When we gather as a group, these are some ways we ensure the best group discussion:
We make the circle safe by staying honest and transparent - leave the masks at the door.
We keep it inside the circle. Each person’s story is theirs alone to share.
We look to the Bible for wisdom and truth, and work together to let it shape how we see the world.
We don’t try to fix each other in front of each other or give unsolicited advice. We lovingly save hard conversations for private moments.
We respect each others’ time by starting and ending when we say we will.
We believe that in Jesus Christ, there is hope for everyone.
All throughout the biographies of Jesus, we hear him talk about the Kingdom of Heaven. He described it with everyday examples - he drew pictures so we could understand more simply. In one of his most important and memorable illustrations, Jesus showed us what growth really looks like and how it takes 2 active parties to make it happen.
Remember, the questions are not a checklist to be completed, or in the perfect order! They’re simply guardrails to help you have a natural discussion about what we learned on Sunday.
CONNECT WITH EACH OTHER
Change around me
Everyone has a natural relationship to change in their life, and change around them - it’s hardwired, and it’s not good or bad! Where would you place yourself on this scale from 1-10?
(1) Naturally Resist Change (5) Generally Open to Change (10) Initiator and Champion of Change
Change IN me
No matter what your relationship to the change around you is, it’s hard for all of us to change what’s INSIDE us - who we are, our deepest values, our fears, and how we live out all that’s inside us.
Throughout your life, what have been some of the biggest things that have change inside you at the heart level, for better or worse? What brought it about?
CONNECT WITH THE MESSAGE
Before moving on, stop and read Matthew 13:1-23 together.
In and with God
It’s common for people to often think God is trying to keep people out of heaven and away from him… but Jesus tells us that God is the farmer in this story - and he’s throwing seed everywhere, doing everything he can to get people IN and WITH him.
Do you know people who feel like God is trying to keep people out and away from him? Or have you felt that way before?
Why is it so important to understand that about God before we try to change or grow?
a wrong understandING of god
makes GROWTH impossible
GROWTH is all about interdependence. The seed needs the soil and the soil needs the seed. The seed cannot produce life in us unless we have good soil for it to grow. Grace is free, but growth takes participation. Our part is whatever we have to do to give God access to our hearts - to let the message of grace all the way in. To trust God’s way and actually live it out.
The seed is God’s message and hope, the Holy Spirit’s power, the light of the world, the living water - so when the seed and soil combine, completely interdependent on each other, there is GROWTH.
So now imagine you replace Jesus’ farmer with a stingy one. A farmer that looks at good or even KIND OF good soil and says, “No I don’t like it. Not good enough. I’m keeping my seed.”
In that scenario, you’re stuck with dirt trying as hard as it can, killing itself even, to grow a tree with no seed whatsoever. And then maybe it gets a seed, finally… but the soil was too rocky… and that stingy farmer is going to lock it up tight and say “Nope… DEFINITELY not wasting my seed on you again.”
When we view God that way, it’s all about what I can achieve. It means hiding because admitting my failure is devastating. It means fear because if I screw up again… I may not have another chance. And it means there is no chance to be WITH God, because we’re convinced he’s just not that interested in me until I get this thing under control.
Growth is interdependent
Growth is always interdependent - the soil needs a seed and the seed needs soil. Grace is free, but growth takes participation. Jesus calls out a few different ways our part gets messed up and makes growth impossible.
Jesus says that seed on the path, rocks, and thorns/weeds can’t survive long - it won’t thrive and produce fruit. Which one of those can you relate to the most? What threatens to choke out the hope of Jesus in your life? (go back and read through again if you need to!)
When Jesus said that “good soil” is someone who hears the good news about the Kingdom of God and understands it, we should read the word understand as “does”. How does that change how you read or understand Jesus’ story?
reminders about those bad soils…
Don’t skip the bad soils conversation too quickly! Let some time pass by as people think back on what they heard.
Then if you need help stimulating some conversation about the bad soils and what Jen said… you can share some of this:
Good soil doesn't just let grace hit them on the head and walk away...they actually let it in. Jesus said the path represents people who hear the word but don’t understand it…
The word understand in this case means “did”. When we fully understand the story of grace, we actually WANT to DO what it says and we WANT to live God’s way.
The book of James also says, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”
The farmer is generous with the seed, so when we let grace do more than bounce off our face, we are generous with it too.
Good soil says, “I GET IT, SO I DID IT.”
Good soil doesn’t look like the rocks with a weak root - someone who is excited about the Kingdom of God until it starts to mess with the Kingdom of me. It is the kind of soil that doesn’t treat faith like a buffet (do you know what a buffet is?)... picking and choosing the parts it likes and leaving behind what it doesn’t.
Rocky soil wants two helpings of “I know the plans I have for you,” three helpings of “ask for anything in my name and I’ll give it to you”… but the other parts? “Die to self”... “love your neighbor”… “lose your life so you can keep it.”… no thanks.
There are so many things in our lives that seem harmless that are just there, but Good Soil is intentional about the way they spend their time.
They don’t just escape, they rest. They consistently evaluate the way they manage their stress and their money and their phones and computers and spare time... Good soil makes room, on purpose, to be present. To be still. To take the next right step because they care about making room for the seed to GROW.
It’s pretty clear to most of us that we have a part to play in our growth, but most often, we try to focus first on fixing what’s above the surface - our behavior. But God aims for the heart,
When have you tried to fix or change behaviors, only to later watch the same root issue surface in a new way?
Breaking open before breakthrough
Jen said when you think about a seed growing roots, there is always a “breaking open” before there’s a “breakthrough”. God wants to grow roots first SO there can be branches later. So instead of fixing our behaviors, we have to let him work on our heart first. And that means tilling up our own soil to give him access - a place to plant the seed.
That idea sounds good… but it’s hard to know what it really means. What does “tilling up your own soil” or “letting God work on your heart” look like practically, in everyday life?
What “soil” in your life is hard to till up?
Where are you afraid of the root behind the behavior?
What part of your past are you unwilling to go back to?
What issue are you refusing to ask for help with?
What are you ashamed of sharing?
Do it anyway
The hard part about all this growth is that roots are invisible. Much of the change that we experience is under the surface - we can’t see the results yet. Jen’s sage advice was… do it anyway. Our whole lives are a growing process and there is no finish line - so sometimes we need to push ourselves over the ledge with a good, strong “do it anyway.”
Think about your life with God - your faith and trust in God, your understanding of Jesus, an addiction or habit that you can’t break, your purpose and calling in life, or a lack of understanding about the way God would want you to handle a certain situation.
Where are you most stuck right now?
What’s the (ONE) next right thing you know you ought to do to move forward in that area?
What will stand in your way? (externally OR internally)
What’s your your plan to “do it anyway” this week?
how to crush this “do it anyway” thing
Don’t think of those 4 questions as 4 things… think of them as one 4-part plan for turning good intentions into real actions.
Here are a couple different ways to tackle this in/after your group meeting:
1. Divide and conquer
Have everyone get into either pairs of groups of 3 and talk through their “do it anyway” plan. This creates extra safety because often, the smaller the group the easier to share. Also, it is a great way to ensure everyone gets a real chance to share at some length.
2. Few minutes of silence, then everyone shares quickly
Another way to ensure everyone gets a chance to share is to have everyone think for a few minutes, then head around the circle and ask everyone to share quickly - less detail, more summary.
3. Talk through a few then have everyone share after group
If you’re low on time, and if you’ve got some quiet or timid people in the circle, have a few people share (or talk about the idea on a more general level), then suggest that everyone shares their “do it anyway” plan afterward in your group message or something.
No matter what method you use, make helpful accountability a part of the plan.
Without help, we usually don’t actually accomplish this stuff. Encourage the group to follow up with someone, ask someone how they can help, and pray for each other throughout the week. And most importantly, start the next group meeting with a conversation about how it went! :)
Jesus was incredibly compelling! He up-ended the religious system of his time and showed the world what God is like by the way he lived, taught, died… then lived again! Read Matthew as one big story and get a better perspective of just what Jesus was like and how he taught!