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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
BEFORE YOU START:
MEETING AIM: The aim of the meeting is to explore why God’s perfect creation suffers from so much darkness, evil, pain and injustice. The session will introduce ‘The Fall’, its effects on humanity and on creation. Finally, we will think about how we should live in a fallen world. This is an important session as we Christians tend to skip right to the good news. That’s understandable but it is only when we truly empathise with the suffering that disfigures the world, and humbly recognise our part in that disfigurement that we will present this good news attractively and compellingly.
BACKGROUND PREPARATION: Theology the Basics by Alistair McGrath and Concise Theology by J I Packer are both excellent introductions to the Christian Basics and both are available at www.amazon.co.uk. Read Genesis 3 and Romans 1:18-32. Consider the pain and brokenness of our neighbours local and geographically distant, and the anguish that this causes God as their loving Father.
NOTES FOR ADAPTING: This is targeted at young people with some knowledge of the Christian faith and experience of the Church. If you are working with unchurched youth it is important you spend more time explaining terms like ‘sin’, ‘salvation’ and ‘fall’. ‘Point 3’ offers different options for older and younger groups allowing older, more mature groups to engage in a more thoughtful reflection while younger groups let off some steam.
Who made the false move? (5 mins)
Boisterous start: Play a game of Jenga with your young people. Draw the group’s attention to how one false move can bring a strong, stable tower crashing to the ground.
Slower start: show a clip from the film Along Came Polly with Ben Stiller and Jennifer Aniston (30:20 minutes – 35:00 minutes, chapter 7 on the DVD) Introduce the clip by explaining that at the starting point all seems perfect on Reuben’s first date with Polly but Reuben makes some false moves leading to trouble in paradise.
After the game or clip continue with these thoughts: We finished the last session in wonder at the beauty of the created world. But there is darkness and evil, pain and injustice in our world. So what’s that all about? What has gone wrong to leave God’s beautiful creation a messed-up mixture of the good, the bad and the ugly? Who made the false move?
Today we are going to explore the answer that the Bible and the Christian faith give to that question.
What the Bible says (15 mins)
Set the scene. Here we have the account of the first man and woman living in paradise as God intended. They have perfect relationship - with the natural world around them; with each other; and with God. But then something happens.
Read: Genesis chapter three. (This chapter lends itself to a dramatic reading perhaps from The Dramatised Bible published by Harper Collins. Have characters read for the Narrator, the Serpent, Adam, Eve and God.) Then separate into small groups and give each group a Bible and this list of questions/instructions:
Once the groups have worked through these give them a chance to feed back their thoughts and then finish with this short summary:
KEY POINT: Bad human decisions led from the perfect creation and relationships that God had always intended and on to terrible consequences for the whole of future history – this is often called ‘The Fall’. Even at this dire moment God did not leave his children without some glimmer of hope. (We will return to this later.)
It’s our problem too (20 mins)
We all play out a similar scenario to the one we read about in Genesis 3 daily.
In small groups develop short skits based on day-to-day life, demonstrating how temptation comes and how sin affects our lives and our relationships. Once the skits have been rehearsed and performed, give a summary.
KEY POINT: Christian teaching says that the effects of Adam and Eve’s sin are still being felt, we live in a world affected by what they did and we add to the problem by sinning too.
Sometimes people have imagined this as being a bit like genetics: ‘My Mum and Dad have blue eyes and passed the blue-eye-gene onto me, so I have blue eyes too’ becomes ‘Adam and Eve (my spiritual parents) were sinners and they passed the sinning gene onto me so I am a sinner too’. Others have said that makes it sound as if we shouldn’t be held responsible for our sin. They say its better to picture it as being out of balance. I lean towards sinning but still I have a choice every time I am tempted. (Note: It is important to remember that in this session we are not taking account of salvation in Jesus Christ or of the Holy Spirit’s role in sanctifying us!)
Veering off course (15 mins)
For older groups: Provide access to international news; magazines (Time / Newsweek), bulletins (BBC24 / CNN) or websites (news.bbc.co.uk). After looking at the ‘News’ ask them to identify examples of suffering caused by:
- An individual’s sin
- By corporate sin (i.e. of whole communities or societies)
- By a mixture of individual and corporate sin
- By the natural world
For younger groups: This is a crazy, dizzy game. In the middle of an open area, lay down straight lines of masking tape. At one end of each line place a cricket bat / hockey stick / walking stick or such like. Teams line up at one end of their line with the bat waiting at the other end. The first member of the team runs to the bat, stands it upright, places her forehead on the top end and spins around as fast as she can 20 times. (Be warned that if done at speed this produces serious dizziness.) She must then run down the line (Watch them try!) to tag a teammate. (If you do not have the time, space or energy for a team relay just ask for one or two volunteers.)
After the game or questions, read Romans 1:18-32. Explain that the Bible teaches that ever since ‘The Fall’ the whole of creation has been veering off course. (Just as in the game our dizziness made us veer away from the line we were trying to follow.) Generation after generation of humans turning from God has led to a world where wickedness and evil thrive. Creation itself is affected and is less than God intended it to be.
KEY POINT: Some crimes can be blamed on individuals but most of the great horrors are the results of humanity as a whole reflecting the Genesis story of ‘The Fall’, choosing pleasure-now over future-hope and selfishness over love.
Living with humility (10 mins)
If we are to be good witnesses it is essential we learn to face – honestly, humbly and compassionately – the pain and suffering in our own and in others’ lives. Christians tend to jump to salvation in Jesus without ever understanding and feeling the force of the questions that people are asking based on their own and others’ experience of a fallen world.
Download the Orphans of Nkandle clip from Make Poverty History (www.makepovertyhistory.org). After watching the clip talk and pray about the need for sensitivity to the pain and suffering in the world around us and what we can do about the fact that the sins which we commit (by omission or commission) add to the suffering of the world.
Remind the group of the hope that is to come: We must never forget that even at the moment of ‘The Fall’ God offered humanity a tiny glimmering of light at the end of the tunnel; next session we will see how that glimmer is transformed into the blazing ‘Light of the World’...
Written by Jonathan Brant