Study 7: How real is our church?

Heart to God: hand to man.
This is the motto The Salvation Army adopted soon after it was founded, as it sought to minister in the most deprived areas of Britain’s industrial cities.  It suggests that we should not separate our commitment to God from our responsibility to serve others.  It’s an invitation to look up, look around and to look within: there will be no lasting good unless our heart is in the right place. 
Our love for God is expressed through the depth of our concern for others, alongside our readiness to get involved in their broken lives. That’s particularly important where we are in a position of influence or power and where others are on the receiving end of bullying, deliberate isolation and/or injustice (see Micah 6:8).  When we see such need can we really walk by on the other side of the road? If we can do something about it, why don’t we?

The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: “If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?” But the Good Samaritan reversed the question: “If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?” (Martin Luther King)

(Jesus said) The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honour the one who serves me. (John 12: 25 – 26)
One of the principal rules of religion is, to lose no occasion of serving God. And, since he is invisible to our eyes, we are to serve him in our neighbour; which he receives as if done to himself in person, standing visibly before us. (John Wesley)

Pause for thought

  1. What would you expect to find in a “real” church?
  2. How do we determine what people really need?
  3. In what circumstances might we find it hard to help others?
  4. In what ways do the quoted passages help us to understand what it means to serve others? 
This is the final study covering the Nehemiah’s work to rebuild the nation of Israel alongside the construction of Jerusalem. Over the past few weeks we’ve seen how Nehemiah’s dependence on God has driven him and has also motivated the wider community to join in with God’s plan.
It hasn’t all been plain sailing. The project needed the kick start only the King could give and, even with the raw materials to hand and a security guard in place, there was no easy passage to trouble free building. Persistent sniping from those who clearly had another agenda meant a constant guard was needed on all fronts, both to keep the plan alive and to keep the people safe. As the work proceeds, the builders face yet another hurdle: how can they feed their families when all their money is being taken by corrupt members of their own community? 

To think about

When priorities collide (verses 1 to 11)
  1. Please read Nehemiah 5. What’s the real problem and why is it so serious?
  2. How appropriate is Nehemiah’s response to the news (vv. 6 – 8)? What might the response of a real church be to such issues today? 
  3. Verse 7 tells us that Nehemiah’s response to the problem was to bring everything into the public arena. Why is it important to be as transparent as possible in church life? 
  4. Please read Matthew 23: 23 to 33. How will we know when something is legalism, not grace? 
  5. How can the church make sure that we do not place onerous burdens on mature believers and those new in the faith?
The financial crisis was a double whammy. Lending money with interest was not only illegal under the Law of Moses (Leviticus 25: 35 – 37; 39 – 40), in this instance it was also dividing the community with some getting rich at others’ expense. A deeply rooted problem demands an immediate and dramatic solution at the hands of a trusted leader. Nehemiah steps forward once more to get things back on track

To think about

What difference can I make? (verses 12 to 19)
  1. What strikes you most about the way Nehemiah has conducted himself whilst in a position of power? 
  2. How can we use what power and influence we have in the wisest possible way?  
  3. What lead can we give within GHBC by the power of example? 
  4. How could we apply the lessons from Nehemiah’s actions in verses 17 – 18 in our mission a) build up the church family and b) to reach the lost? 
  5. What have you learned from our studies in Nehemiah that will be the first and/or easiest thing to put into practice? 

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