey you need Love. To know love and to be loved. Friends and family are next with money seen to be the key to a good life for only 5% of people

  1. What is the one thing that stands out for you in these statistics? Are you surprised by what these figures reveal?
  2. What do you hear people saying about their spiritual state of being through these stats?
  3. Do you think there are elements of common ground between Christians and these your neighbours?
  4. Consider the figures regarding the afterlife, what impact does this have for your sharing of the good news of Jesus with people?
  5. Why do you think Jesus is quite highly regarded? What is significant about this perception?
  6. Consider how you might respond to the experiences people have had in regards to spiritual things. Most are not “Christian experiences” but are very real and for many of those surveyed, it was difficult to share this stuff. Do you think that these experiences are hints of God beginning to work in their life?
Finish with prayer
  • For the surveyed folk
  • For wisdom to respond to peoples experiences
  • For an attitude that listens.
  • For a Church that is trustworthy
Download this as pdf

Musselburgh Baptist Church
Oaks of Righteousness
Growing Others

James 1:19 Be swift to hear and slow to speak.(KJV)

Learning to speak
(What the survey tells us about dialoguing our
neighbours)

This part of the study seeks to develop an appropriate response to the information we have gathered with respect for the person and the work that God has already been doing in their life, with a gentle yet stubborn determination to help people discover the fullness that Jesus promised (John 10:10) through a committed relationship with him.

LEARNING TO SPEAK

Read 1 Peter 3:8-15

This scripture is helpful to consider as we think how we might respond to our neighbours.

  1. What does this passage say we should do before we speak?
  2. Do you think this is about building trust with others?
  3. What is “happiness for a Christian? Consider also Hebrews 13:5 Phil 4:11
  4. What must the attitude of our response be?
  5. What do you think is the response or answer that Peter is alluding to?

Now consider the survey data as outlined in the previous studies as we hone the sort of response that we make.

  1. What are the areas of commonality we share with the community?
  2. Keeping in mind our scripture passage, how would you share some of your own spiritual experiences and answers to prayer. Practice doing this in your group.
  3. Regarding the issue of “the future”, what is the source of a Christians hope and how might we share that? (see Heb 3:6)
  4. Prayer was a fairly universal consideration. Would you consider praying with your neighbours if they expressed a need? How would you go about that?
  5. Do you think that the expectations people have of the Church (spiritually focussed and socially / community concerned) are realistic? Are these things evident in your life (consider again 1 Peter 3)
Take time for Prayer
  • Practice praying for the needs of one another in the group. Learn to use short, specific, answerable prayers
  • Confess your sins and weaknesses according to our scripture reading and ask for Gods strength, confidence and boldness in living up to God’s call on us
  • Lastly pray for your neighbours and friends, that God may continue to work in them, that we might create enough trust for them to share this with us, and that we may have the wisdom to speak Gods word into their hearts.
Download this as pdf