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An Heroic Ministry
Verse of the day
YWI - working with...
YWI is pleased to work in association with
Fuller Youth Institute, US
Sophia Network, UK
A life transformed
Before you start
MEETING AIM: To look at the incredible transformation that took place in Paul's life when he met with Jesus and the impact this had on the churches who knew him prior to his conversion.
BACKGROUND PREPARATION: Read Acts 7 v 54 - 8 v 3 and Acts 9 and familiarise yourself with Paul's story. Find pictures for first activity (try Google Images) - see explanation below.
Life-changing! (10 mins)
Around the room in which you are meeting, put up pictures of the following well-known people (or others if you can think of similar examples)….
The lives of each one of these people changed significantly through a single event (see details in brackets). Make sure the pictures you get are not related to their moment of fame i.e. don't show Dame Kelly Holmes with two gold medals around her neck! The challenge for your young people is to work out what event it was that changed their lives.
Video (5 mins)
If possible, find a video clip (try YouTube) of one of the events listed above and show it to your group. Spend a few minutes talking about how this event changed that person’s life and the impact it would have had on them and the people around them.
Introduction (5 mins)
Get one of your young people to read Galatians 1 v 10-24. Explain that this letter to the church in Galatia is written by a guy called Paul whose life was changed dramatically by one single event.
Group work 1 (10 mins)
In groups, ask your young people to discover all that they can about Paul (explain that he was then known as Saul) from the following verses: Acts 7 v 54 - 8 v 3; Acts 9 v 1-2. If they were to sum Paul up based on these verses, how would they do it? What would they say he was like?
Bible Bit 1 (5 mins)
Unpack Galatians 1 v 13-14. Explain that Paul was a well-educated Jew who was advancing quickly through the Jewish ranks! He fundamentally disagreed with this new Jesus movement and he wanted it to stop. He was happy to use any measure to make this happen; violence, destruction and persecution (Refer back to Acts 8 v 3). Christians at that time knew who Paul was and knew that he wanted to persecute them (see Acts 9 v 21 and Galatians 1 v 23).
Group work 2 (10 mins)
Now get people reading Acts 9 v 3-23. Get them to write down the sequence of events that took place over these verses.
KEY POINT: Isn’t it amazing that God chose to use Paul? In Acts 9 v 1-2 he is ‘breathing….murderous threats’ against the disciples. In Acts 9 v 20 he is preaching that Jesus is the son of God. His life was completely turned around after meeting Jesus on his way to Damascus. God wanted this man, who had given himself to destroy Christianity, to become one of his main tools for spreading the message about Jesus. Most people would not have chosen Paul, but God had other ideas. Sometimes we may think that God can’t or won’t want to use us because of stuff that we have done meaning that we won’t ever be asked by God to do anything. But the story of Paul teaches us that God uses unlikely people all the time. If he can use Paul, who tried to destroy the church, then he can use you and me.
Bible Bit 2 (5 mins)
Read Galatians 1 v 22-24. Explain that Paul says that the churches of Judea did not know who he was other than the fact that he was the guy who once destroyed Christianity but who’s now preaching it. Verse 24 says that these churches praised God because of Paul. They rejoiced in the fact that Paul’s life had been transformed. Now turn to Acts 9 v 20-25, look how the ‘followers’ in Damascus rallied around Paul and helped him escape when his life was under threat. What a transformation! Initially they were suspicious of him (v21) but now they were helping him escape from the Jewish authorities.
KEY POINT:Get the young people to think about someone who they are fearful of, intimidated by or that they just don’t like. This might be someone they know personally (i.e. someone who has given them a hard time at school for being a Christian), someone they know through reputation (ie a bully) or just someone who they don’t get along with. Now get them to imagine that this person has met with Jesus and wants to be part of their youth group. How would they react? Would they welcome them or would they be suspicious? Draw a parallel between this situation and the one in Acts 9. Paul was known as a persecutor of Christians, but now because of the transformation in his life, he was welcomed and helped by other Christians.
What's the Big Idea? (10 mins)
Say that: Paul’s story teaches us that God wants to reach out to all people – no matter how bad or far away from God they seem. This means that He may transform the lives of people around us who we don’t like, who we feel threatened by or who give us a hard time. If that happened, how welcoming would we be to those people? And how comfortable would we be with them coming to ‘our’ group? The Bible says some radical things about this; it says that we should pray for, even bless, those who persecute us (see Matt 5 v 44 and Romans 12 v 14). Finish the evening by encouraging your group to pray for those who seem far away from God, to pray for those who may even have given them a hard time for being a Christian, or those who seem utterly against God. Paul was one of these people, he was utterly opposed to Christianity, yet God met with him and he was used in amazing ways.
Notes for adapting
For younger groups… may need help with the group work activities. For example, Group work 2, you may want to write down the key events of Chapter 9 and then get the groups to put them in the right order rather than asking them to list the sequence of events.
For older groups… this session could lead to discussions about how much difference being a Christian has actually made to their lives.
For un-churched young people… Paul’s story is a great one to share with un-churched young people. Just re-tell how he was completely opposed to Christianity but how his life was changed – his story carries power!
For churched young people… church youth groups can sometimes be very cliquey! Encourage your group to think through how they might welcome someone who has historically given them a hard time for being a Christian.
Jim Partridge is on the leadership team and responsible for the youth work at The Kings Church, Mid-Sussex, UK