In my search for a good small group study companion to a series on outreach, I stumbled upon Tim Keller’s ‘gospel in life’ dvd and study. It is comprehensive and both searching and practical and the dvd production quality is first-class.
The eight sessions are:
City – The World That Is
Heart – Three Ways to Live
Idolatry – The Sin Beneath The Sin
Community – The Context For Change
Witness – An Alternate City
Work – Cultivating The Garden
Justice – A People For Others
Eternity – The World That Is To Come
The series is rooted in a deeply biblical foundation of what it means to be a Christian/the Church in our world and begins by focusing on our relationship to God through Christ and why it matters to the world. Keller stresses a spiritual response to God, rather than just a religious one. So this is not a simple “Ten Ways to Do Outreach” series (although it does guide toward specific small group’s response to addressing needs in our community). Keller frequently speaks of the ‘city’ referring not just to urban centers but wherever there is ‘a place of density, diversity, and cultural energy’ – something that is true of most of our neighborhoods and communities.
Session 1 – The City
“In the city you are going to find people that appear spiritually hopeless. You’re going to find people of no religion, people of other religions, and people with deeply non-Christian lifestyles, and you’re going to discover that many of them are kinder, deeper, and wiser than you. You will also find that many of the poor and the broken are much more open to the gospel of grace and more dedicated to its practical out-working that you are.” p. 10
Session 2 -The Heart
“Why do we lie, or fail to love, or break our promises, or live selfishly? Of course, the general answer is that we are weak and sinful, but the specific answer is that there is something besides Jesus Christ that we feel we must have to happy, something that is more important to our heart than God, something that is enslaving our heart through inordinate desires.” p. 40
Session 3 – Idolatry
…there are three ways to relate to God – irreligion, religion, and the gospel. The irreligious don’t repent at all. The religious only repent of sins. But Christians repent of both their sins and their righteousness.” p. 51
Session 4 – Community
We are not simply to study the Bible as individuals; we are to read and argue and study the Bible together to come to deeper unity of faith and to consensus about how to be the people of God in our particular time and place. We are to read the Bible together until it shapes us as a distinct community. p. 66
Session 5 – Witness
The new community required by the Bible cuts across all cultures and worldviews. Put another way: it doesn’t fit any worldview but challenges them all at some point. When the gospel “enters” a culture or worldview, it therefore both challenges and affirms; it both retains and rejects. When it enter any culture, it resolves and completes its partly-true story through the gospel. p. 96
Session 6 – Work
Thank God that”…there is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!” Ask God to show you ways in which you don’t represent Christ as you should in your relationships, in your workplace, in your family life, in your habits and attitudes, and in your relationships within the church. Pray also that you would be able, again within community, to learn better now to “bring the gospel into your work.” p. 103
Session 7 – Justice
Session 7 looks at how we relate to our neighbors and our neighborhood. There are many ways to donate our time, money, energy, and effort to help our neighbors. For this Home Study you will want to arrange as a group to volunteer at some form of justice or mercy ministry. Your church leadership should be able to provide you with a list of volunteer opportunities or organizations they know or with which they are associated. Below are some additional volunteer ministry opportunities. p. 104.
A sensitive social conscience and a life poured out in deeds of mercy to the needy is the inevitable sign of a person who has grasped the doctrine of God’s grace. p. 108
Session 8 – Eternity
Five attitudes toward the unbelieving, dominate culture:
1. Assimilating the city
2. Reflecting the city
3. Despising the city
4. Ignoring the city
5. Loving the city – Christians engage with the dominant culture, but in ways that reveal the distinctiveness of the values of the kingdom of God. They are at their core very different in the way they understand money, relationships, human life, sex, and so on. Christians are truly residents of the city, yet not seeking power over or the approval of the dominant culture. Rather, they show the world an alternative way of living and of being a human community. For example, they are actively involved in serving those around them in deeds of mercy and justice. Jeremiah’s letter to the exiles in chapter 29 is a good example of this. The final session also includes a comprehensive Gospel self-assessment that addresses areas of the heart, community, and the world.
Individual copies of the book with the study material for all group members are absolutely vital to gain the full experience and impact of this study. Watching the dvd and discussing the 10-minute messages is not enough. Each session has a home study portion that should take no more than an hour to complete between group sessions. A comprehensive leaders guide is included in each book and makes up 1/3 of the book leaving the study guide to about 140 pages.
If you are a secondchair leader you simply must view this series for your own personal spiritual growth but by all means, find a way to use this for your staff, your small group, your ministry leaders, or any other ministry group you lead.
Disclosure notice: I purchased this book on Amazon.com and did not receive a complimentary copy to review from the publisher or the author.