Week Two

Week Two: Shift Your Relationship with People 
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A key aspect of our discipleship surrounds how we value and treat the people around us. From people in the church, to neighbors, to friends and colleagues, God has a unique plan for how we engage other people.

Please feel free to adapt these lessons for your congregation’s context.

Sermon Notes by Amanda Olson

SCRIPTURE

Philippians 2:1-18
“If there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine pas lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.”

Proverbs 27:5-6, 17
“Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses…. As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”

SUMMARY

Shifting our relationship with God also causes a shift in our relationships with other people. We may not always see eye to eye, but following the humility of Christ, we can walk hand in hand. Followers of Jesus shift our perspective from “me” to “we”— and then to “he.”

INTRODUCTION

“Bah! Millennials!” a corporate executive recently complained. Protocol had been broken by a group of young employees. Within a small team of the big business, someone had leaked the promotion of a colleague, and the leak was causing the executive some headaches. “On top of that,” the frustrated manager groaned, “they all shared their salaries with one another on Facebook. What are these kids thinking?”

The young adults I encounter are much more communally minded than I ever was (or am, for that matter!). Social media allows us to share more information and share it faster than ever before. A quick tweet, a simple status update, a short text—and “everyone knows.”

I suggested to the exec that rather than trying to undermine business protocols, maybe the millennials were simply sharing life together. Was it possible that it was more important to them to watch out for each other than just for themselves?

If there is one thing that I admire in the emerging generation, it is their view of “we” over and above “me.” While it’s not appropriate for everything to be public, many things (like money and religion) have been shoved into the “private” realm, and sometimes that means we have lost communal discernment and accountability.

PEOPLE OF FAITH ARE COMMUNAL

Christianity is not a personal or private religion. Ours is a communal faith. Throughout the biblical witness, God calls a people. Yes, God works in and through individuals (think Abraham, Deborah, David, Mary), but these individuals never stand in isolation (think Sarah, Barak, Jonathan, Joseph), and they are always working for a common good.

Communion is at the center of our worship. It is one of only two sacraments (outward signs of inward realities) that we identify in the Covenant Church (the other is baptism). We gather at the Table with Jesus and with one another. I love thinking about the fact that other Christians around the world are gathering with us at the Lord’s Table. We find comfort, solidarity, power, and hope when we gather together as one in one Lord.

PEOPLE OF FAITH WILL DISAGREE

Religious communities engage in conversations from time to time that have the potential to divide. The Evangelical Covenant Church is no different. As in other denominations, people come to the Table with different readings of Scripture, nuanced understandings of theology, broad experiences of life, and wide ranges of hope. When the spotlight illumines our differences, discomfort sets in. Some grow worried and anxious. Others become combative and defensive. Still others become distant and aloof.

Conflict can be destructive. But conflict can also be constructive.

Proverbs 27:17 reminds us that “iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” This ancient wisdom also states, “Better is open rebuke than hidden love,” and “wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses” (Philippians 27:5-6).

Thankfully, conflict isn’t new to the church. Only 25-30 years after the death and resurrection of Christ, the early church was wrought with conflict. In his letter to the church in Philippi, Paul responds to preachers who are stirring up trouble for him even while he is in prison. “The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice” (Philippians 1:18).

PEOPLE OF FAITH FOLLOW CHRIST’S HUMILITY

Paul continues his letter by calling the early church to “live in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Philippians 1:27) by doing “nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit” (2:3). Rather, he calls them to live a life of humility like Christ.

Paul bases his appeal in the Philippians’ knowledge and experience of life in Christ. “Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind” (2:1-2).

Paul is not calling the Philippian church to march in lockstep on every issue, but he is calling them to walk in sync with the humility of Christ. “He made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant… he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death” (2:7-8). And Paul calls the church not to passivity or superficial “niceness” but to active obedience and real wrestling. “Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (2:12).

PEOPLE OF FAITH SHIFT FROM “ME” TO “WE” TO “HE”

When we are followers of Jesus, our relationships with others shift. “We” must become greater than “me.” This doesn’t mean that I stop thinking for myself. Rather, it means that my thinking must be for the good of others. As well, I must receive others’ thinking as good for me. This is the humility we must have when we come before Christ and when we come before one another.

When tensions rise in the church, we must ask ourselves: Do I truly have a humble heart? Can I accept that I may be wrong? Does the person(s) with whom I disagree see my humility? What might God reveal to me in this conflict? What may God reveal to me about myself? About others? About God’s self? Can I acknowledge that God’s way may be different from my way? Do I trust God to receive me in love?

It is in a humble “working out” that Paul says God’s will works and acts to fulfill his good purpose (2:12-13). While this kind of communion may not bring the clarity in which we find comfort, it can drive us together into a deeper communion with God.

Our perspectives will shift from “me” to “we” to “he.”

And in him we find the greatest comfort of all. In that we rejoice.

Adult Bible Study by Neil Josephson

SCRIPTURE

Philippians 2:1-18
“If there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine pas lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.”

OVERVIEW

If we want to follow Jesus’s model for relationships, we need to shift from using others for our benefit to using our lives to benefit others. When we make this shift, we will shine like bright lights in a crooked and perverse world (v. 15).

MATERIALS

Ensure that everyone has access to the Scripture text (paper, Bible, device) and a writing utensil.

Print copies of the study outline to distribute (see below).

Video projector with sound if you choose to use the video clip (The Power of Words)

Note: This guide is not a script but notes to facilitate your study. Please feel free to choose which aspects you’d like to include, and find your own words to navigate the thoughts and lead the group.

STUDY: MADE FOR RELATIONSHIP

Introduction
Hand out the study outline, and ask each person to write down the first few relationships that come to mind as they think about each sphere of their life. Most of the relationships they identify will be with individuals, but some may be relationships with groups or organizations, particularly when they come to the community/world circle. For example, they could think of their relationship with the poor of their community or those who are displaced in this world.

circle

Family

circle

Friends

circle

Work/ Church

circle

Community/ World


Designed for Relationship
Some of us are more social than others, but this exercise reveals that we all live in networks of relationships. That is by design. The Triune God created humans to be in community with one another (Genesis 2:18). There is relationship within the Godhead. We are created in God’s image; therefore, we are made for relationship.

We need healthy relationships in order to live fully into our God-given image. In other words, there is a correlation between our earthly relationships and our relationship with God (see 1 John 4:20-21).

We are made for relationship. We are healthy when we are in right relationship, and we can end up in a desperate place when we are out of relationship. One of our most fundamental problems is loneliness. When we are not in right relationship with one another, we are pained.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10).

Yet the paradox is that relationships can often be a source of great pain and disappointment. Relationships can be hard. And just when we think we are in a good place, they can change. Think about the relationships you identified in the four circles earlier. How have they changed in the past 12 months?

(Allow time for reflection. You may choose to ask people to add a small arrow next to each relationship on their page—an upward arrow indicating it has changed for the better, or a downward arrow if the opposite is true. This might be a good time for group sharing.)

Summary
1. Relationships are what we are made for.
2. Relationships are critically important.
3. Relationships can be painfully difficult at times.

STUDY: PAUL’S DOS AND DON’TS

Early in his letter to the Philippians, Paul writes: “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ…. Stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel” (1:27). In chapter 2, Paul goes on to discuss what this call means for our relationships.

First he sets up an “if…then” argument, writing, “Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion…” (2:1).

The answer to these statements is of course! Of course there is encouragement when we are united with Christ. Of course there is comfort in the perfect love of God in Christ. Of course we share in a common Spirit. Of course there is tenderness and compassion in the love of God and the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Then Paul goes on to press his case. If all these are true, then live differently. In other words, shift your relationships. He then goes on to describe specifically what that looks like.

Individual Exercise
Read Philippians 2:2-4 and 12-18 and take note of what Paul instructs us to do and what not to do. Jot down your observations.

An incomplete list of some potential responses is below.

Dos
Be like-minded (v. 2)
Love one another (v. 2)
Have one mind and one spirit (v. 2)
Be humble (v. 3)
Take an interest in others (v. 4)
Obey God with reverence and fear (v. 12)
Live blameless and pure lives (v. 15)
Hold firmly to the word of life (v. 16)
Don’ts
Don’t be selfish (v. 3)
Don’t try to impress others (v. 3)
Don’t act out of selfish ambition or conceit (v. 3)
Value others above self (v. 3)
Don’t look only at your own interests (v. 4)
Don’t grumble or argue (v. 14)

 

Group Exercise
Lead a discussion to compile a master list of the group’s observations. Note the different words in different translations. These nuances can add dimension to the list.

What relational shifts can you identify in this list?

How can we do this? Paul has described what shifts need to be made, but thankfully he also describes how to make these shifts. The key is in verse 5: “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.”

STUDY: SHIFTS THAT JESUS MADE

Now let us look at Philippians 2:6-8 and note the shifts Jesus made.

Lead the group in looking at these verses and guide the observations.

shiftimg.001

Jesus wanted a relationship with us so much that he let go of the glory and worship that he deserved. He made relational shifts.

STUDY: GOD’S SHIFTS

Let’s look at the shift that God makes in response to Jesus’s shifts (vv. 9-11). Guide the group in looking at these verses.

shiftimg.002

This is a profound spiritual principle: When we humble ourselves, God lifts us up. See Proverbs 3:34: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”

God has always worked this way. In 2 Kings 5:1-14 we find the story of Namaan, an army commander who was afflicted with leprosy. God healed him only when he was willing to humble himself and obey.

The relationships application is clear. We can cling to our pride and what we think we deserve, or we can allow God to heal our relationships as we humble ourselves.

PERSONAL APPLICATION

Alfred Nobel was a Swedish inventor who invented dynamite. After patenting it in 1867, he became a very wealthy businessman. In 1888 Alfred’s brother Ludvig died while he was traveling in France, and a French newspaper, confusing Ludvig with his brother, published an obituary for Alfred. One headline read, “Le marchand de la mort est mort (“The merchant of death is dead”) and went on to say, “Dr. Alfred Nobel, who became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before, died yesterday.” When Alfred died in 1896 at the age of 63, his will revealed a surprise—he had designated the bulk of his fortune to the creation of the Nobel prizes in the fields of physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, and peace.

One theory is that Alfred was reacting to that obituary—that he was disappointed in what he read and concerned with how he would be remembered. If so, he didn’t just feel bad about it. He acted. He shifted his life and legacy. And so can we.

The shifts we need to make in our life or in our relationships may not be so drastic. Yet we all have areas in need of restoration or healing. Put a star next to any of the relationships you listed at the beginning of the session that where you would like to see a shift.

For each relationship, write down one concrete action you will take to shift the relationship according to the “same mindset as Christ Jesus.”

COMMUNITY APPLICATION

What would this humility shift look like for our church community? For this small group?

Commitment and Conclusion

Humble and healthy relationships are a wonderful witness to the world. Verse 15 promises that when make these shifts, we will “shine…like stars in the sky.”

Video Illustration
This short video clip shows the power of a simple act, a few words, to shift relationships.

Questions
In light of this text and the applications we have made:
1. How can we pray for each other?
2. How can we pray for our own church?
3. How can we pray for the greater church?

Let’s pray over the shifts we want and need to make.

Optional Follow-up this Week
Read the entire book of Philippians in one sitting and note all the shifts (i.e., from anxiety to prayer in 4:6).

Download the Adult Bible Study Outline

 

Youth Discussion Guide by Christina Tinglof

SCRIPTURE

Philippians 2:1-18
“If there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine pas lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.”

SUMMARY

Imitating Jesus, especially his humility, is the key to living well with other believers.

INTRODUCTION

Sometimes it’s easy to think that living as a community of Christians should be easy. We all think and believe the same things, and there’s no need to argue or get frustrated with each other…right?

Not quite. From the very beginning, Christians had conflict with each other, each individual or group believing they had a firmer grasp on what God was calling them to be and do. It turned out being unified was harder than they thought!

And it still is. Christians argue with each other as much as any other group, which can really hurt our witness. How can we do better? How can we shift our relationships with other believers? In this passage, Paul tells us that the key is imitating Jesus, especially his humility and sacrifice.

STUDY JESUS’S HUMILITY

What better example do we have of humility than Jesus? Writing to the Philippian Christians, Paul includes the words of what is probably an ancient hymn (ancient to us, I mean!), which might have been a part of early church services. In 15 short lines, the hymn describes who Jesus is and what Jesus did for the world.

First, Jesus is God. From the beginning of time until the present, Jesus existed as divine. All creation is available to him. All creation is in service to him. Yet even though Jesus could have just sat back and watched the world crumble under the weight of our sin, even though he had the power and every right not to get involved, Jesus stepped right into our gunk and our mess because Jesus loved us and knew we needed saving.

It takes great humility for one who is divine to embrace humanity. It’s like the genie says in Disney’s Aladdin: “PHENOMENAL COSMIC POWER! Iiiiittty bitty living space.” Jesus had to deal with the vulnerabilities that came with being human. Not just physical vulnerabilities, like hunger, thirst, and exhaustion, but also emotional vulnerabilities, like the grief he felt when his friend Lazarus died or the betrayal he felt when his disciples abandoned him at the cross.

The Bible says that Jesus experienced every temptation we do. If I’d had the choice, I would have skipped out on hunger or thirst. I would have wanted to avoid the sadness I felt when my friends left me out of something or ignored my feelings. But Jesus chose to be obedient to God and give himself over to the sometimes uncomfortable and painful human experience out of love for us and in obedience to the Father.

Of course, it didn’t end there. After 33 years on earth, going through all of these very real human experiences, Jesus didn’t say, “OK, Father, I’m done now, beam me up.” Instead, he embraced the greatest suffering and humiliation: death on a cross.

We know that wasn’t the end of the story for him, as the song describes. The end of the story is not the cross but the empty tomb, the risen Savior, Jesus’s glory, the future to look forward to when all of creation will believe. As Philippians 2:6 tells us, Jesus could have demanded glory from the beginning. Instead, he chose a different path, one that didn’t just build up himself but built up others, one that required him to love completely, even at a great personal cost.

Have you ever heard the saying, “Don’t be humble, you’re not that great”? That doesn’t apply to Jesus. Jesus is that great. But Jesus’s purpose was not the best for himself—it was the best for others.

PRACTICING OUR OWN HUMILITY

What can we learn about our own story from Jesus’s story? How can we, as Paul says, have that same mindset when we are interacting with other Christians? How can we live into that same purpose: seeking not the best for ourselves, but the best for others?

Here’s some advice from Paul: don’t be selfish. Put others first. Don’t complain. And spend time with God working on your relationships. When Paul asks Christians to be like-minded, he’s not saying they have to agree on everything—only that they have to agree on how to behave toward each other: with love, with humility, with a servant heart. In other words, with a Jesus mindset.

But that’s easier said than done! Our society grooms us to do exactly the opposite. The world tells us to “look out for number one,” to take care of our own needs first, and then look to the needs of others…maybe…if we have time. Selfishness is almost a virtue to the Western world. But we have to throw all that out if we are to have the same mindset as Christ.

Sometimes people take this passage to mean that we have to let people walk all over us, or that we should let ourselves be beaten down. That’s a misrepresentation of what Paul is asking us to do. Rather Paul’s instruction is that we be obedient to God first, whatever God is calling us to do. That’s what he’s talking about in the end of the passage, in verses 12 and 13.

Jesus says in Luke 18:27, “What is impossible for mortals is possible for God” (NRSV). He’s talking about how hard it is to enter the kingdom of heaven when you’re clinging to your wealth, but his words apply to all of the Christian life. Without God’s help, the things that we are called to do sound impossible! We can try, but we would no doubt get easily burned out or discouraged. Maybe we would even give up.

The good news is that we don’t have to do it on our own. God gives us what we need in order to do what God has called us to, so our first priority, therefore, should be to tend to our relationship with God. Having the mindset of Jesus is not about just trying harder, or telling ourselves, “Hey! Be less selfish! Stop grumbling!” It’s about being so in tune with God and God’s priorities and God’s desires that selflessness and humility and kindness and compassion just pour out of us.

When we’re in tune with God and God’s priorities, we have no need to grab at power and control. We don’t desire to be in charge. When we’re in tune with God and God’s priorities, it’s our joy to serve others. It’s our desire to build someone else up. It’s not about placing ourselves at the highest place. It’s about realizing that the highest place isn’t as important as we thought it was; rather, what’s important is taking our place walking alongside others as they walk alongside us. In that way we all keep moving forward.

Of course, this kind of selflessness is how we want to treat all people. But in this passage, Paul is telling us it is of special importance to have a Jesus mindset toward other believers. Jesus tells us in the Gospel of John that people will recognize him in our love for each other. In other words, when we Christians love each other well, that, all by itself, teaches the world a little more about who Jesus is. How we treat each other is its own testimony. We don’t have to agree on everything; we just have to agree on how we treat each other.

Author Shane Claiborne once said that people will be drawn to Christianity not by force, but by fascination. A group of people who are only looking out for themselves, wanting to advance themselves at the expense of others is a depressing, but unsurprising, story. But a group of people who love each other as well as Jesus loved the world? That’s pretty fascinating. That’s what makes people want to look closer and say, “Tell me more about this Jesus thing.”

APPLICATION

First, think about your relationship with God—where is it on your priority list? In what practical ways are you working on developing your relationship with God?

Second, think about your relationship with other believers. How do you talk about other Christians? How do you relate to other Christians, especially other Christians who don’t think the same way you do? What do you think this communicates to the world around you?

CONCLUSION

Christians shouldn’t be like everyone else! We should stand out, because of our love for each other and our love for the world. We should stand out because of our humility, our servant nature, and our grace. We should stand out, not because we’re so awesome, but because Jesus, the one we follow, is so awesome, and our lives are about practicing how to be just like Jesus, with God’s help.

CLOSING PRAYER

Holy God, we thank you for Jesus, who did not try to snatch at power but instead humbly moved from heaven into our neighborhood and became a part of messy, vulnerable humanity, even to the point of death, for our sakes. We, with a thousand other voices, exalt our humble servant leader Jesus, and our prayer is that we might adopt a Jesus mindset. God, strengthen and develop our relationship with you, that we might be so in tune with you and your priorities that the Christlike characteristics of humility, servanthood, sacrifice, and selflessness might flow out of us. Amen.

REFLECTIVE QUESTIONS

1. How would you define “humility”? Is it a word you hear people use to describe Christians? Why or why not? Tell us about a Christian who exemplifies humility to you.
2. What is your favorite part of this ancient hymn in Philippians? What do you like about it? What is challenging to you?
3. What do you think it means to “work out your salvation”? What do you think Paul means by “fear and trembling”? Is “fear and trembling” a bad thing? Why or why not?
4. Think about Jesus being both human and divine. What do you think that looked like in everyday life for him? Can you imagine him experiencing the same issues and temptations you do as a teenager?

CHALLENGE AND DISCUSSION

1. Do you ever struggle in your relationships with other Christians—either at your church, or within the worldwide church? Share an example.
2. Do you ever feel the need to grasp for power and control? What do you think makes you feel like that?
3. Do you think society encourages us to be selfish? How do you see examples of that? Do you ever fall into that trap?
4. How often do you struggle with complaining and grumbling? How do complaining and grumbling relate to humility? How do they relate to sacrifice?

APPLICATION

1. In what kinds of situations is it hardest for you to look to the interests of others?
2. How can you practice humility and servanthood this week?

Children's Ministry Lesson by Shelly Kurth

SCRIPTURE

While the greater church will be using Philippians 2 as their primary resource, the story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10 may help younger children better understand the concept. Older children may be able to process aspects of the Philippians passage into their understanding as they shift their relationship with other believers.

Philippians 2:1-18

Luke 10:38-42
“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, ‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!’ ‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’”

SUMMARY

This lesson highlights the change each of us experiences as we start to build relationships with family, friends, teachers, and church members.

MEMORY VERSE

Select the Bible translation most appropriate for your church and the age group you are working with. You may choose to paraphrase for the little ones in your ministry.

Philippians 2:2
“Make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.”

BIBLICAL BACKGROUND

Both Scripture passages this week highlight the need for us to shift our relationship with others in order to be helper-focused. Everything we are taught as children comes first from those who care for us—our parents, grandparents, or other caregivers. They show us the way to do everything! God wants us to learn to help other people.

Luke tells the story of Martha being upset with Mary. Instead of seeking Jesus’s guidance in resolving her frustration, she tells Jesus what to say to Mary.

Jesus’s response is amazingly patient, and his invitation both to Mary and to Martha to sit at his feet (an invitation to become his disciple) shows us the starting place for our relationship with each other. Paul’s letter to the Philippians helps provide direction in living out this call.

PREPARATION

General
As your facility and space allow, create areas that allow children to visualize the theme of “shift”—things that help students see differently, such as telescopes, binoculars, magnifying class, transformers, play dough, silly putty and comics (note that not all of today’s Sunday funnies are children appropriate), globe, topical maps, aerial views/satellite views, heat sensory/image changing toys, etc.

Have a place where the theme is posted and the weekly topic changes.

Consider having a Shift display area where parents and the church family can see what the children are creating and how this relates to what the whole church is doing. Display reflection activities, photos of children hearing the story, flip chart pictures, response activities, youth or adult reflection pieces, etc.

This Week’s Setup
Props: A water basin and servant towel, a bucket of cleaning supplies (no chemicals—just sponge, mop, empty spray bottle, vacuum, etc.). These are easy visual aids for children to see that a servant attitude is demonstrated when someone does something (not always pleasant or the preferred activity) in order to care for others.

You may choose to ask children to draw or cut out pictures that show someone doing something for another person (cooking, cleaning, driving, laundry, sharing toys, helping with homework, etc.).

If possible, allow movement within the classroom—an area for entering activities (tables with no chairs), a place for story and Bible study (rug, floor, pillows to sit on), activity center area (table with chairs), an area for prayer/praise (altar, candle–battery candles can work for safety reasons, but lighting a candle can be a great place to begin and end if possible).

KEY CONCEPTS

Christ calls us to be disciples, to be like Jesus. This means we have to shift our thinking from ourselves to others as we learn more about being like Jesus.

Today’s lesson involves shifting our perspectives from our own needs to spending time with Jesus and following Jesus.

The goal is to help children understand that:
• God loves us and wants us to follow Christ’s example so we can love others.
• Mary and Martha both worshiped Jesus by serving in different ways.
• God gave us all different gifts for serving.
• God wants us to spend time together.
• God loves us and wants to have a loving relationship with us.

At the end of the class today, the children will be able to:
• Talk about Mary and Martha and how they were different.
• Communicate ways they can serve others.
• Offer ideas of how they are able to spend time with Jesus.

HELPFUL RESOURCES

• Flip chart or other story-sharing method (picture Bible, wooden figures, flannel graph, PowerPoint)
• Map locating Bethany—where Mary and Martha lived

ENTERING ACTIVITIES

Visual connections to shifting perspectives—have objects available to help children find and see differently. Activity stations can help make connections with other students and staff as the children enter. These can continue for the length of the series, or change occasionally.

Examples/Suggestions:
• Use real binoculars to read messages on the far wall of the room (Bible verse from previous week/add the new verse each week; maps used in lessons, pictures of typical houses).
• Silly Putty perspective—use Silly Putty to transfer images from newspaper to other surfaces.
• Transformers—free play with transformer toys, changing them from one form to another.
• Pictures (laminated) of various satellite views of the community—play “I Spy” to find the grocery store, school, church, park, etc.
• This week you may wish to engage children in activities that help them learn about serving each other. These could be in-class errands (erase the board, set out the chairs, take supplies out of cupboards, wash the windows, dust the chairs, wipe off the table, sharpen pencils, set out Bibles). Make sure to have a list of tasks that need to be done before you begin.
• You may choose to have a staff person or a teen helper keep working as you are starting the lesson. Call the person over and remind them that it is time to learn about Jesus and that the extra details can wait.

OPENING

As we learn more about God and how to love him, our way of thinking changes. When something shifts, a change takes place—sometimes a shift is easy to make, sometimes it is hard. This week we are learning how God asks us to shift our way of living with and thinking about other people.

Focus on God
Light a candle to remind children that this is a place of worship and that God is with us. Explain that the flame is something that is present in the light and the darkness.

Invite them to participate in this brief litany together:

Leader: The flame is a symbol of God’s presence found in the Holy Spirit.
Kids: God is with us.
Leader: God loves you and is watching over you right now.
Kids: God is with us.
Leader: God is with us and loves us! Isn’t that great news? Let’s continue to center our hearts toward God as we begin our time in prayer.

Give children an opportunity to share prayers of thanks or concern.

Prayer
Lord God, thank you for making us, for loving us, for forgiving us, and guiding us. We know you are here with us right now. As we enter into your word, help us draw close to you, to understand and to listen to what you have to say to us. Amen.

OBJECT LESSON

• Select several children to help you with today’s object lesson.
• You will need props to complete the activities you assign to the selected children.

Prepare by choosing several activities for the children to do simultaneously while they are doing something else. That can be as simple as bouncing a ball while drawing a picture of a house with a tree; coloring a rainbow while singing “Jesus Loves Me”—anything that will challenge them to focus on doing two things at once. (Juggling is a great example if someone on your ministry team can do it!)

Have the children do the activities together. Talk to them or tell them a simple short story while they are attempting the activities. Rotate them to the next activity—evaluate in between with comments such as, “Nice job—but it looks like it was hard to focus” or, “Close, but that seemed difficult for you.”

Afterward, thank your participants and have all the children try the classic pat the head, rub the tummy game. It is hard to focus on two things at once!

In our story today, someone is so busy with a good thing that she misses the best thing. She is so focused on one activity that the really important thing doesn’t happen. Ask if there are any examples from their week, or give examples.

Encourage children to listen while the Bible story is read to see if they can figure out which person had difficulty focusing on what was most important.

BIBLE EXPLORATION

There are always several ways to tell the story: one simple and effective way is to create a flip chart story, where you pre-draw aspects of the story using the key points (numbered) and draw in additional simple details as the story is told. One great way to do this is to have a storyteller reading from the Bible and another person drawing—simple stick figures work well. Use the Bible references for your guide.

You may choose to use other modalities—puppets, costumes, or dramatic readings based on your ministry patterns and age/grade needs. Depending on the modality used and the age of the students, you may invite children to follow along in their Bibles.

Flip chart page drawings: Pre-draw aspects of each scene, and then be ready to add to the page as you flip through. You may choose to have another adult or teen helper slowly and thoughtfully read the story as one person draws. You may also choose to include “I wonder” commitments as you go through the flip chart in order to help children process the story as it unfolds.

1. Read Luke 10:38
Pre-draw a village with Martha’s house in it.
Add two stick figures—Mary and Martha outside of Martha’s home.

• I wonder if Martha was excited to have Jesus over to her house.
• I wonder if Martha worked hard to get her house ready.
• I wonder if Martha and Mary were planning to serve the guests together.

2. Read Luke 10:39
Pre-draw stick figure Jesus talking to other people.
Add Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus.

3. Read Luke 10:40a
Add Martha stick figure working in the background.

• I wonder if Mary knew Martha needed help.
• I wonder if Martha wanted to sit with Mary and Jesus.

4. Read Luke 40b
Add Martha with a word bubble, saying, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

5. Read Luke 10:41-42
Add a word bubble from Jesus, saying, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

• I wonder what might make us too busy to sit at Jesus’s feet.
• I wonder what Jesus would say to me when I’m too busy to spend time with him.
Once you have finished the story, ask the children questions about the story:
• Who was the story about? (Jesus, Mary, Martha)
• Why was Martha busy? (It was her house, she wanted everything to be nice.)
• Why was Mary sitting at Jesus’s feet? (She wanted to listen to Jesus, to be close to him.)
• What would you have been doing if you were at the house? How would you have wanted to be like Martha? (I like to help put on the party.)
• How would you have wanted to be like Mary? (I wouldn’t have wanted to leave Jesus, I don’t like to do the work.)
• What did Jesus tell Martha when she complained about Mary not helping? (He told her Mary was right to be learning from Jesus.)
• How do you think Martha felt? (She might have been sad that Jesus corrected her.)

You may choose to post the flip chart pages around the room as you tell the story or after you tell the story as visual reminders of what Martha and Mary were doing while Jesus was with them.

GROW EXPLORE

G=God’s Word: What is the story? Give children an opportunity to express their understanding of the story. What questions would they like to ask God?

R=Relationships: Is there anything in today’s Bible story that shows us how we should or shouldn’t share God’s love with others? Remind children that sometimes God uses the stories of the Bible to show us how we shouldn’t act toward God or others. Give them a chance to consider how we might show God’s love instead.

O=Outward Action: Is there anything in the Bible story that shows us how we should help or serve God or others? Explore concrete ways the children could live this out in the coming week.

W=Worship: Is there anything in the Bible story that shows us how we should accept God’s love for us and others? Ask: How would you like to respond to God? What would you like to say to God?

ACTIVELY RESPONDING

Invite students to look up the story again in their Bibles (age appropriate). Encourage them to use the text to help them do one of the reflection activities:

• Draw a way you can spend time with Jesus this week, or draw the story from today.

• Write the story from today in your own words. Write a story of what God might be asking you to do for him.

• Pray. Find a quiet spot and pray alone or with a friend. Ask God to show you ways to follow him.

CLOSING

Gather children around the candle again. The candle reminds us that God is always with us. Is there anything anyone wishes to say to God? After children have responded, close the prayer time.

Prayer: “Lord God, we thank you that you are always with us and always love us. It’s good to be with you. Thank you for being with us and teaching us through the Bible. Help us to remember what you have taught us today and to live it out when we leave. Amen.”