Study Guide


Why We Gather Week 05 (Participant Guide)

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  • YourGroup leaderhas beenprovided with way too much content so that theyhave plenty of material to work with please trust their lead as they choose the elements that are best suited for your group dynamic, andespeciallyif they choose to skip overparticular elements or questions.

  • If you still wantto engage with a particular question or element that your Group leader skipped over, consider going through that part with a family member, a friend, or on your own.

Setting the Tone: (Say Aloud, 1 minute)
Every time we gather, we'll practice a ground rule, goal, or value as a group.

This Week's Ground Rule: Let's be sure that no one takes over or completely dominates the conversation. Allow each person ample time to share but not so long that others are not given the opportunity to speak as well.

Focus of this Week's Message: (Say Aloud, 1 minute)
This week, we learned from the book of Matthew. Here,Jesus wentto Caesarea Philippi and asked his disciples who they thought the Son of Man was. They said thatsome thought he was John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets. When Jesus asks again, "Who do you say I am?"Simon Peter answers Jesus by saying, "You arethe Messiah, the Son of the Living God." Jesus goes on to tell Peter that his Father in heaven revealed that to Peter, and that on this rock, he would build the church, and the Gates of Hadeswould not overcome it.

Creative Engagement with This Week's Message: (Say Aloud, 5 minutes)

Let's get familiar with the layout of the ancient city ofCaesarea Philippi. The dark cave seen in both of the images belowis called the"Gates of Hades," where many gods and goddesses were worshiped, and where horrific,sinful behavior took place.

Take time to become familiar with what this place was like, using the images below.

Reconstruction Drawing of the Sanctuary of Pan at the site of Ancient Paneas, Caesarea Philippi

First CenturyCaesarea Philippi:
1. The Temple of Augustus Called the Augusteum (FarLeft)
2. The Grotto or Cave of the God Pan, orthe "Gates of Hades" (Behind the Temple of Augustus)
3. The Court of Pan and the Nymphs (To the Right of the Temple of Augustus)
4. The Temple of Zeus (In the Middle)
5. The Court of Nemesis (To the Right of the Temple of Zeus)
6. The Tomb Temple of the Sacred Goats (Upper Right)
7. The Temple of Pan and the Dancing Goats (Bottom Right)

Jesus brought his disciples to this location. Heshowed themthat when you build "ekklesia" (or the church) on Him, when you gather with Him as the cornerstone, then even people who aren't like you, even thedeath and darkness that the disciples werewitnessing right in front of them, will not overcome what Jesus builds. Jesus is planting His church right in the middle of all of this and He's saying, "we aren't influenced by this."

Our church is an inclusive ekklesia. As an ekklesia of Jesus, we go to the mess. Because we are not segregated and distant from our culture, we invite the messiness into our ekklesia. We can do this because Jesus said that the Gates of Hades will not overcome what He is building.

Let's picture ourselves among Jesus' disciples, standing in front of this dark and messy situation. Have you ever stood in front of a situation like thisandwondered if/how God could do anything about it?

Questions for Large Group Discussion (30 minutes):
(Prompt the group) Let's all have a Bible open and in front of us as we discuss what God was saying to us from this week's message.

Questions for Basic Understanding:
This part of the group discussion is about gaining a big picture, "lay of the land" view of what's happening in Scripture.

  • (FromMatthew 16:13-18) Who did some people saythe Son of Man was? Why were they misled?
  • Why did Jesus ask the disciples who theythought He was? Who revealed the truth to Simon Peter?
  • Why do you think thatJesus chose to bring the disciples to Caesarea Philippi?

Questions for Listening to Scripture:
This part of the group discussion is about wrestling with the meaning of what Scripture is saying.

  • When Peter proclaims that Jesus is the Messiah, Jesus praises him for getting that right. In what waysdo people get distracted by other factors and forget that Jesus is the only"rock" on which to build the church?
  • Pastor Steve Ingold shared the value of circles instead of rows.When we just sit in rows at churchand don't get to know people, it is so easy to allow actions that come from our sinful nature (gossip, prejudice, criticism, segregation)to creep in and derail us fromthe heart of the kind of church that Jesus wants to build. What takes place in thesescircles that are so important?
  • If Jesus were to directlyask you, "Who am I?",what would your response be? If you feel comfortable, share ina few words or phrases.

Questions for Being Examined by Scripture:
This part of the group discussion is when we ask God how He wants to take these words from the pages of the Story of Scripture, apply them to our hearts and lives, and call us to move on what He is saying to us.

  • From where you stand, does it everfeel like the Gates of Hades has overcome?
  • Today, ifwe went for a walk with Jesus, what placeswould Hetravel to that many people tend to avoid, and what groups of people would He be out to save – people that others tend to reject?
  • What needs to change in our lives so that we aren't insulated from the places and people that Jesus wants to redeem?

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