Discussion Guide: The Art of Neighboring Week 5

Getting Started

What “Next Steps” did you take over the past week in attempting to connect with your neighbors? How did that go?

Take some time to pray for your neighborhoods/neighbors as we begin this series. Ask God to open doors and give you a heart and a desire to love your neighbors as you love yourself.

To begin the discussion, watch The Art of Neighboring video for week 5.

Discussion Questions

What was your big take away from this week’s reading and/or video? What stuck out to you? What did you like? What was difficult or confusing?

Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection

“Until we can receive with an open heart, we’re never really giving with an open heart. When we attach judgment to receiving help, we knowingly or unknowingly attach judgment to giving help.”

How often do you tend to ask for help from someone outside of your immediate family? Why?

How do you feel when you have to ask for help, or when someone offers to help when they see you need it? Why is that?

Why do you think feeling weak, or feeling like you can’t do something on your own, has become such a negative thing in our culture?

Leader Notes
Individualism is an attribute that is held high in our culture. Our nation was founded by men who had to overcome tremendous obstacles. Our media constantly highlights stories of people who defeated the odds. We tend to celebrate people who can “pick themselves up by their bootstraps” or who can make something out of nothing. The ability to persevere and overcome on your own is an enviable attribute in our society. So then, to admit that you can’t overcome the obstacle or defeat the odds or that you’re not wearing any boots that have straps by which you can even attempt to pick yourself up, is seen as weak, inadequate and maybe even pity. The American way has become the way of self-sustainability. And not that there is anything wrong with being able to overcome obstacles or beat the odds, but according to Scripture there is just as much to be celebrated in the ability to admit you don’t have what it takes and that you actually need someone else to step in and help you in your weakness. After all that is the heart of the gospel.

How does the Gospel empower us to be ok with our weakness and ask others for help in those areas?

Leader Notes
Jesus gives us the front door of the Gospel in Matthew 5 when He says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of God.” In other words, the entrance into God’s Kingdom begins with admitting that you lack the spiritual resources to meet your own spiritual needs. The knowledge that you are in dire need of someone else to pay the spiritual debt that you owe is step on to becoming a citizen of God’s Kingdom. And as the Gospel plays out we see that as we acknowledge our spiritual poverty then Jesus, the King Himself, steps into our situation to help us in our time of need and pay the debt that we could not pay. Which, speaks two tremendous truths to our hearts. First, Jesus loves us not because we deserved it or earned it, but because He chooses to, and second, that Jesus was more than willing and happy to extend that help to us without demanding anything in return. This empowers us to ask our neighbors for help because we can know rest in the reality that the King of the Universe loves us and therefore I need not fear what my neighbor might think about me in my need for his/her help. It also empowers us to own our weaknesses because when we ask for help and give our neighbors the opportunity to serve us and help us then we are giving them the opportunity to resemble the love of Christ and in doing so we trust that the Holy Spirit would open their hearts to better understand the Gospel as well.

1 Kings 17:8-16

”Then the word of the Lord came to him, “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. Behold, I have commanded a widow there to feed you.” So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, behold, a widow was there gathering sticks. And he called to her and said, “Bring me a little water in a vessel, that I may drink.” And as she was going to bring it, he called to her and said, “Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.” And she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. And now I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it and die.” And Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go and do as you have said. But first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterward make something for yourself and your son. For thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘The jar of flour shall not be spent, and the jug of oil shall not be empty, until the day that the Lord sends rain upon the earth.’” And she went and did as Elijah said. And she and he and her household ate for many days. The jar of flour was not spent, neither did the jug of oil become empty, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke by Elijah.”

Why do you suppose God didn’t just give Elijah what he needed? Why would God want Elijah to have to ask for help from a non-Jewish widow?

Leader Notes
Elijah was a bit of a recluse as it were. He had a history of hiding in caves, making assumptions that he was all alone in his pursuit of God and pretty much isolating himself as God’s “Lone Ranger.” Yet, God had called Elijah to represent Him to not only the nation of Israel, but the surrounding nations as well. Remember God used Elijah to heal Nehman and Syrian General prior to this encounter with the widow. And here we see God sending him to this widow who is not of Israel either. God is wanting Elijah, the widow, and us to see something that is near and dear to His heart and His Kingdom. That “something” is this…the Triune God of Scripture is best represented and best experienced through loving relationships where people are not seeking their own needs above the needs of others, but who are willing to lay down their own lives, wants and needs to serve others first. Again, this is the essence of the Gospel, and it is such because it is the core of who God is. If we are made in the image and likeness of a God who seeks to love us sacrificially then it makes sense that the best way to experience His heart and His presence is through the sacrificial love of others. Both in our loving them and in our allowing them to love us.

What was the result of Elijah’s asking the widow for help?

Leader Notes
The result was that not only did Elijah experience God’s grace through His provision, but the widow and her son experienced God’s grace through their giving as well. I’m sure Elijah was questioning God’s plan to have this widow help him. He may have even been a bit resentful for having to ask this non-Jewish woman who was at the bottom rung of society to meet his needs. But, in obedience, he went to her to ask for help. In the process, not only was he reminded of God’s sovereign rule and compassionate love, he also ushered the widow into the same opportunity as well. Often times this is the truth we miss when we think about having to ask others for help. We tend to think of it from a one-sided perspective. How will asking for help affect me? How will it maybe skew other’s perceptions of me. But, we must also realize that when we admit our own weaknesses and ask for help we are simultaneously opening up the door for those serving us to experience the heart of God in a deeper way as well. We are giving them the chance to reflect the image of the God who made them.

C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

”Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”

How does a common weakness, or common need, help bridge the gap between being a stranger and being a friend?

Leader Notes
Because of our own insecurities and feelings of inadequacy we tend to cover ourselves, like Adam and Eve, with the fig leaves of self-sufficiency, knowledge and/or perceived strength. This results in us keeping people at arm’s length for fear that if they get too close they might see the fragility of our fig leaf Speedos and reject us for the fraud we know ourselves to be. But, when we are willing to uncover ourselves and be vulnerable and honest then we not only lower our walls, but it lowers the walls of others as well. When people see that we know what they are going through because we’ve been there ourselves, or when they see that we are able to own our weaknesses then it frees them up to be authentic and honest as well, and there is tremendous freedom that comes when you know you are loved and appreciated despite your fears and weaknesses. At that moment you can ask for help where you are weak and extend help where others are weak. On that foundation, and only on that foundation, can true friendship be built. Any other pretense is sinking sand and eventually a “friendship” built on that will come crashing down around you .

What are your neighbors knowledgeable and/or passionate about?

How could you enter into their world and allow them to use that knowledge/passion to serve you?

Moving Forward

At the conclusion of each gathering we will do 3 things. Often groups lose track of time and end up rushing through the second half of the content. We strongly believe that these 3 exercises are the most important part of this study. If you only have time to do one section each week…do this one!

Do the Block Map – Take out the block map and fill it in right now… just start with the names of your neighbors. Download Block Map here.

Leader Notes

Go around the room and share how many of the names you knew? Did you have any epiphanies as you did this exercise? What did you learn or feel as a result of doing this exercise? Most people naturally feel a little guilty when they realize how little they know about their neighbors. Allow people to feel what they feel, but this is definitely NOT the time to try to make people feel guilty or that they are not doing enough. Allow God to work on people in HIS timing. As a host you might feel like you should know more of your neighbors since you are a host. Avoid that temptation. We are all on this journey together and we all have room to grow. Let people see you are real and honest and that you don’t have it all figured out either. Your group will trust you more for your honesty! Write the names of your neighbors by listing out the names of the adults and children of the 8 closest houses or apartment units next to you. Pay attention to the blank spaces Take a second and identify each of the neighbors and decide if they are a stranger, acquaintance, or relationship.

Identify one neighbor that you are going to pray for during the next week. Take time to pray in the group for the neighbors that were mentioned.

Share one small “next step” that you feel God is calling you to take in the next 7 days.

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Community groups are where we seek to live out the Gospel in relationship with others within a smaller community context.

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