Discipleship in the Wesleyan Way ~ New Small Group Lessons from Wesleyan Accent

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Momentum is growing as we move toward the launch of a new section of the Wesleyan Accent site – Discipleship in the Wesleyan Way (DWW). This subscription-based resource will provide an extensive array of downloadable lessons for use in small group or individual study. We have recruited numerous writers to aid in creating these lessons, which will focus on a range of theological issues, as well as spiritual disciplines, distinctively Wesleyan concepts and a wide variety of other topics.

One great advantage of DWW is its adaptability. Each lesson stands alone and has both a facilitator and participant component. This allows lessons to be used singly or grouped in a series, making it very easy for small group facilitators or individuals to shape their own unique discipleship plan. The site design allows users the freedom to decide how many weeks of study to undertake at any given time, which lessons to use and in which order, and suggestions for “life on life” activities in the areas of service/mission and relationship building/fellowship. Each lesson includes an opening Plain Truth (core idea), introductory material, key Scripture references, prayers and teaching tips. The body of the lesson includes both teaching material and discussion questions.

A second exciting element of DWW is its interactive design. DWW is secure with each subscriber having a unique portal through which to access material. Users can then form groups, proving members with access to the schedule, lessons and any additional material chosen by the leader. Users can create multiple groups, each with its own unique portal through which to interact with other members as they study together. Private discussion forums, meeting announcements, additional links and other options will be available through this portal enabling each group to have a secure way in which to interact.

One of the benefits of DWW’s interactive design is that it not only augments face to face study, but enables groups to form without the limitations of geography. We hope this will encourage the creation of new connections across the body of Christ as individuals and churches in different parts of the world have the opportunity to grow in their faith together.

We will begin offering subscriptions soon. Individuals may subscribe at an annual cost of $50.00. A subscription plan for churches is also in development. Begin watching for announcements about DWW as more details emerge in the coming weeks. In the meantime, we’ve included a portion of a second lesson on generosity, by Maxie Dunnam (this is also a facilitator lesson, grouped with several others in a section on spiritual disciplines). We hope this will continue to whet your appetite for Discipleship in the Wesleyan Way.

 

Generosity

Plain Truth

Because the acquiring and holding aspects of our being are so tenacious, generosity must begin with the giving of ourselves. Paul captured this succinctly in Second Corinthians 8:5, which is the heartbeat of generosity: “They gave themselves first to the Lord.”

 

Introduction

This is the second lesson on generosity as a spiritual discipline. In the first lesson, we dealt primarily with money, focusing on tithing as a standard of financial generosity, but also noting the important facts that tithing provides perspective and enhances performance in God’s Kingdom activities.

In this session we will focus on:

  • The idea that God requires each of us to give “such as we have”
  • The generosity of our time
  • The generosity of our attention.

 

Key Scripture Passages

  • 2 Corinthians 8:1-5
  • Acts 3:1-8
  • Mark 1:40-45

 

Prayer

Eternal God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, our Father, we remember the word of your Apostle, Paul, “You are not your own, you were bought at a price.” We know that price was your grace and love at creation, and your infinite love and grace in Jesus Christ who died that we might have life. As we consider generosity, may we be honest in assessing where we are with the generosity of life, and make a deeper commitment to give “all” to you. Etch the word of Jesus upon our minds and hearts, “inasmuch as you did it unto the least of these, you did it unto me.” Amen.

 

Teaching and Discussion

In thinking about generosity, it helps to keep in mind that since money is integral to our lives, how we give money usually reflects our overall pattern of generosity. One of the most amazing and challenging stories of financial generosity is of the Corinthian church. Paul tells that story.

Read 2 Corinthians 8:1-5

Here is the description of a clear pattern of giving that instructs us:

One, the Macedonians gave liberal/y. It helps to know that Paul was involved in collecting money for a hurting congregation in Jerusalem. The church is suffering there and as Paul travels in his evangelistic mission, he shares the needs of the Jerusalem Christians and receives an offering. Macedonia was an economically depressed area. The church there was as poor as the church in Jerusalem. Paul reflects on that: “During a severe ordeal of affliction, their abundant joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity.” To underscore this emphasis on liberality, Paul says, they gave “beyond their means.”

Two, they gave voluntarily. “Of their own free wiIl,” Paul says (RSV). He goes even further: “begging us earnestly for the privilege of sharing in this ministry to the saints.” Those Macedonians knew that to share in the needs of others not only was a blessed relief for the recipient but a source of joy and meaning for those who gave.

Three, the Macedonians gave joyfully. Look at the strange way Paul put words together: in “their abundant joy and their extreme poverty.” Can it be? Joy and poverty together? From the perspective of those who put so much stock in material security and abundance as a source of happiness and meaning this is a radical contradiction. Those of us who have never known, and will never know, real poverty will never know the depths of the truth contained in this contradiction. Yet we need to continue to grapple with it. What we can know is joyful giving.

It may well be that joyful giving comes only when we give not out of our abundance or surplus but sacrificially.

After describing their giving pattern in such a challenging way, Paul gave the crux of the story: they gave themselves first to the Lord.

Teaching  Tip: As a transition from the generosity of money to the generosity of life, it may be helpful to challenge those with whom you share to examine their current pattern and the meaning of their giving by reflecting on these questions:

  • What is the largest financial contribution you have made to any cause? Examine that experience of giving in light of the pattern of the Macedonians. Was it a liberal gift in light of your potential?
  • Was it voluntary? Was any sort of coercion involved?
  • Was it joyful? Did you give it joyfully?
  • Did joy come as a result of your giving?
  • Of all the financial contributions you have ever made, what has been the most significant one in terms of joy and meaning to you? Does that say something about how you should alter your pattern of giving?

 

Generosity of Life – Time

In Acts 3:1-8, Luke tells the story of Peter and John going up to the temple to pray. A man, lame from birth, is there begging alms. Peter and John look intently at him, giving him their attention and asking for his. Connecting in this fashion, Peter says, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ, walk” (vs. 6 NIV). The man jumps to his feet and begins to walk, praising God.

As exciting as the healing is, a brief word in the story offers a clear lesson about generosity. “Such as I have give I thee” (Acts 3:6, KJV). The lesson is this: God requires of each of us, such as we have.

The gospel puts us all on common ground. The ground around the cross is level; that is, at the foot of the cross, we are all equal. But the gospel is not a great equalizer just at the cross. The requirements and the rewards come as the same to all. God requires of each of us, such as we have.

Focus on time, our common commodity. “Such as we have”: We all have it. The question is our use of it.

I doubt if there is any area of our lives in which we are more stingy. Here our selfishness shows most glaringly. We want to control our time. We schedule tightly and become irritable, even angry, when any person or happening invades that private domain.

I believe in time management. Paul talked about redeeming time, and to the Colossians he wrote, “Conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders, making the most of the time.” (Col. 4:5) Time is so precious because it represents the total investment of our lives. Therefore, it is not to be wasted. When we waste time, we are wasting ourselves. The best way to guard against wasted time is to make lists of tasks we have to perform, persons we need to see, letters to write, calls to make and to schedule those.

But there is a difference between wasting time and being generous. To be generous with our time requires at least two willing acts and/or responses:

One, in planning the use of our time we need to specifically make time for our families, loved ones, and friends. Some of us must willingly make time for ourselves – rest, recreation, retreats for spiritual renewal. This means that many of us, given the speed and intensity of our lives, must schedule family time or time for fellowship with friends and guard it.

Two, willingly give time not scheduled, to those persons who come into your life unexpectedly. Now this is the point at which generosity of time becomes an act of love and submission that is a discipline for spiritual growth.

In most cases we never know what time given to others means in their lives. We do know, however, that scripture calls us to practice hospitality to strangers. But more than that, we know that selfishness has a strong hold on our lives, that we hoard our time for our own wishes and pleasure, and that when we give time to others we are practicing a discipline that will strike a telling blow to our self-centered, self-serving styles and will be another step toward the cross style to which Jesus calls us.

 

Teaching Tip: The next part of this lesson is practicing generosity by giving attention by listening, looking and touching. Engage those with whom you share by asking them to think of persons who need their time and attention:

  • a person who has been out of work for six months, and no job is in sight
  • a young woman whose husband just left her with two children
  • a single mother on welfare who is threatened by eviction because she is two months behind on her rent

Invite persons to make a list of folks needing attention in their minds.

 

Generosity of Life – Attention

In New Testament times leprosy was the most dreaded of all diseases. A leper not only experienced the physical debilitation, but the emotional pain and anguish of being totally cast out of society.

Mark tells of one of these lepers coming boldly to Jesus, kneeling before him, and appealing, “If you want to, you can make me clean“(AP). Then, there is packed into one beautiful sentence almost everything Jesus was and was about. “Jesus was filled with pity for him, and stretched out his hand and placed it on the leper, saying, ‘Of course I want to – be clean!”’ (Mark 1:41, Phillips)

By law the leper had no right to even draw near Jesus, much less speak to him. How we do not know, but the leper knew that despite his repulsive disease and his grotesque appearance, Jesus would see him, really see him, and respond to him as a person. Notice Jesus’ response: He listened; he looked at him; and he touched him – the three action responses that no one else would dare make to a leper. These responses chart a way of being generous with our attention along with our time.

Jesus listened to the leper. Is there anything that enhances our feelings of worth more than being listened to? When you listen to me you say to me, “I value you. You are important. I will hear what you say.”

Jesus looked at him. He gave the leper his attention. When we listen and look at another, we are attending. Someone has defined thought as “humanity in its wholeness wholly attending.” That is more than thought; it is an affirming relationship: a person in his or her wholeness wholly attending another person.

Jesus not only listened and looked, he touched the leper. To be generous with our attention, we cannot remain aloof; we must deliberately reach out, touch, and become involved.

When I give attention by looking, listening, and touching, the Spirit comes alive in relationship. When I listen and look with mind and heart, revelation comes; the gap between the other person and me is bridged. A sensitivity comes that is not my own. I feel the pain, frustration, and anguish of the other. Beyond myself and my own resources I become an instrument of miracle-working love. Healing, comfort, reconciliation, strength, and guidance come to others when we generously give them our attention by looking, listening, and touching.

 

Teaching Tip: Close the lesson by suggesting a concrete way to practice generosity of life by giving attention, by listening, looking and touching. Engage those with whom you share by asking them to revisit their list of people who might need their time and attention:

  • a person who has been out of work for six months, and no job is in sight,
  • young woman whose husband just left her with two children,
  • a single mother on welfare who is threatened by eviction because she is two months behind on her rent

Spend some time in silence as they ponder their lists. Pray for the persons they have listed in a general way, and pray that we all begin in a more intentional way than ever to practice generosity of life by giving our time and attention.

We hope this gives you an idea of things to come at Wesleyan Accent. Be on the look out for additional details in the coming weeks as we move toward the launch of Discipleship in the Wesleyan Way.

 

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Kimberly Reisman is an author, pastor, teacher and theologian serving as Executive Director of World Methodist Evangelism of the World Methodist Council. Prior to beginning at WME, Kim served in local churches, as Executive Director of Next Step Evangelism and General Editor for WesleyanAccent.com. She is a frequent speaker, focusing on evangelism, spiritual formation, women’s ministries, leadership development and the intersection between faith and culture. Kim is an elder in the United Methodist Church and has written numerous books, most recently, The Christ-Centered Woman: Finding Balance in a World of Extremes (2013, Abingdon Press). Kim is also an Adjunct Professor at United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio, and The School of Theology at Seattle Pacific University in Seattle, Washington.

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