Healthy congregations and effective leaders in every place making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
-Mission of the North Carolina Conference
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.”
- Acts 2: 42-47
This guide is offered to church leaders who desire to pray and meditate upon Holy Scripture as a means of discerning God’s will as it relates to living fully in The Body of Christ. Four themes are outlined as a means of identifying characteristics common to healthy congregations: (1) Being Centered in Christ; (2) Making Disciples of Jesus Christ; (3) Focused Spiritual Formation; and (4) Risk-Taking Mission & Ministry to the World.
The format for this guide provides a four week Bible study for church leaders. If the leadership group is larger than twelve (12), it is suggested that the group meetings be done in several small groups, none of which is larger than twelve. Each week, beginning with Monday, scripture is offered to allow church leaders to reflect individually upon the same material. Each leader is encouraged to take notes and record questions as the daily scripture relates to his or her local church. Specific study questions to guide the entire study group are provided for each Sunday evening’s group meeting. If the local church desires to meet on some evening other than Sunday, simply adjust the daily readings to begin the day after the group meeting. This format allows each church leader to read and pray the daily scriptures for an entire week leading up to the group meeting.
The group facilitator guiding the four week Bible study will want to share some of these commonly used suggestions for the daily readings:
1. Begin your Bible reading with prayer: “Lord, open my eyes, so that I may behold wondrous things out of your law,” Psalm 119:18.
2. Take brief notes on what you read. Perhaps keep a small notebook and also record questions as you wonder how each scripture relates to your local church.
3. Read the scripture slowly. Think about it. Relate it to your own congregation and reword it into a prayer for your church.
4. Memorize scripture verses that speak powerfully to you as a church leader.
5. Remember: “All scripture is inspired of God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,” 2 Tim. 3:16.
6. Find ways as a church leader to highlight or use the weekly theme in church communications, perhaps to include it as a prayer offered in Sunday School or United Methodist Women.
7. At each gather of church leaders participating in this study, the group facilitator will simply follow the suggestions outlined under “Church Leaders’ Meeting.”
8. Finally, the group facilitator will use the questions outlined for each week as a means of keeping the conversation focused around that week’s study.