Living in the World - Issues that Christians face

The new academic year is nearly upon us and so I wanted to let you have some details on our upcoming preaching series which we expect will form the basis for housegroup study over September and October.
Following on from our pre-summer series working through Acts we’re starting a series called:
‘Living in the world – issues that Christians face’.
The series is designed to help us to engage theologically and practically with a number of pressing issues in contemporary life on which Christian thinking and theology has a perspective.  As Christians putting our heads in the sand is not an option!

The series will run as follows:

8 – Is Christian involvement necessary?
15 – Is Christian thinking distinctive?
22 – Stewardship and wealth (Stewardship Sunday)
29 – Caring for creation (Harvest Sunday)
6 – War and peace
13 – Human sexuality
20 – Marriage and relationships
27 – Life and death
3 – Other faiths

Why are we doing this series?  The answer is simple – because I believe that as Christians who are called to minister for Christ in the world, we need to engage fully with the big questions of our day.  Asking firstly how God is at work in and through them, and secondly how we might contribute to the bringing of Gods kingdom through our engagement.   

The issues range widely from personal issues to issues of global ethics, and so this is not just abstract thinking.  Indeed some of the issues may affect us personally and so this series is in many ways also a pastoral series.
Some of the issues are contentious, some are positively explosive, and so a great deal of sensitivity and wisdom is required as we lead the wider church and our housegroups in discussion and prayer. 
It is vital as leaders that we:
1 – actively listen to our group members. It may be that deep pastoral issues are being shared albeit not explicitly.  If this is the case you may wish to refer people to our Sharon or a member of the clergy team.
2 – don’t attempt to force our particular point of view on the group.  Instead our role as house-group leaders is to help people to engage with scripture, reason, and tradition, guided by the Holy Spirit, and come to conclusions held in good conscience before God.  It’s always worth bearing in mind the question ‘what if I’m wrong?’ when leading a group through difficult issues.
3 – remember that these issues are complex.  If they were not complex there wouldn’t be such wide ranging opinion on them within the church.  Instead many of the issues attract a range of opinions from within the Christian church. 
4 – deal with difference of opinion graciously and lovingly.  The church is community, community members disagree sometimes, but this shouldn’t break fellowship or cause division.  Indeed quite the reverse, theology has always been done in community, and faith has always been worked out in community.  The community of the church is a God given check and balance and his ordained forum in which matters of belief, doctrine, and practice are prayerfully and thoughtfully worked out. 
Housegroup notes and material:
By way of introduction I’d recommend a book called Issues Facing Christians Today by John Stott.  ISBN 0-310-25269-5
It is written from a more conservative theological perspective which not all will share but it certainly serves as a helpful introduction to a number of the issues which we will cover.
There won’t be any housegroup notes as such as discussion should be based on the previous Sunday’s sermon.  I’d encourage each group to listen to the sermon together, and perhaps to listen to more than one speaker talking on the same topic as a basis for discussion.  In addition to this I will be providing a sheet with conversation starters and some questions to get the conversation going.  This sheet will also detail some relevant parts of scripture. 
Looking after you as leaders:
This series will demand a great deal of you as house-group leaders and so if at any point you need support, or to talk through a particular topic or issue then please be in touch with me:
01372 813334

Simon Butler, 02/09/2013