God has called each of us as individuals, and to respond to him in the unique way he’s called each of us… but we’re not in this alone. God wants us to share what he’s done and give him the glory for it—and he wants to accomplish much of that in the context of Christian relationship.
The trick here isn’t to pursue relationships with other Christians, but to pursue Jesus together as Christians. The two things sound similar, but there’s all the difference in the world between them. When Jesus is our focus, suddenly all the little things that often get in the way in our relationships don’t seem so important. When we pursue Jesus together, our relationships naturally become closer and deeper—because Jesus sets the tone. Jesus is never going to steer us the wrong way.
We’re going to use Romans 12 as our roadmap from the individual to the corporate. In some ways this chapter seems all over the map, but as we work through it you’ll hopefully begin to observe the connections between who we individually should be before God, and how Jesus wants us to serve the world together as his Body.
Read Romans 12:1–2, repeatedly. Reflect on your time spent on this retreat so far, and then take at least ten minutes to respond to these questions:
- Based on what’s gone on between you and God so far, how do you believe he’s called you specifically to “present your bod[y] as a living sacrifice”? What do you think your next move actually looks like?
- When do you find it easier to try harder, or “be conformed to this world,” to get things done, rather than be “a living sacrifice”? What would God’s “good and acceptable and perfect” will look like in those situations? (And if your answer is “I don’t know,” what do you need to change in your thinking to find out?)
Leaders: Have everyone get into their subgroups. Let them know they’ll be working together for the entire session. You’ll be prompting them along the way to transition from section to section, but otherwise the extent of your leadership is getting them started and wrapping things up. Introduce the session, saying something along the lines of our introduction. And then let your groups get to work. Allow fifteen minutes for them to talk through this first section; prompting them when there’s a few minutes left. In this group context, it’s only necessary to read the passage once. Also, encourage your subgroups to stop and pray for one another throughout their time together. Don’t just save it all up for the end of the session; begin inviting God in as you sense your need for him.
Read verses 3–5, again repeatedly. Then take at least fifteen minutes to reflect and write concerning the following questions:
- Why is it important to remember that we’re part of a body—and only one part? Come up with at least one example to illustrate your answer.
- Likewise, why is it important to remember that God has given each member a measure of faith?
- When have you seen a healthy church body (or group) work together? What made it work so well?
- On the other hand, when have you seen God’s purposes thwarted by his body? Complete this sentence in response to that situation: “If only….”
- What was your part in that “If only…”—or what should it have been?
Leaders: Give subgroups twenty minutes to talk through this section. Again, prompt them when they have a few minutes left.
Before beginning your next reading, take two or three minutes to think of all the commitments you’re responsible for in a given week, and write them down as they come to you.
Now, read and re-read verses 6–10. Take at least fifteen minutes to journal on these questions:
- Where do you fit into this “short list” of spiritual gifts—or wish you did? How else has God gifted you that’s not listed here?
- Who exhibits some of the gifts that make you say “that’s so not me”? How could working together with that person or people benefit both of you, as well as benefit those you’re serving (or would like to serve)?
- Stay on those people you just thought of. How does showing mutual love and honoring those people help smooth over those places where it’s painfully obvious how different you are? Can you think of an example when that’s happened? Write that down as well
- What would mutual love and honoring look like, specifically, in your life right now?
- Look at the “commitments” list you made earlier. How does this passage, and your responses to it, help you keep “your” work for the Lord in perspective?
Leaders: Give subgroups twenty-five minutes to talk through this section. Again, prompt them when they have a few minutes left.
Go on to verses 11–20. Read it, then re-read it. Take ten more minutes to reflect and respond:
- Which of these commands—if any—do you look at and say, “Hey, no problem”? On the other hand, which of these commands just make you cringe? In both cases, why?
- Reflect once more on your co-workers from the section above. What, specifically, could that person or persons teach you that you lack?
Leaders: Give subgroups thirty minutes to talk through the following section—but even moreso, to pray for one another. Help everyone to key in on the follow-up question, “Which of these sections resonated most with you as you studied and journaled?” and pray together over each other’s answers. The Spirit is probably doing some serious work in people’s lives right now; take advantage of that. Encourage groups to open their hearts even further to God, and to one another. Encourage them to recognize and honor one another’s gifts as they pray. Again, let everyone know when there’s a few minutes left.
This session has probably brought up a lot of current struggles. The good news is: God wants to help you in those struggles, and so do the people you thought about during this session—more than you know, or likely suspect. Now’s the time to invite God in (and if you’re in a group, others as well).
Which of these sections resonated most with you as you studied and journaled? Spend time talking to God about it. Ask him for wisdom, and for people to walk alongside you, as you pursue God’s “good and acceptable and perfect” will for your life. Also ask that your heart be changed toward others, so that you may “[l]ove one another with brotherly affection” and “[o]utdo one another in showing honor.”
Leaders: Bring everyone back together. Invite people to share prayer requests, and how the Spirit has been moving among your entire group. Then spend at least a little more time praying together, and for what God wants to do in your midst next.