OPEN Anniversary: Part 2

OPEN Anniversary: Part 2 Core Group Discussion Guide
Welcome!  We are so happy to gather in community and discipleship this week.  In this OPEN series we revisit a commitment many of us made last year to a vision of expansion for The Gathering.  This year new people get the opportunity to join in. Last week, Pastor Matt shared the ways in which that vision is being realized because of the financial generosity of this church community.  He offered encouragement to those participating and extended an invitation to join in the vision to others. Unfortunately, topics related to money, giving, and generosity can sometimes feel stressful and full of unwanted pressure and guilt, especially as we move into the holiday season. The church is not exempt from these sentiments! Nonetheless, we hope that our CoreGroups can offer a safe place to talk honestly, and openly, about these challenges.

Ice Breaker 
To what charity or cause do you genuinely like donating time, money, or services?  What makes that effort special to you?  How and/or would you describe God’s role or leading you to that effort?

Opening Prayer 
God, thank you for each one gathered here today.  Thank you for the blessing of fellowship. May each one seated here know that they are seen and heard in our discussion today, and may we all grow in understanding of what generosity looks like in our lives.  Be with us now Lord, Jesus.  Amen.

The Head 
2 Corinthians 9:5-7  
I want it to be a real gift from you.  I don’t want you to feel like you are being forced to give anything.  What I mean is this: the one who sows a small number of seeds will also reap a small crop, and the one who sows a generous amount of seeds will also reap a generous crop.   Everyone should give whatever they have decided in their heart.  They shouldn’t give with hesitation or because of pressure.  God loves a cheerful giver.  

Paul wrote these verses as preparation for his visit to the believers in Corinth, who had earlier pledged assistance to the poor Christians in Jerusalem.  Because of persecution of the early church, known believers were not able to work in the community or to provide for basic survival needs.  Other churches were also contributing and Paul was anxious for the Corinthian believers to actually collect what they had promised.  He wants them to remember though as they are giving that the motivation must be love.  In an earlier letter to this same church, Paul wrote of “love” as the essential part of all Christian activity. (See I Corinthians 13)

In some translations of this scripture Paul says, “So that [the gift] may be ready as a bountiful gift and not as an extortion” (1 Cor. 9:5). How would you describe the difference between a bountiful gift and an extortion? 

Why would Paul want this collection made before he arrived? What does fulfilling that request require of the believers in Corinth – both logistically and spiritually?

Why does Paul use the metaphor of a farmer sowing seeds? In what ways would this resonate with the readers of the letter? In what way do you think his use of this metaphor was effective or ineffective in persuading the community to give? 

The Heart - Gratitude vs Love
In modern terms we might say our giving is to come out of an “Attitude of Gratitude”  What do you think about this posture? Share some specific ways that you have been prompted to give because of blessings you have received?  Is giving in response to what we have received different than giving out of love?  Explain. 
Describe an instance when you knew your giving originated with love?

Recently our particular economic climate presents one strain after another on household budgets.  How can we practice generosity cheerfully when we feel so pinched? 

Closing Prayer  

Hey God, there are so many ways to help our neighbors.  Please forgive us when we fail to see those ways or stumble in our efforts.  Thank you for your steadfast love and for the grace you have for us.  Please open our hearts to show compassion towards people in need.  Please guide us through this week and help us to stay steady on a righteous path.  In Your name we pray, Amen.  

The Hands 
Paul encourages the Corinthians to take their time in deciding what they will give.  It is good advice for us.  Take some time this week to consider what to give – not just to the church, but what you give in time and experience with family and friends.  Consider how you give not just what you give.

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