Sept. 17 - Read Genesis 22:1-19.
1. "Salvation is free, but discipleship will cost you your life." What implications does this have for the way way you participate in your own life and in the world?
2. The idea of Abraham being "tested"...all the while with the promise that "the Lord will provide." Are there ways you've felt tested? How easy or hard is it to trust in God's provision in his free gift of Jesus? How does the way we experience our testing impact the way we interact with our surroundings each day?
3. How in the world to we "bless the one" who we love and also the one we don't? The one we'd rather not be around, the one who annoys us? How do we bless without enabling or living complicity?
4. Recall Pillar's story of reconciliation. How or in what ways do we continue to live out a reconciling reality--as individuals, as a church? Name specific implications of responding to the "here I am" in your life and the world.
Sept 25- Gen. 27-28
1. "Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go." Jon asked, "Does anyone want this promise in their own lives?" Do you? How? What does this look like in our own lives and in our community?
2. Jon grappled with God's promise to Jacob. This is evidence that God's promise can and will show up in pain and to imperfect people. What can we make of this? Is it calming? Alarming? Both?
3. Jon asked, "When was the last time we were afraid of God?" When was this moment? What does it mean to "fear God" for that matter? Does it have implications for the way we live out our faith in our communities?
4. "The practices of tribalism and racism run deeper than the practices of the Christian faith." Jon quoted this from last week's lecture at Western Seminary. What does this look like in our city? Do you think there are allegiances or practices in our community that run deeper than our Christian faith? How do we begin to reconcile this dilemma?
Oct 1-8 Exodus 3:7-8
“The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. 8 So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites.”
- Jon used this passage to discuss the way that God comes down to be with us, particularly in the form of Jesus. Then, He commands us to “go”. However, as Jon mentioned, we often think that our own deeds are small and insignificant in the grand scheme of the world. However, what actions do you think we can take in our city that, though may seem small on the outset, can make a difference for the Kingdom?
- Jon mentioned that descension is God’s way of communicating and becoming involved with the world. What are ways God accommodates to his people and how do we see that take shape in things like the cross and communion?
- We looked at the aspects of Moses’ personality, history, and upbringing that would seem to define him and negate his potential contribution to the Kingdom. However, Jon taught us that we often operate out of things that merely describe us, but do not define us. What aspects of who we are individually and in community are merely descriptions, not definitions? How are we truly defined in Christ?
- It would seem that Moses lacks identity due to his history and thus asks, “Who am I?” As Moses did, we ask ourselves every day, “Who am I?”, to which God answers, “I am”. What does this mean to us, particularly in the context of missional living? When we are devoid of confidence in our identity, God answers with, “I am the I am”. How can this enhance our ability to answer God’s call and go out to engage with our community?
October 8, 2017
1. Much of Jenna's sermon revolved around our own personal beliefs regarding the trustworthiness of God. What does God's own trustworthiness, not just our trust in His plan, look like? Can we believe what He says in His Word?
2. Jenna asked, "What do you do when the God you have isn't the God you prefer?" Do we ever wish God was different than He is? When and why? Where are areas that you might have a harder time trusting in God's ability to take care of you and the world?
3. One of the most interesting aspects of Jenna's sermon was related to the ways in which God works during the dark times, when we are most anxious or afraid. What does this look like in our own lives? Had God's light ever shown through our own trials of darkness? Has it been easy to identify or has it looked different than we thought?
Oct. 15 - Scripture passage: 1 Samuel 3:1-21
- Jon drew our attention to the fact that the Lord is judge. What is the character of God’s judgment, and how does it fit into the Gospel? In what ways can judgment be a signal that grace is operating in our lives?
- The sociologist Christian Smith has revealed some startling facts regarding the faith formation of young people. He found that teens are more likely to subscribe to a pseudo-spirituality he calls “moral therapeutic deism” (MTD). In what ways does the call of Samuel confront “MTD”? What are some devotional practices and patterns of life that are most vital for embracing and passing on the claims of the Gospel?
- What difference does the person of Jesus Christ make in the call of Samuel? In other words, where are the glimpses and gleams of Christ’s own life and ministry, even at this point in the Biblical story? (Hint: Take a look at John 1, and read in tandem with 1 Sam. 3).
10/22 1 Samuel 16
1. During the conversation between Jon and Dave Bast, Dave mentioned that he desired a church that is more than an hour on Sundays. How can we, as a community at Pillar, serving the city, be more than an hour on Sundays? How are we doing that now?
2. Jon mentioned that in 1 Samuel 16, it would appear that God and the evil one are "in cahoots". This seems crazy! How can this be?
3. One of Jon's main points was that our God is a personal God, who wants to be personally involved in our personal lives. What do we think about this? What does this look like from a practical standpoint?
4. No matter what, God knows your name. Is this comforting? Frustrating? What does this mean to us? For our city?
19 October 2017
Scripture: 1 Kings 19
1. Much of what Jon's sermon focused on was repentance. He asked, "Can we get in touch with something in our life that we need to turn from, or turn away, in order that we may turn towards God's glory. What might that be for us personally? What about as a community?
2. Jon noted that, in general, we like to avoid silence. Silence can be terrifying, but it's also often when God speaks to us. Are we afraid of silence? Why? How is silence viewed in our culture and how can we seek it out?
3. "Took, blessed, broke, gave." Jon mentioned that this is the order in which we take communion every week, but also the order that God is at work in our lives. What does this look like in our city? Do we have experience with this process?
5 November 2017
1 Peter 3:8-16
1. Jon and Walter had a conversation before the sermon that involved the life of being homeless in our city. What does it mean for us as Christians to love well our brothers and sisters that face these struggles?
2. Dr. Mouw discussed 1 Peter and how he grew up being told that he must have an answer for what he believed as a follower of Christ, but it always seemed that the next part of the verse, regarding giving an answer in gentleness and kindness, was glossed over. Have we ever experienced this? What does this look and feel like?
3. Dr. Mouw said that we have convicted people who aren't very civil and civil people who aren't very convicted, but what we need are civilly convicted people. Can we embody this as a community? How so? Can you think of any examples of those you’ve seen do this well?
4. Do we have our own "parking lot" story? What about our own "car rental" story? When was the last time that all we needed was a hug? What about the ultimate embrace of the loving Savior?
Scripture: Revelation 21:22
1. The conversation towards the beginning of Sunday's service was a wonderful reminder of how Pillar's storied history. How can we honor and respect our past as we look towards the future as a worship community?
2. Jon mentioned many times, "Let justice roll down like the waters". What does justice mean to us? To our city? In a similar vein, what does justification mean to us?
3. Jon talked about David, Esther and their four children, and the remarkable hardships they have faced. Even so, David continually praised God and gave Him all the glory. This is amazing. How can we see God at work or how do we see His glory when the world is at its bleakest?
Scripture: Jeremiah 29:4-14
Christ the King Sunday
1. Jenna repeatedly highlighted the question: you want us to plant roots here? Settle here? Is this difficult for us to grapple with? Have we ever felt that God placed us somewhere we initially thought to be confusing?
2. Jenna then noted that the hope God provides is in knowing that He is "here". Does this provide comfort in these times of confusion? (How) have you been conscious of God's presence?
3. Jenna spoke of the history regarding Christ the King Sunday, saying "Cristo Rey." She noted that Christ is King not because everything is ok, but because everything is not. What does this mean to us? How do we feel, knowing that Christ is King, even though everything isn't necessarily ok? What does that mean for our own lives, our city, our world?
3 December 2017
Scripture: John 1 & Genesis 2
1. During the conversation between Pastor Jonathan and Joel, Joel talked about how necessary Christian friendships have been in his own spiritual development, helping point him to the light. What is the importance of Christian friendship? What role do they play in our relationship with God as individuals, a church community, and members of a city?
2. Pastor Jon showed John's intention to bring us back to the beginning in his Gospel. The apostle wants to show that Christ was in the beginning. What similarities do we see between John 1 and Genesis 2? What does this mean for God's fullness, supremely demonstrated through Christ?
3. Pastor Jon talked about Jesus Christ always being local. Due to the fact that He is local, God is intentionally creating limitations. Why has God instituted limitation into created order? When and how are limitations a good thing?
4. Jon talked about pain and our fear of its possibility. He also said that pain isn't a problem: pain is an opportunity. Why is pain necessary? Why does God allow it to exist?
10 December 2017
John 1 & Genesis 3
1. During the conversation between Pastor Jenna and Jill, Jill discussed her surrender to God regarding control in her life. She mentioned her discovery of God's grasp on her life, not vice versa. What does control look like in our own lives? How do we approach surrender to God?
2. During his sermon, Pastor Jon talked about the athlete who thinks of herself as a soccer player, or the student who thinks of himself as a scholar. When in fact, they are children of God, made in the image of God, who have specific capacities for vocation or activity. Do we know this in our hearts? Is our identity rooted in Jesus Christ or in what we do?
3. In this season of Advent, Jon mentioned that fullness is on its way, but it's not here yet. The Kingdom has arrived partially, but not all the way. Why? What is it like to live in this world of in between, before Christ comes again?
Read John 1:35-51 again.
1. Bigger picture: count how many times the verb “to see” (in its various forms) is used in John 1. How many happen in our 17 verses? How many times in chapter 2? What does this tell us about what John wants us to know? How is “seeing” a vital piece of our faith? How does Jesus see? How are we invited to see?
2. “Come and see” is first Jesus’ invitation. What might this tell us about God interacts with our lives and the world? How might that change how we enter into hard things, individually, and as a church?
3. “Come and see” is also Philip’s invitation. How might Christians be invited into that? What does it mean for you individually? What about as a city group? Idea: set a goal together on how to engage this idea this week in a unique or challenging way.
4. Practice the “Beijing Prayer” as a group when you pray together. Afterwards, process together the experience. What was uncomfortable or different, what was encouraging or exciting?
14 January 2018 John 2
1. During his sermon, Pastor Jon spoke of his friend Matt, who battles ALS. One of Matt's biggest questions for Jon was, "If God is so good, if God is God, then why does bad stuff happen?" Jon's answer to this was: "Because God took on pain through Jesus. He entered into our world to be with us." What are our thoughts about God's desire to be with us, especially when bad things happen?
2. Jon focused on Jesus' response to His mother when asked about the lack of wine. Jesus' response to his mother was, "What concern is that to me?" Do we ever feel like this is how God responds to our own struggles? When?
3. The jars were empty. When do we feel empty? As individuals? As a city group? As a church? Even as a city? Why? What is the solution?
21 January 2018
1. Jon wondered what image we have of Jesus in our minds when we think of Him. What do we think of when we think of Jesus, the man? Does Jon's description match our own thoughts? Where do we form these ideas from?
2. Much of Jon's sermon this week touched on disruption, and the need for disruption in our own lives. In fact, following Jesus implies disruption. What in our own lives need to be disrupted and changed? What about in our city?
3. Jon mentioned that, if we are to go the way of disruption, it must be for proclamation. What does this mean to us? Does Pillar embody this attitude?
4. The "Get-off-my-lawn" Jesus is a relatable image: when have felt this way? Would we consider our own actions righteous?
1. "For God so loved the world...". How do we know that God loves the world, loves us? How does this affect the way we live?
2. "For God did not send the Son to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him." How does Christ's life, death, and subsequent resurrection altar the lens through which we view the world? Is this truth something that acts as our sole guiding principle?
3. Jon discussed the nature of wind, blowing as it chooses, God acting as He wants. Jon talked about the doctrine of predestination: how do we approach this biblical truth as a church? How do also approach sharing the truth of the Gospel with our city?
4. Through Jesus, we enter into a new plausibility structure, a new sense of what is possible. Christ completely changed the dimensions in which we engage the world: how do we experience this on a daily basis, not just at church? At work? School? Home?
Scripture: John 4
1. Jon asked, "What do we do when we're not where we want to be?" He responded with "For a Gospel reason." What does this mean to us? When has something gone counter towards our plan, that ultimately was for a Gospel purpose?
2. Jesus goes there, where "there" might be. Do we believe this? Does this bring us peace? Where is "there" for us?
3. The story of the Samaritan woman at the well involves the sower and the reaper rejoicing together. Through Jesus, there are no enemies, the polarization between brothers and sisters disappears. "This might be the way of the world, but it is not the way of Christ." How do we see this playing out at Pillar? In our city?
1. On Ash Wednesday, we were reminded that we are dust, and that, when the wind blows, we are utterly reliant on Christ. Do we ever cry out, "Lord, save me!" When?
2. In this season of Lent, Pastor Jon has challenged us to interiorize Philippians 2:5-11, do something because of it, and share what you did with someone. Read it through as a group. What are our initial thoughts?
3. Jon repeated numerous times today, "when you know where you belong, you can do crazy things." What does this mean to us? What if our entire community knew where they belonged?
25 February: John 17
1. Pastor Jon stressed that in the end, Jesus prayers. He prays because eternity matters. Why is it significant that Jesus' last act is to pray? Why does eternity matter?
2. While theology has shifted to studying more closely the work God is doing in the here and now, we must still emphasize eternity. Why must we never forget about God's workings in the scope of eternity? How does that affect the way we live out the Gospel?
3. Since the beginning, we have hidden, and God has shown up. Christ picks this up, and He prayers because YOU matter! What is the significance of Christ praying for those who WILL believe in Him? What does that mean for us? What about those who come after us?
4. "Jesus knows your name." How? When? Why?
4 March: John 18
1. During his sermon, pastor Jon repeated the phrase, "Whom are you looking for?" This is especially challenging in the context of what we want God to be. Who is God to us? Not the "right" answer, but how do we truly approach God?
2. "εγώ ειμι" These are the words that pastor Jon taught us today. They mean "I am", with great emphasis on the "I". Why does Jesus emphasize this? What does He want to most convey?
3. Our tradition doesn't regularly promote the classic idea of 'evangelism.' However, this is the goal of a coming together of West Michigan churches in the coming year. How do you react to that idea? And in terms of your prayer life and the way you live it out, what does it mean to be in relationship with those who don't (yet) know Christ? In your work, your play, your social life?
11 March 2018
1. The central theme of the Scripture that pastor Jon focused on today was Pilate asking Jesus: "What have you done?" Pilate seems to be attempting to decipher why Jesus is being persecuted? Can we relate to Pilate in this scenario? How might society & culture answer this question for Jesus?
2. Jon argued that Jesus didn't do anything. In fact, this was the point. He was completely faultless and He suffered to free us. How would it change the Gospel if this weren't the answer; apart from his pure goodness?
3. At the same time, Jon preached that Jesus has, indeed, done everything. How is this dichotomous reality possible? How can Jesus have done nothing and everything at the exact same time? What implications does this have for our lives and the world?
28 March 2018
We encourage you to read this text together before walking through the questions!
1. Who doesn't like to be right? Who sets out to be wrong? Pastor Jon asked these rhetorical questions because none of us can raise our hands to answer them. After reading the Scripture passage, can we see why Jon would ask us such questions?
2. Jon discussed the two kinds of "rightness" present in this passage. The rightness of the Pharisees keeps them from seeing that God is right in front of them! How can we relate to this as a city? As a human race?
3. Is power inherently an evil thing? Does God bestow power upon us for His own good, or for ours? When is power wielded responsibly? At work? School? Our own family units?
25 March 2018
Please begin discussion with a re-reading of Scripture passage to contextualize questions!
1. "No way the Messiah is going to come, it's been so long." Jon voiced the concerns of the Israelites, who have waited so long for help. When do we say, "Surely He will not come..." Why do we doubt? Do we have reason to doubt?
2. Through the skepticism and fear of this question, there is hope. Hope that, indeed, the Messiah will come, that He will do something. Do we share in this hope, in the midst of our doubt? When does hope seem to shine the brightest?
3. Spy Wednesday: the remembrance of Judah the Thief. As we read the preached Scripture, does it make sense that the Wednesday of Holy Week is named Thief Wednesday?
4. Jesus said that we will always have the poor, not to disregard caring for those that are disenfranchised within our community, but for us to do something about it. Jon challenged us to do something this week. As a group, a community, what will our conscientious effort be to do something?
Please read through the Sermon on the Mount before addressing questions!
1. This Sunday was the second of Easter. We celebrated Christ's redemption of our lives through His rise from the grave. What does this mean for all of Christianity? Would we be worshipping at all if the tomb was not empty?
2. Was there a moment in the Sermon on the Mount in which you were especially pulled by the Holy Spirit? If you're willing, share when and why with the rest of the group. Is this convicting teaching?
3. During his sermon, Pastor Jonathon mentioned that what sticks out to him the most is Jesus' invitation, command: "Do not worry." How can we do this? Jonathon offered that Jesus is telling us: don't be distracted from living faithfully for the Kingdom of Heaven. What does this mean for us a community? As a city?
John 21- please read through this chapter together before jumping into the questions!
1. Pastor Jenna discussed the aftermath of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. She noted that the thing no one could have ever imagined, actually happened. Can we try to place ourselves in the shoes of the disciples in John 21? How does that relate to our present context?
2. Rev Jenna mentioned that she went fishing on Monday. Not to the lake, mind you, but by going to the grocery store, doing taxes. How do we relate to this? When do we go fishing?
3. Pastor Jenna mentioned that Jesus has a different definition of "fair" than we do. How does the American, Westernized "fair" relate to the "fair" that Jesus lays out for us?
4. While pondering the question, "which of God's sheep is God calling you to love?", pastor Jenna also asked: "Are faith and doubt irreconcilable? Are they totally counter to one another?" How can we love through doubt? In our homes? Our small groups? Our city?
1 Peter 1:1-2
Please read Scripture together as a group before jumping into discussion!
1. During his sermon, Pastor Jon told us, "To be chosen, does not mean that some are chosen, and others are lost. To be chosen means to be called on mission." This is pretty cool! How does this make us feel?
2. Pastor Jon said that, churches seem to be offering "diner theology". He said that, maybe we shouldn't reduce the Christian Gospel to "being nicer". What do we think he means by that?
3. In his poem, Eugene Peterson spoke of "big nouns" and the "best verbs", that Peter used. Which are these, in the Scripture? Why are they "big" and "best"?