Small Group Tools
Contemporary Comments 2018
Texts: Acts 18:24-28; Acts 19; Acts 20:7-12, 15-27; 2 Corinthians 4:8-14; Acts 21:1-15
The most memorable summer vacations can be those that go awry. Christy recalls, “Before we left for California our SUV broke down, needing over $1,000 in repairs. Then my son’s stupid girlfriend broke up with him for leaving town, so he pouted the entire ride. Then the brakes on our ‘newly fixed’ car overheated. We arrived and opened our tent to find mice had chewed holes in it, so my husband patched it with neon green duct tape. Then we walked to the beach—a several mile hike in high winds over sand dunes. The kids whined and one was crying from getting sand in her eye.
“About midnight, someone pulled into the next site. The husband started screaming at his wife and kicking dents into their car in front of their crying kids. I alerted security, who got the campsite number wrong and yelled at MY husband. He pointed to the next site and they went over there. Everything quieted down and we went to sleep, only to be woken up by the police about 2 am. We packed up and headed home, taking one of my husband’s famous ‘shortcuts’, and I got carsick from the winding roads. The kids spotted a lost dog which they guilted us into chasing through the woods to try to save. We never did catch him, but I got several cuts trying to.
“Then we almost ran out of gas. When we finally arrived at the gas station on fumes, we checked our bank account. Turns out we had an unexpected expense hit our account early and we didn’t have enough money for gas to get home! We said a prayer and my husband swiped. Thank God it let him fill the tank! So, we arrived home filthy, exhausted, stressed out, and with an overdrawn bank account. Haven’t been camping since!”1
Things went smoothly during the first 1,500 miles of Paul’s third missionary journey—the report on this leg of his trip is covered in one sentence. Then things started going crazy: Demetrius stirred up a riot in Ephesus because Paul’s preaching caused a drop in pagan image sales; Paul took a dangerous detour through Macedonia; Eutychus fell asleep during Paul’s sermon and fell out the window to his death, so Paul raised him from the dead; and the prophet Agabus tied Paul up, warning him what would happen if he continued on to Jerusalem. Whew!
The lesson from Paul’s experience is not about how to avoid problems, but how to continue on in faith though those challenges. He fully believed that God directed him to visit Jerusalem, and then go on to Rome and Spain. Agabus’ prophecy notwithstanding, Paul knew that God would use him to spread the gospel no matter what challenges he faced. Paul’s missionary experiences are lessons in faith that we can learn from even today.
~ For Reflection
Connecting: Draw straws of differing lengths. Starting with the shortest, have each person share one experience he or she faced in life which was unexpected but led to where he or she is today in a relationship, a job, a belief, a living situation, etc.
Sharing: Read Acts 19:11-20. This passage tells us about the miracles that the Holy Spirit did through Paul in Ephesus. The entire area was evangelized because of the power they saw. Can the church have this type of power today as it reaches out to the community?
1. No, the church doesn’t expect to do miracles in Jesus’ name.
2. No, the church is afraid of the Holy Spirit.
3. No, the church doesn’t think miracles are part of God’s work today.
4. Yes, the same Holy Spirit who empowered Paul is empowering the church today.
5. Yes, Jesus invites us to have faith as small as a mustard seed.
Applying: Paul had to approach different towns in different ways to reach the culture with the gospel. Do a quick study of your local church and the community (use Google search to glean information about the community). Does the church (race, age, education, experience) reflect the community? If not, what needs to change to enable your church to share the gospel successfully?
Valuing: As a missionary to my community, what do I need to change to enable me to be productive?