Christians – you can steal this if you want!
Every couple of weeks my wife and I meet with friends who are helping each other grow as followers of Jesus, or look into what this means if they’ve never done this before. We’re always looking for creative ways to bring practical life experience together with stuff Jesus talks about, and other things in the Bible. At the end of a challenging year, we wanted a way to find encouragement and reflect on what’s ahead for us.
This worked really well, so I’m posting for you to use or adapt however works for you. The idea is for every participant to build a structure which reflects how their life is going right now, and gather the resources which will help as they build more to come.
I’ve made a set of cards you can print out on two A4 pages. They are a selection of quotes from Jesus. They’re meant to look a bit like bricks when you cut down the middle of the thick black borders. If you’re leading/hosting, have them ready before you meet. One set will probably do for up to 6 people in a group. Think and pray about the passage below while you’re cutting!
Here are a few examples:
Read Matthew 7:24-27 together. It’s Jesus’ mic drop ending to his Sermon on the Mount. He just laid down an incredible amount of life changing, and world changing, practical encouragement and challenge. He wants listeners to make a choice which will determine their quality of life – not just how they feel, but what their work will ultimately mean to them and others. It’s like building something which could last or fall over, and they can choose.
Ask each other: What do we think the passage means? Does it make us feel more encouraged or challenged? What’s the difference between the wise and the foolish builder?
(For me, the key is that Jesus is not describing churchgoers vs. non-churchgoers or non-believers. Everyone in this picture has heard Jesus’ words. The difference is whether or not we put them into practice.)
Lay out the cards and introduce them – they’re Jesus’ words that we can put into practice. Some seem harder than others, but many will feel relevant to our lives as they are now, and as we would like them to be.
Step 1 – I’m doing this
Get everyone to pick about 3 cards they feel reflect things that they have definitely put into practice this year. They don’t have to be things we think we have 100% perfected, but things where we are encouraged because we did manage them, at least once.
Share about your choices and the difference they have made to your lives. If you know each other well, you can also pick a few things that you have seen others do, and encourage them with this.
Make sure everyone feels encouraged, and ask everyone to lay out their “I’m doing this” cards in a nice solid row that they can build on. Thank God for what you have found out about each other.
Step 2 – I’m trying to do this
Everyone pick about 3 more cards representing things they feel they’re wanting and trying to get right but haven’t yet nailed. Share about why these are important for each person, and the difference they would make if you could put Jesus’ words into practice.
This is where there’s a lot of potential for short term challenge and growth. Make sure everyone is reminded of God’s process of building, on a solid foundation. He will definitely help us with what we are wanting to apply from Jesus’ words.
Spend some time praying this in, and laying down this layer of bricks in faith on top of the first layer.
Step 3 – I would love to aim for this
Everyone pick a few more cards which sound like the life they would love to live, but feel too hard right now. Again, share about why these are important and the difference they would make in practice.
God can surprise us. When we let him build with us, he often makes the apparently impossible possible, so if we really want to put some challenging words into practice, he might well give us the opportunity to do that very soon, ahead of our own plans!
Thank God for the richness of his resources for us, and for the scale of what he can accomplish through us, and pray as we lay down another layer of bricks in faith that we will be able to do what Jesus says.
Final step – Summary and commitment
As a final encouragement, you might want to point to Jesus’ promise that “Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance.” (Matthew 25:29) This isn’t some weird prosperity gospel for the rich. Ask what people think Jesus is talking about here. (I think it’s faith.) If we are discouraged in following Jesus, it can be because we’ve got loads of ideas in our heads and not enough experience of seeing how they work in our lives. But when we do what Jesus says, in faith, our faith grows. We can’t master everything at once, but God does build an amazing life with us when we are wise builders, hearing Jesus’ words and putting them into practice.
Chat about how you can help each other put these words into practice. You might want to share specific things to do, or give permission to each other to ask about how they did later.
The Bible quotes are from the New International Version – you can read or listen here.
I’ve occasionally truncated a quote to get it to fit on a card, without changing the meaning, I hope. I’ve simplified the references to keep them readable without fussing over whether or not I quoted a whole verse. Sorry, scholars. The idea is that you can/should be like a Berean and look up the context of anything which sounds interesting. But let me know if you feel anything really needs to be revised!