Chapter OneCONNECTING THE
It seems pretty obvious that God's plan for the church is to have people connect
with one another. That's the model of the early church that we read about in
Acts 2. When God's power took over, people were connected together: sharing
their possessions, eating together, meeting together, loving one another. What a
great scene-and so soon after the resurrection of Jesus! That day was the beginning
of the church, the church functioning as God's designed it to and as model for
One sign of a healthy youth ministry is when many different groups of students
(groups who wouldn't normally hang out together at school) connect. That's a great
expression of the early church model.
The church is God's design to bring people together. It's open to us all regardless
of our pasts! I love it when churches reach students who don't look like they
"belong" at church. Their body-piercings, tattoos, and clothing styles may not fit the
church youth group stereotypes, but that's okay. A lot of people in the Bible didn't fit
and yet Jesus called them to follow him too. You're about to read Matthew 9 and
see that Jesus connected with "these types" even though the religious leaders didn't
As you go through this book, it's my prayer that you'll catch a vision of what a
Christian can do when he or she is connected to other believers. You can sharpen
one another and open wide the doors of your youth ministry to keep it from becoming
a club, clique, or community of people who are just like you.
As you begin the six-week journey discovering the biblical purpose of fellowship,
it's important to realize that not everyone in your small group will be just like
you. It may be weird at first, and you might think, "I don't have anything in common
with that person. I can't believe we're in the same group!" That's okay. Actually
that's great news because you'll really get to see what God can do with all the differences.
You're on the right path for a great experience. Let's get started.
FELLOWSHIP: CONNECTING Your Heart to Others'
[goal: to have students share about their lives and listen attentively to others]
1 Share something that makes you different from other people. If your group members
already know each other well, share something that no one in the group knows about you.
2 If you haven't discussed the Small Group Covenant on page 88, take
time to read it together and discuss it now. You'll find a lot of
emphasis in this book on honesty and deepening relationships, so the
covenant points on confidentiality and respect are especially important.
Make commitments to one another that your group time will
reflect those values. You may want to have one person read the
covenant to the group before you begin each lesson as a reminder.
Use the Small Group Roster (page 90) to record the names and contact information of
the small group members.
DISCIPLESHIP: GROWING to Be Like Jesus
[goal: to explore God's Word, learn biblical knowledge, and make personal
You won't be surprised when I tell you no one is perfect. No one has it all
together. Even you. Even the others in your group (though sometimes you
might feel like you're the only one who's imperfect). Everyone has had disappointments,
bad attitudes, and imperfections. If Satan had his way, we
would be stuck in our failures with no hope. Unfortunately many people do
God's plan is different. We have hope because he loves us and wants
us to be in a vibrant relationship with him-no matter how bad or unlovable
we might be. He wants us connected relationally to other people too.
Matthew had a lot of money and more enemies. Jesus connected with
Matthew when no one else even liked him. People hated this guy so much
they even criticized Jesus for hanging out with him. Matthew was a Jewish
tax collector for the Roman government. He was a sellout. The way he
made money was to overtax his own people, pay the government some of
the money, and pocket the rest. Matthew wasn't a guy who was good
enough to get an appointment with Jesus, but Jesus treated him like he
treated everyone. On one fateful day Matthew's life changed forever.
Terms that look like this are described in Learn a Little More near the end of the
3 What does Matthew's occupation reveal about his character and his
circumstances? What clues from the text might help answer this question?
4 How would Matthew's life have changed when he decided to follow Jesus?
5 The passage doesn't say why Matthew jumped at the chance to be
with Jesus. What reasons might Matthew have had?
6 What do you think Matthew saw in Jesus that caused him
to invite his "sinner" friends to have dinner with him??
7 What did Jesus mean when he said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the
sick"? His statement implies some people are healthy spiritually and don't need
Jesus. Who in this story might have agreed with that idea? Why does everyone need
8 Reread verse 13. What does he mean by mercy? Sacrifice? What is the point
Jesus is trying to make with this verse?* How do mercy and sacrifice relate to each another?
* Why does God want mercy, not sacrifice?
* Does God's preference for mercy mean sacrifice is unimportant?
9 In essence, Jesus is calling the Pharisees unmerciful.
How were they failing to show mercy?
* Can you think of any modern day examples of this
* When should you show mercy?
10 In your own words, summarize the main point of this passage in one sentence.
MINISTRY: SERVING Others in Love
[goal: to recognize and take opportunities to serve others]
As your group continues to meet together, you may be tempted to
close your group to outsiders-to be a clique-which is fellowship
turned ugly. A clique draws a line between the in-crowd and the
out-crowd. Make a commitment to include others so you don't
become a clique.
11 Discuss ways you can prevent your group from becoming a clique.
Read How to Keep Your Small Group from Becoming a Clique (page 92) when you're at
EVANGELISM: SHARING Your Story and God's Story
[goal: to consider how the truths from this lesson might be applied to relationships
12 If Jesus were coming over to your house for dinner, which three friends would you like to invite
who don't know Jesus? Jot their initials here.
13 As a way of thinking through how you might share about
Jesus with one of these friends, turn to An Invitation for
You (page 83). Write an invitation to your friend to meet
At the beginning of small groups such as this one, you should decide whether your
group is open to inviting friends to join. If your group is open, list who you would
like to invite and make plans for talking with them. Your small group leader or your
leadership team may have already determined the group is closed at this time. If so,
a good group respects and follows that decision. You may be able to invite friends
to join you in the next LifeTogether book.
Worship: SURRENDERING Your Life to Honor God
[goal: to focus on God's presence]
Some people have called the church a hospital for sinners. What a great
word picture! Your small group is a tiny version of a spiritual hospital-a
place where sinners can get healing help. God does all the big work when
it comes to changing lives, but he uses people like you to help one another
become healthy and strong Christians.
14 Share one specific way the others in your group can pray for you. Write the
requests on the Prayer Request Log (page 132).
15 Spend time thanking God for the people in your group and for the unique
qualities each person has been given. The qualities of your group members
contribute to making everyone stronger followers of Christ.
Before your group breaks, read At Home This Week together. (If everyone in the
group has already done this in another LifeTogether book, you can skip the introduction
if you'd like.)
AT HOME THIS WEEK
Each week, you'll have at least four options to help you grow and learn on your
own-which means you'll have more to contribute when you return to the group.
Daily Bible Readings
On page 104 you'll find Daily Bible Readings, a chart of Bible passages that corresponds
with the lessons-five for each week. If you choose this option, read one
passage each day. Highlight it in your Bible, reflect on it, journal about it, or repeat
it out loud as a prayer. You're free to interact with the Bible verses any way you
want, just be sure to read God's love letter-the Bible. You'll find helpful tips in How
to Study the Bible (page 105).
Memorizing Bible verses is an important habit to develop as you learn to grow spiritually
on your own. Memory Verses (page 108) lists six verses-one per week-for
you to memorize if you want to plant God's Word in your heart. Memorizing verses
(and making them stick for more than a few minutes) isn't easy, but the benefits are
undeniable. You'll have God's Word with you wherever you go.
You'll find blank pages for journaling ("SCRIBBLES") beginning on page 113. At the
end of each session, you'll find several options and a question or two to get your
thoughts going-but you aren't limited to the ideas in this book. Use these pages to
reflect, to write a letter to God, to note what you're learning, to compose a prayer,
to ask a question, to draw a picture of your praise, to record your thoughts. For
more suggestions about journaling, turn to Journaling: Snapshot of Your Heart (page
This week reflect on these questions: Recall fears you may have had the last time
you interacted with someone outside your usual friendship circle. What made it difficult?
Wrap It Up
Write out your answers to session questions your group didn't have time to discuss.
This week share with the others in your group which option seems most appealing
to try during the coming week. The variety of preferences is another reminder of
how different the people in your group are.
During other weeks, take time to share with the group what you did At Home
An Invitation for You
Remember to write An Invitation for You (page 83).
LEARN A LITTLE MORE
When this event happened, a "sinner" was a person who didn't follow the Jewish
laws. Many people couldn't afford to keep the law because it required costly
sacrifices. Because of that, the term represented a financial class as much as a
spiritual condition. Poor people were seen as "sinners" and outcasts in their own
Jesus used a different definition for sinner: people who refuse to obey the spirit
of God's scriptural commands. His harshest words were to people who gave the
sacrifices but didn't live holy lives. Jesus met the needs of the people who
recognized and acknowledged their shortcomings. Some were physically healed.
Some were forgiven. Some went away empty-handed because they weren't ready to
give up the things that separated them from God.
This was a small group of highly respected and influential Jewish leaders during the
first century. The word Pharisee means "the separated ones." They were also
called Chasidim, which means "loyal to God."
Pharisees obeyed every word of God's law based on their traditions. They
opposed Jesus because he didn't follow their strict interpretations of the law. The
Pharisees were blind to their own sins and saw people who disagreed with them
as the sinners.
Showing compassion to someone who has hurt you or helping people
who are in need.
FOR FURTHER STUDY
Psalm 34:18-19; 51:4-13
9 As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting
at the tax collector's booth. "Follow me," he told him, and
Matthew got up and followed him.
10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew's house, many
tax collectors and "sinners" came and ate with him and his disciples.
11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and 'sinners'?"
12 On hearing this, Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need
a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: 'I
desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." -Matthew 9:9-13
You'll find three prayer resources in the back of the book. By
reading and discussing them, you'll find your group prayer time
* Praying in Your Small Group (page 126). Read this article on
your own before the next session.
* Prayer Request Guidelines (page 128). Read and discuss
these guidelines as a group.
* Prayer Options (page 130). Refer to this list for ideas to
give your prayer time variety.