Pastor Rick Hawks was our special guest speaker for this message on living in counter-cultural community with fellow believers. The Biblical text for the message is Romans 16:1-16, the opening of the final section of Paul’s letter/essay to the church in Rome. When writing it, Paul had been a Christian convert for two decades, and had spent the past decade evangelizing on missionary journeys. As he closes out the letter/essay, Paul pivots from his treatise on the gospel to personal greetings. Many of the names listed never appear again in Scripture and we know next to nothing about them. But they mattered to Paul.
1. There are several women listed prominently in these greetings. Given what you know about the first-century Roman world, why would this have been a counter-cultural thing for Paul to do? Why might Paul have done it?
2. The list includes Jews and Gentiles, rich and poor, young and old. As you think of your own Christian community, does it reflect the diversity of Paul’s list of names? If not, what might be inhibiting this diversity in your community?
3. Phoebe had provided financial support to Paul (16:2) and other church workers. Have you ever had someone in your community meet a financial need of yours? How did it make you feel? Did it alter the relationship you had with that person?
4. Pastor Hawks talked about how everyone has needs, but the aim is to be a “net giver”, one who gives more than they receive back from the community. Is it your natural bent to be a net giver? If so, do you struggle with accepting help from the community? If not, do you struggle to see opportunities to give? Do you feel you have nothing to offer the community? What could you do if you feel this way?
5. Four times in the New Testament Paul tells the churches to whom he is writing to greet each other with a holy kiss (Peter gives it a fifth NT mention). While many American denominations have resorted to handshakes (“passing the peace”), why might Paul have advocated for genuine, God-honoring affection to be shared amongst the community of believers? With whom do you find warm affection to be easy to give/receive?
6. In the ESV translation, it says, “Greet Priscilla and Aquila my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their necks for my life”. Is there someone for whom you’d risk your neck? What is it about your relationship with that person that leads you to be willing to do this? Are there limits to how far you should risk your own neck?
7. If you were starting a new LIFE group at Blackhawk whose aim was to be a counter-cultural community of believers, what might this group look like/how might it act? What would you expect of others in the group?
8. Several people in Paul’s list were noted for their hard work. It’s easy to spot someone who takes on too much, and someone who doesn’t take on enough. How would you communicate with each type of person to aid them in finding the right balance? Assuming best intentions, why might someone find themselves falling into either camp?
9. Why do you think God wired us to need relationships with other people? What benefits do we derive from and offer to others by being in community? What do you think you personally offer to a community?
10. Do you have a small group of believers with whom you do life together? What do you appreciate about the group? What needs to change in the group? If you do not have such a group, what next step do you need to take?