If you’re just joining us, we’re reading through a book together. It’s called The Hole In Our Gospel by Richard Stearns. We’re on Part Two, Chapters 4-7, but you’re welcome to jump in and join us. Here are some questions for discussion this time. To those of you who have been with us, I apologize for the delay during my 3 straight weeks at camp. I didn’t have as much free time as I’d hoped. But let’s get to it.
1. In the seventh century B.C., God criticized the Israelites’ attempts to get back into His good graces through prayers and religious ceremonies (chapter 4, pgs. 54-55). Think about the priorities of your church and compare them with the focus of the Israelites. How would your church stand up to Isaiah’s criticisms?
2. Think about your experience of working with the poor and marginalized in your community — or anyone you have helped through a tough time. Have there been moments when you, like Mother Teresa,saw “Christ, in his most distressing disguise” (chapter 4, pg. 60)? Describe that situation and what it’s teaching you upon reflection. Pray that God will show you what He requires, and that you will have an open heart as He shows you His will throughout this book.
3. Is it possible to love God and not love your neighbor (chap. 5, pgs. 65-67)? Why are the two commandments so inextricably connected?
4. What are the ways in which you and your church have taken on the “mission of God” by showing your love to your neighbors (chap. 5, pg. 69)? Which is more important: telling people about Christ or demonstrating HIs love through acts of kindness, compassion, and justice? Why do you believe this? Are there times when we should do one but not the other?
5. Do you see a connection between Rich’s difficult childhood and his later resistance to believing in Christ (chap. 6, pg. 74-76)? What was it? In what ways do your childhood experiences and relationship with your parents affect your openness to or resistance to God?
6. People like Rich need intellectually rigorous books to help them move from agnosticism to faith (chap. 6, pgs. 80-82). Why might people like him be offended to be told that you — or others — were praying for them? What are better ways to share your faith?
7. Do you believe it’s true that every follower of Christ was made for a purpose (chap. 7, pg. 92)? Even you? Explain why or why not. What would you say God’s purpose for your life is? What are you currently doing to live out that purpose? What could you begin to do this week to move in that direction?
Looking forward to hearing what you think.
Alright, time to get started. I’m going to include the questions from the study guide. For those who are new, we’re reading through The Hole In Our Gospel by Richard Stearns. Anyone reading with us is invited to comment your answers to share with us as a community. You can answer whenever you have time, one question at a time or whatever. Just male sure you include the question so we know what you’re talking about. Here goes.
1) Rich Stearns says that until he went to Rakai, Uganda, he lived in a bubble, insulated from anything too raw or upsetting. Can you identify with this? If so, what factors do you think contribute to the existence of your bubble?
2) Do you agree that poverty and suffering in the world have been – and are – drowned out by “choruses of praise music in hundreds of thousands of churches across our country”? Why or why not? What is your church doing to help the poor? How can you help it do more? Brainstorm ideas (and create an action list) with other members of your church.
3) What is the “bingo card” gospel, and what’s wrong with it? Do you agree that the gospel requires more of us than just believing the right things?Might there be “holes” in your own interpretation of the gospel? Brainstorm with friends about what those areas might be in your lives or, perhaps, in the life of your church.
4) Thinking of Jim Wallis’s experiment with his Bible, are there passages in the Bible you would prefer to overlook or ignore? What are they and why do you want to ignore them?
5) Rich described his journey through unemployment and the lessons he learned from those times. We’ve all faced hard times. How have such times broken you? How did those times change you?
6) The story of the rich young ruler goes deeper than money alone. What are you blessed with that you might be withholding from God? Your time or talent? Other things? Discuss this question and ways to break through any reluctance to give all to the Lord.
7) Rich writes that “Sometimes, in fact often, God’s blessings often come through our sufferings…”. As Christians, we are often quick to praise God when good things happen, but what about when bad things happen? What scriptures can you find that speak to this?
I am really looking forward to sharing in this with you. Yes, I’ll do my homework as well. Till then, breathe worship.
To all of you considering reading along with me,
I am really excited about this book. You can get it at most Christian bookstores for a little over $18. Amazon has it for $15.63 but with shipping it will be about the same if not a little more. For those of you who listen to books, it is available on iTunes for $11.
For everyone who doesn’t know what I’m talking about, I suggested we read a book together. It is called “The Hole in the Gospel” by Richard Stearns. I know this isn’t for everyone. But for those who are interested, I think it may be a neat experience. I looked at the book last night and realized it is divided into 5 parts. Each part has a few chapters. So I think we may aim at discussing 1 part per week. I’m going to look quickly at the introduction today, share a bit of it with you, and maybe a question or two. Then we will be set up to look at Part One next week sometime. To give you a taste, this is the first paragraph of the Introduction:
“What does God expect of us? That’s what this book is about. It’s a simple question, really. But is the answer so simple? What is the Christian faith about? Going to church every Sunday, saying grace before meals, and avoiding the most serious sins – or does God expect more?”
Since you are probably here because you connected with my music in some way, I think most of you think God has more for our lives than what we have seen in most of modern Christianity. I think you may be willing to dig deeper. I think this book will challenge us in that direction.
Mr. Stearns asks a couple of very pointed questions: “…as Christians, are we really given the option of turning away from the world’s problems? Does God permit that?”
What do you think? Can we turn away from the world’s problems and be living as God intended? What problems does this include? Economic? Social? Health?
Mr. Stearns says we should not only have a personal faith, but we should make our faith public. How can you do that in your life?
Well, there’s a few questions to get you started thinking along these lines. I look forward to sharing in this with you.