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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
MEETING AIM: To unpack the meaning of `following' Jesus, and assess the costs and advantages.
PREPARATION: Display on the wall some items cut from a mail order catalogue - e.g. a digital camera, a guitar amplifier, a personal stereo - without their prices.
Cut three sheets of plain card into six pieces as in Image 1 (like a jigsaw puzzle with no picture). Put all the same-sized pieces into separate envelopes.
Ask another leader or group member to be `dance instructor' for the `pentathlon'. This person should devise a slightly tricky little routine involving foot movements, hand waving and other gestures, to teach to contestants.
PRICE TAGS (7 mins)
Divide into three small groups. Ask them to look at the mail order items displayed on the walls, guess how much each item should really cost, write down their guesses, and add up the total. Compare results - then reveal the real prices. Who came close? Who was wildly wrong?
Say: we often think we know the cost of things when we actually don't. Jesus insisted that his followers should know exactly what following him would cost. Read out Luke 14:28-32. Ask: what's involved in following Jesus, and what's the damage? Let's investigate...
DISCIPLESHIP PENTATHLON (15 min)
Select one person from each group for a five-part challenge (while the others watch and encourage them). Say: this
is just for fun - but it should teach us something about following Jesus too.
(1) Display on a board or OHP the following words:
red = 2
blue = 5
green = 3
Say: remember this until the end - you won't be able to complete the final stage unless you've memorized this information.
Give time for memorization before continuing...
(2) Now give each contestant two of the `jigsaw' envelopes. Explain: you have to reassemble the `jigsaw' into an A4 sheet of card. Your team can help. But you'll have to swap some pieces with the other participants in order to get the six correct bits. Set a three-minute time limit; deduct a point from anybody who fails. Award an extra point to the first person to finish.
(3) Introduce your `dance instructor' and show them the routine three or four times. Then each must copy exactly what they've seen. Award points for best performances, and deduct points from the truly dreadful!
(4) Now ask them, in turn, to sing a verse of a well-known song into a cassette recorder while everybody else tries to drown them out by singing something completely different. Play back the tapes afterwards; see how well they've done. Who was distracted by the others? Who stuck to the tune properly? Award points and forfeits.
(5) Blindfold all three participants. Lay out some chairs in a pattern like this. Participants have to walk from chair 1 to chair 8 without falling off, following instructions given by their teams (`one step forward... one step right...' etc.). Penalise anyone who falls (and be close enough to catch them!). Award points for the smoothest performance.
(6) Finally, give each participant paper and a pencil, and ask them to do this sum:
They must write down the answer. Give a point for the correct answer (4). Count up scores; and award a prize to the winning team.
Now ask: what does this teach us about following Jesus? Display (on flipchart or OHP) the following words:
Does anyone recognize what these words are? They're actually five key words the New Testament uses to describe followers of Jesus. A `learner' is somebody who acquires vital information to help him survive - just like the `red, green and blue' test. A `brother' is somebody who can't get through without relying on others - just like the `jigsaw' test. An `imitator' copies his leader closely - like the `dance instructor' test. A `saint' knows that you have to be different from the world around, and shut your ears to distracting signals that would stop you completing your task - like the `singing' test. And a `believer' is someone who trusts his leader implicitly, even when he can't see where he's going...
Make the point: following Jesus has all these dimensions. It's not just a matter of going to church and reading the Bible. It's the biggest lifestyle challenge any of us will ever face, as long as we live.
GOOD NEWS, BAD NEWS (15 min)
So what are the costs and the benefits of living like this? Ask one group to brainstorm a list of the major costs involved in following Jesus properly, today, in your community at their age. (Supply some helpful verses: e.g. Matthew 10:34-39, 1 John 3:13, Romans 6:11-12.) Ask a second group to list the benefits that following Jesus brings. (Verses might be: John 14:1-3, Romans 5:1-5.) The third group should explore the words `learner, brother, imitator, saint, believer': what practical things must we do, to make these words a fair description of us? After 5-6 minutes, ask group 1 to present their list. Ask group 3 to rate each item (1 = unimportant or unlikely cost, 2 = reasonably likely and fairly demanding cost, 3 = inevitable and massive cost to pay). At the end ask the whole group: were they right? Would you rate the costs like that? Was anything important missed out by group 1? For you, what's the single most daunting thing about following Jesus?
Ask group 2 to read their `benefits' list, and get group 3 to mark again (1 = minor benefit, 2 = fairly important advantage, 3 = fantastic privilege). At the end ask the whole group: were they right? Would you rate the benefits like that? Was anything important missed out by group 2? For you, what's the single most rewarding thing about following Jesus?
FOLLOWER OR FAILURE (10 mins)
Now listen to group 3's conclusions. Discuss: do we agree? Would we add anything? Give everyone a pencil, asking them to grade themselves from 0-5 against each of the words. (How eager are they as learners? How loving are they as brothers and sisters? How accurate are they as imitators of Jesus' character?...) Challenge them to think of one thing they could do this week that would improve their score in just one area.
THE RECKONING (8 mins)
End by summarizing the main lessons you've learned. Then play a CD track which spells out the challenge of discipleship. Ask them to listen in silence. (Reinforce the song's message by displaying the lyrics on flipchart or OHP.) Read Romans 12:1-2. Then pray together, asking God to give you the courage to be real disciples, people who count the cost and gladly, deliberately keep paying it, as long as life endures.
OPTIONS A more serious, older group might prefer to do a Bible study on the five words rather than playing silly games. For a less committed group, adapt the ending to provide an evangelistic challenge; perhaps tell your own story, say why you've decided to pay the cost of discipleship, and invite them to have the courage to join you. For a group to whom these ideas are unfamiliar, stretch the content over two weeks, allowing longer in week 2 to examine `pros and cons' in depth.
John Allan is regular contributor to Youthwork magazine and is based at Exeter, UK.