Our life is a story enfolded in the epic story of God. Stories are all around us. They move us, make us feel alive, and inspire us.
Jesus was a master communicator. He used objects, humor, current events, historical reference, and poetry. But most of all, he told stories. He knew that people remember stories. He realized that they were a way to reach people where they were living, help them see themselves in that story, and gain a greater understanding about life: life with God, life with each other.
What is your favorite family story? It could be something from your childhood, a story that has been handed down for generations, or something you experienced as an adult.
In his sermon Gene shared how In recent years God has blessed Eastside and been at work in our church. Thousands of people have been baptized. There’s an Eastside campus in a small town in Minnesota that is our fastest growing campus. We’re praying for a permanent space for La Habra, our second largest campus. Our newest campus, Bellflower, has baptized 37 people and had 120 step up to serve as Change Makers.
How have you seen God at work at Eastside in the recent past, whether in your own life or the life of someone else?
Gene shared a story about how we’ll start our next campus. Someone asked him about that, and he replied, “Well it’s not really up to me. That’s up to God. We just try to strategically position Eastside for opportunities God brings, but if I could choose our next location I’d really like Eastside to be in California’s Inland Empire.”
A month or two later Gene was on a ministry planning retreat with the Eastside executive team, and at the end of the first day he felt led to say to the team, “I don’t know when God is going to bring our next campus opportunity, but I just have a sense that God is going to bring us an opportunity when we least expect it. So we better start preparing for our next campus and thinking about our team.”
That night about 11 PM he read an email from a pastor serving the city of Redlands, in the Inland Empire, inquiring if Eastside would be interested in starting a campus in their church building if they were to give it to us.
For the past few weeks we have been meeting with the Redlands Church of Christ. And this weekend their entire congregation is voting on giving us this beautiful campus.
Have you ever had an experience like this? Something that seems to be just a coincidence or a series of coincidences but that, when you really stop and look at it, was clearly God? Share about it with the group.
Gene shared about the impact that the Dream Team has had. This little group of 100 people has given $2.5 million to fund compassion causes, support our next gen ministries, and prepare us for the launch of our next campus.
Some of us have the gift of giving like those on the Dream Team, and if that is you, you should join. Some of us have other gifts and other talents that God may be calling you to use to serve Him at your church or in your community.
Maybe you are gifted to invest in little ones through Kidside or invest in adults by leading a small group of your own. Perhaps you can put your musical talents to use on the worship team or your technical skills on the production team. Maybe you’re a writer or a good speaker or really friendly. Perhaps God is even calling you to come a foster parent and take in a child who has no where to go. God wants to use whatever gifts he has given you to help further his Kingdom.
And if you need help finding a place to serve, check out Step 3 of Next Steps, where you’ll go on a behind the scenes tour of your campus to figure out where you can plug in.
What gifts or talents has God given you, and how might you be able to use them to serve his purposes?
Have a volunteer read Luke 15:1-7.
Have a volunteer read Luke 15:8-10.
Have a volunteer read Luke 15:11-32.
What do these parables teach us about God? What do they teach us about ourselves?
In light of these things, what is one thing that you will do differently this week?
Gene shared three truths that we can learn from these stories:
Something valuable is lost. The broken and hurting people in this world matter to God and should matter to us.
We must aggressively search. Nothing should stop us from pursuing them with Jesus’ love… not with fire and brimstone or with obnoxious badgering but with true, persistent, Christ-like love.
When the lost is found, there is much rejoicing. There’s nothing in the world worth celebrating more than when someone begins a relationship with Jesus.
Who do you know who needs a life-giving relationship with Jesus? Pair off with the same person you shared your spiritual next step with a few weeks ago and spend some time in prayer. Pray for:
God to begin working in the heart of the person who doesn’t know him.
The opportunity to show Jesus love to that person in a tangible way.
The opportunity to share the good news about Jesus with that person.
Courage to share that good news.