Week Six

Week Six: Shift Into Action
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In this final week we explore the ways the Holy Spirit is using the church to bring about real change in the world. We invite your congregation to participate in holy transformation through Covenant World Relief as they launch an initiative called Project Blue—a global clean water focus.

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

Sermon Notes by Liz VerHage


Acts 10


In this final week of the Shift curriculum we will take time to link together previous lessons, Scripture texts, and sermon challenges in order to help us focus on shifting into action.

The main point we want to address is this: Discipleship means a lifestyle shift toward being a community that follows the Spirit’s sometimes surprising call to mission. This lifestyle shift is a long-term reforming and reframing, not a simple program add-on or to-do list. We are invited to meet God, be transformed, and then minister to the world as changed, shifted, reformed people.


Sometimes it’s hard to see what our blind spots are, because we don’t know what we can’t see. My mom used to visit the general store in their little country town, and she loved picking out a candy to buy and bring home. She especially loved all the colors and smells. Yet when she got her first pair of glasses, she was almost overwhelmed when she went into the same general store for the first time. Suddenly there were so many colors and options to choose from! Not only were there the candies that she had always known about, now she could see rows upon rows of bright, beautiful, inviting treats. They had been right in front of her all along, but she hadn’t been able to see them.

Sometimes I wonder if those of us who have been in the church for a while might have a hard time seeing where God is moving and calling us to walk in faith. It’s easy to become complacent, especially if God is calling us to shift—to rethink or reframe—how we see.

Many of us try our best. We work hard, we do the right things—we read Scripture, we pray, we come to church—so it may be difficult to rethink what God is asking of us. Do we have the eyes to see? Do we have the vision to see God moving and changing us?

Today we are looking at the shift that happened in Acts 10 as a way to ask this question with fresh eyes: What does being a Christ follower look like right now in the world? Is it what we have always thought, or does our perspective require a tweak, a change, or perhaps even a radical shift?

Throughout the book of Acts, we see the story of the first church in its infant stage. It was just taking shape, growing—just learning how to walk, so to speak. It was a young, energetic community that was sharing the story of Jesus who had changed everything for them.

I am convinced that the early church leaders were women and men who deeply loved Jesus and were often willing to give up their preconceived ideas, their respectability, and even their lives in order to share this story about Jesus Christ. They are our role models, our heroes in the faith. I pray that we can be as willing, committed, and energetic today.

But we also know that those early church leaders sometimes struggled to understand just how big God’s vision for the church truly was.

The early church first assumed that this invitation to follow Jesus was intended for the faithful people of God—those who had been following the Law and Torah and who had been trained in the synagogue for generations. They had been circumcised and were ethnically and culturally connected. This made sense, because this followed the Law that God had given the Jews. These faithful people of God were doing all the right things, but they had developed some blind spots. Even Peter, one of their leaders, was having trouble seeing.

In Acts 10, Peter finds himself meeting a non-Jewish officer in a pagan, Roman city. As a good Jew, he never would have allowed himself to be in such a place and with such company previously. Yet he is there because he had a vision in which God tells him to eat all kinds of unclean, off-limits food and because he heard about the Spirit of God visiting this “off-limits” person who didn’t fit within the boundaries the church had previously set.

This text illustrates a major shift in mission that changed the trajectory of church history. Peter, a leader of all of the Christ-followers, was confronted with a person that exposed a blind spot. How did Peter reconcile this opening-up of the Law, this invitation to a new way to see his faith across ethnic and cultural lines?

Peter was shown a new vision and introduced to a new person that suggested a shift in what he knew about how to be faithful. The law was being fulfilled, but in a new way. The Spirit was moving and inviting followers in a new direction.


What is our first response when we are invited or challenged to shift? Are we excited? Nervous? Do we want to be in control? Do we feel liberated?

Think about what might have been running through Peter’s mind when he saw the new places where the good news was moving. None of this was what he knew or had done before, but God’s leading was evident, so Peter followed.

I am amazed by that. Peter left behind what was known, practiced, and considered “faithful” in order to follow where God was leading. His obedience in this passage allowed the church to take the good news to the ends of the earth and to invite all people to experience the saving work of Christ.

I sometimes wonder what blind spots I might have. What ethnic, cultural, gender-related, economic, or regional assumptions do I have that block me from understanding where the Spirit is moving in my life or in the world? Where am I being invited to shift, to change, to grow? Will I have the eyes to see the Spirit’s movement?

Peter had a choice. He could have stayed with a small, safe, historic view of how to fulfill the Law and be faithful. But I am thankful that Peter shifted. He fully entered into a new commitment and new season of understanding the good news.

I am convinced that we are also being invited to a huge shift in our mission.

We are being invited to see God at work around the globe and to see our connectedness to the poor, not just as an add-on program or as a once-a-year mission project but as integral to our discipleship. This invitation is emphasized throughout Christ’s life and teachings. The good news spread around the globe, to the corners of the earth, to places that Peter would never have guessed. The conversion of Cornelius is an example of a so-called “outsider” to the faith being the one who invites Peter to see the power of the Spirit in a new way. What if we in the Western church are being invited to see the global church, the global community, in a new way? What if we are being called to a shift in our sense of mission, not just to notice or momentarily experience the crises in the world but to engage in ongoing mission? What if this is where the Spirit is at work, where the good news is spreading? What if this global shift is where the Spirit is leading? Will we follow?

Take the Congolese Covenant Church (CEUM), for example. The CEUM has more members than the entire Covenant population in the United States. Members of the Congolese Covenant Church know, worship, and serve the same God and proclaim the same Spirit at work through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ that we do—but not everyone there has the same access to healthcare, water, and education. Covenant World Relief and other partners have led the way for generations to help the Western world see the Congolese church with fresh eyes. We have much to learn from them. The Spirit is already at work around the globe. Will we ignore it, or will we be transformed by the change, the newness, and the possible foreignness in order to follow the Spirit?

This six-week series has helped us think about how to make the shift in several powerful ways. Each invitation to shift is also an invitation to grow, to follow, to obey, and to be transformed and renewed as disciples who are faithfully open to where God is moving.

There is another invitation we are being given through Covenant World Relief today, and that is to take part in a new program called Project Blue.

  • Insert a closing paragraph here about what Project Blue does, who it serves, facts, effectiveness. Choose what you want the specific ask to be—sign up after church, donate, invest in a project for the long haul, etc. You can learn more about Project Blue here.

We’re being invited to meet God, to be transformed, and to minister to and with the world as changed, re-formed, shifted people for God’s glory. Imagine what promise and possibility await us when we follow where the Spirit leads! Let’s make the shift.


  1. What do you think your potential blind spots are when it comes to your faith and how you see the mission of the church?
  2. Where have you already seen God at work around the globe? What does it look like?
  3. When have you been transformed and grown from an experience where God stretched or asked you to move beyond your comfort zone? Do you pray for, seek, and prepare for that to happen again? Why or why not?
  4. What does a lifestyle focused on global mission mean to you? How would it look different than a one-time project? What are the benefits of a lifestyle of global mission? What could be the difficult realities of this kind of commitment?


Adult Bible Study by Michael Jorden


Acts 10


Take a few minutes right now to submit your heart and your mind to Christ and to invite the Holy Spirit to lead you into all truth as you study God’s word.


Read Acts 10 three times. As you read, write down any thoughts that come to your mind or any words in the passage that stand out for you.


For the last 12 years, I have been pastoring a Spanish-speaking congregation that my wife and I started in 2000. Prior to that, I was a member of an English-speaking Covenant congregation. Like Peter, I experienced a shift in mission perspective. My eyes were opened to God’s vision to use his diverse people to reach a diverse world. I truly believe that we are better together than apart. And, like Peter, I believe that the light of the truth reveals the challenging reality that much of the church still needs to make the shift in mission so that all nations have access to Christ and his church.

Have you ever held a strong belief that was surprisingly shifted, and from that point on significantly altered how you live your life today? If so, describe the shift that took place.


In Acts 1:8, Luke identifies Christ’s specific missional strategy that he entrusted to the early church to carry out: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

The early church was having great success in Jerusalem (Acts 6:7), winning many Jewish converts, but they had yet to fully embrace a Gentile world that needed access to the Father through the gospel of Jesus Christ. In Acts 10, Luke gives an account of an essential and crucial shift in mission perspective for Peter that was later experienced and accepted by the rest of the church. This shift in mission perspective, along with the rise of Christian persecution in Jerusalem (Acts 8:1), was a key element in launching the church into “all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

As the church, do we allow flawed perspectives to impede our mission to all the world? Are we in need of a shift into action?


    1. In your own words summarize what is happening in Acts 10.
    2. Describe the barrier that separated all Gentiles and Jews of the first century (Acts 10:28; John 4:9).


      • Can you identify any similar ethnic or cultural walls within your local church, conference, or denomination that limit access to God’s people and their gifts, talents, and resources?
      • In what ways does your church, conference, or denomination partner in mission and ministry with a diverse group of churches or ministries?


      • As a group, invite a pastor or leader of a church in your community, conference, or denomination that differs from yours to share with your group or church. Ask if they are aware of any barriers limiting their access to the rest of the body or resources that would benefit their ministry and mission. Ask them to share their unique context in ministry and mission, and listen for ways the Lord might want your group or church to partner with them.


    1. Why was removing this barrier so important to God? What did God ultimately want to do? What would the removal of this obstacle provide access to? (Read Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8; Ephesians 2:11-22.)


      • What are your thoughts and feelings after reading the Ephesians passage?


    1. In what way was this barrier impeding God’s mission in the world through his people? How would the removal of this obstacle affect God’s mission through the church?


      • If your church is not multiethnic, how do you think becoming more multiethnic would help the effectiveness of your ministry and mission in your community?
      • If your church is multiethnic, how do you feel it has helped the effectiveness of your ministry and mission in your community? What challenges have you experienced?


      • As a group or individually, make a list of all ministry and mission benefits that would come from partnering with a multiethnic church.


    1. What new shift in missions did Peter experience (vv. 28-29, 34-36; Micah 6:8)? How did the Holy Spirit cause a shift in Peter’s perspective on mission? How difficult do you think this shift was for Peter and why (see Acts 10:9-33)?


      • Are you or your group willing to embrace God’s vision for mission in the world?
      • Do you believe that God still does supernatural and crazy things to get us to shift?
      • Have you or your church experienced a shift in perspective that includes partnering with diverse groups to reach a diverse world? If not, why not? If so, what was that process like and why do you think it was important?


      • Stop and pray in this moment that the Holy Spirit would expose anything that might be hindering or distracting you from seeing what the Lord would have you see.
      • Organize and dedicate a specific time that you and your group will pray and fast, asking the Lord to shift your perspective on mission.


  1. With the barrier removed, what did Peter, Cornelius, and the others experience? What was the immediate outcome (vv. 36-48)? If you are not familiar with what happens in the next 18 chapters of Acts, take time to read them, taking special note of how pivotal this shift in mission was for the church.

Father, we ask that your Spirit would reveal to us any thoughts or beliefs that may be hindering your mission in the world. We ask that you would give a new vision for what you are doing in and through your church to reach more people in more places. May your kingdom come and your will truly be done in and through us, on earth as it is in heaven.

Youth Discussion Guide by Danielle Kilgore


Romans 12:2
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”


As humans we make the decision to change many things daily—from changing our hair to the direction we take to get home. As Christians we often face decisions that ultimately shift our lives and the lives of others.

Life is full of challenges. In order to change your circumstances, you must decide to shift your current state and allow God to direct you in a new way. When we began this curriculum, we looked at the challenge of shifting our previous ways and turning in a new direction. We talked about the challenges of shifting our lives toward God (week 1) and about shifting our relationships with other believers (week 2). We talked about shifting our ability to see how we can be used by God (week 3), which led us to focus on our call to shift toward seeing hurt and pain in the world (week 4). In week 5, we went a bit further and shifted our perspective from our private world to the whole world. With each lesson, we were challenged to make a decision to shift toward who God calls us to be.

This week, we will see that the shift is not something that happens once, but rather is a constant, ongoing reality.


Apart from Me

What you need: a blindfold, three or four objects that can be used as obstacles, something to mark the finish line, and a timer

Divide the students into no more than four equal teams. Choose one student from each team to be blindfolded, and have the other teammates set up the obstacles for the blindfolded student to cross. The object of the game is for the blindfolded student to reach the finish line by listening to the directions of their teammates. The team that does so the quickest wins (connects to week 1).

In Private or Public

What you need: index cards, pens
Ask students to write down one thing they would do in private that they wouldn’t do in public on index cards. Make sure they don’t write their names on the cards, and that their answers are appropriate to be read aloud. Read each card aloud, and have students raise their hand if they agree with what was read on the card. Compare what some students think are private acts versus public acts. Allow a couple of students to explain why they chose to raise their hand (connects to week 5).


Here is a basic outline that you may use to prepare a 15-minute sermon that connects to the small group discussion. Feel free to add or delete any sections in order to match your context.

Begin by talking about the concept of a shift. For example, you could explain how driving a manual car is an active process, while driving an automatic is more passive.

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world” (Romans 12:1a).

Maintaining the commitment we have made to shift from our old ways toward God’s ways means realizing that the way we’ve been doing things simply won’t work anymore. (You may choose to elaborate on this point as it pertains to your own context).

“But be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (v. 1b).

Once we realize that a shift is necessary, we prepare a regimen. Come up with realistic ways you can stick to this commitment.

As we commit to our regimen, we experience the renewal that comes with being faithful followers of Christ. By allowing the Spirit to continually renew your mind, you’ll be able to understand who God really is in your life. You will experience God in a way you never have before. And that’s when you know you’re in God’s perfect will for your life.


The Big Idea
Faith must manifest itself outwardly.

Memory Verse: Romans 12:2
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Leader’s Note
The purpose of this lesson is to help students come up with one way they can continue to renew their thinking every day and break habits that separate them from God.

Opening Scenario
Read the scenario aloud or ask a student to read it:

Zoe is very popular at school. Since ninth grade, she’s been known for being the girl every other girl wants to be and every guy wants to date. But appearances don’t tell the whole story. Sometimes Zoe has pretended to be someone she isn’t so other people will like her. She has let her boyfriend take things further than she’s comfortable with. And she’s worried that her parents might be getting a divorce.

In middle school, Zoe was a peer leader in the student ministry. She went on mission trips with her youth group and spent time with God every day. But since entering high school, she has become more concerned with fitting in with her peers than with her relationship with Jesus. Her mind has become filled with other things—like her new cheerleading role, her grades, her boyfriend, and the way her parents are constantly fighting about her dad’s new job.

Zoe wants to get back to the healthy relationship she once had with God, but she is having trouble making that a reality.

Discussion Questions

  1. Can you relate to any aspects of Zoe’s life? If so, which ones? (Hopefully, this question will lead the students to reveal the distractions in their own lives that they need to erase. If they do not share, that’s also okay.)
  2. What areas of her life might Zoe need to shift in order to rebuild her relationship with God?
  3. If she makes these shifts, how soon do you think she will experience change? Why?
  4. Read Romans 12:2. What do you think this verse is saying?
  5. What do you think of when you hear the word “renew”?
  6. What are some practical things you could do each day to help renew your mind?
  7. What advice would you give Zoe?

Discuss as a group what you can do to hold each other accountable for the continuous shifting of your minds.

Children's Ministry Lesson by Steve Burger


Matthew 10:42
“And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.”

2 Kings 2:19-22
“The people of the city said to Elisha, ‘Look, our lord, this town is well situated, as you can see, but the water is bad and the land is unproductive.’ ‘Bring me a new bowl,’ he said, ‘and put salt in it.’ So they brought it to him. Then he went out to the spring and threw the salt into it, saying, ‘This is what the Lord says: “I have healed this water. Never again will it cause death or make the land unproductive.’’’ And the water has remained pure to this day, according to the word Elisha had spoken.”


As we finish our Shift series, we will learn about the Project Blue, the Evangelical Covenant Church’s clean water project. This project was introduced at CHIC 2015 as a concrete way to tackle injustice and to be active partners in redeeming all of God’s creation.

In the United States and Canada, most children turn on the faucet and assume that everyone has access to clean, drinkable water. This lesson will help children understand this is not the case and that poor quality water can lead to illness and death; we will also proclaim the hope that is available when we answer God’s call to help those who lack clean water.


Matthew 10:42
“And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.”


  • God uplifts those who follow his will and provides for those in need, including those who are thirsty (Matthew 10:42).
  • Elisha was a student of the prophet Elijah. When Elijah called Elisha, Elisha left every thing to answer God’s call (1 Kings 19:19-21).
  • Elisha faithfully follows Elijah, and after Elijah is taken up into heaven in a whirlwind, Elisha becomes the new prophet of God. His first miracle is to turn bad water into good water, but Elisha is careful to note that it is God who performs the miracle (2 Kings 2:1-22).


The items mentioned in last week’s lesson can remain. In addition, consider adding pictures of waterfalls and lakes as well as pictures of polluted water. Place pitchers of clean ice water and a pitcher of dirty water on a table.


When we shift our thinking to be more like Christ’s, we consider the needs of others and act to bring about change. One of those needs is clean water.

The goal is to help children understand that:

  • Not everyone has access to clean water
  • Christ calls his followers to help those in need.
  • This call includes providing water to drink.
  • In 2 Kings, God demonstrates this act of loving-kindness when he makes the bad water clean.
  • God enacted this kindness through a prophet.
  • God now enacts this kindness through us.

At the end of class today, the children will be able to:

  • Talk about how Elisha followed God and brought clean water to the people of Jericho.
  • Recognize that God now fulfills his loving-kindness through us.
  • Recite the memory verse.
  • Articulate that not everyone has access to clean water.
  • Recognize the need for clean water and sanitation around the world.
  • Decide if they would like to pray for Covenant World Relief and/or work together to raise funds for the work that Covenant World Relief is doing throughout the world to provide clean water and sanitation for poor, marginalized communities.


Pitcher of clean water, pitcher of dirty water, cups
Pictures of the clean water being made available through Project Blue pumps
Map of Holy Land to identify the location of Jericho
A candle and candle lighter

Water Experiment Stations
(Extra containers will be helpful to pour used water into)

Motion—Transparent liter bottles with water and lid

  • Encourage children to swirl the bottles and make a tornado.

Filtering—Transparent liter bottles with water and some sand or dirt, cloth, and bowl

  • Children can pour a little dirt or sand into the bottle.
  • Put on the lid and shake.
  • See if they can clean the water by pouring it through a cloth into a bowl
  • Ask if they think it’s clean enough to drink, but don’t let them drink it.

Siphoning—Two bowls, one with water, the other empty; a small diameter hose; and large plastic storage container

  • Encourage children to turn the storage container over and set the bowl with water on top of the upside down container.
  • Set the empty bowl on the table.
  • Put the hose between them. You might have to suck for a moment on the hose to get the water to run through it.

Damming—Large plastic storage container filled with four inches of sand, pitcher of water

  • Encourage children to create a dry lake in the sand with a dry river-bed coming out of one end.
  • Before pouring water into the lake, suggest that the children build a dam to hold the water in place.
  • Pour the water into the lake and see if the dam holds.


We have been on a journey called “Shift” where we have seen how God calls us to shift our thinking from serving ourselves to serving others. Today we will see that not everyone has access to clean water, and we will consider what God might want us to do about it.

Focus on God
Light a candle reminding children that this is a place of worship and God is with us.

Share in this short 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 us continue to center our hearts around God as we begin our time in prayer.

Give children an opportunity to share prayer requests.

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


Materials: Pitcher of dirty water, a pitcher of clean water, cups

Gather the children and show them the two pitchers of water.
Ask from which of the pitchers they would like a drink.

Give everyone a small cup of clean water to drink.
Ask how it tastes, what it feels like as we drink it.

Ask what might happen if they drink the dirty water.

Not everyone has access to clean water. Most people don’t have faucets in their homes. Women and girls often have to travel long distances to find clean water. But sometimes there is no clean water to be found and people get sick.

Clean water is valuable. We shouldn’t waste it.

Clean water saves lives. Providing clean water is a fast way to save lives.

Clean water makes people healthier. By eliminating waterborne diseases and promoting better sanitation, people lead healthier lives.

Clean water promotes fairness. Girls primarily have to gather water. Instead of having to travel long distances for clean water, girls can go to school with the boys.

Today we will look at two stories in the Bible that talk about water. We will see what God thinks about those who need clean water, and we will find out how we can help to provide clean water for those who don’t have it.


2 Kings 2:19-22
Explain that we read the Bible to spend time with God. Invite children to stretch out their hands with their palms up as you or another child prays: “Lord God, please help us to hear what you want us to hear, see what you want us to see, and remember what you want us to remember as we read your word.”

  1. Invite the children to read through the passage, taking turns reading one verse at a time. Children may pass if they don’t wish to read.
  2. Encourage the children to use art or craft supplies to create as they listen to the story or two or three more times.
  3. Ask them to reflect on the story. When they think about the story, what do they see, feel, hear, smell, or even taste?
  4. Let’s see what Jesus says about water. Read Matthew 10:42 and practice memorizing “Give a cup of cold water to a little one…” You may wish to add motions.


G=God’s Word: What is the story? (Give children an opportunity to express their understanding of the story). What questions would you 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 and 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: How do you feel about God? How would you like to respond to God? What would you like to say to God?


Explain: God now extends his loving-kindness to the world through us, just as he did through Elijah. The Evangelical Covenant Church is working to bring clean water to people who don’t have clean water by installing wells.

Show the pictures of the wells and ask if they can guess how they work.

Explain that as the handle is pumped, the water comes up out of the ground and out through the spigot. The spigot is made so that the handle of a bucket could fit over it. The bucket can also be on the ground as it is filled. These wells are providing clean water so that people don’t get sick.

Divide into two groups. Group one can work together to act out what it would be like to search for clean water but not find any and what it would be like to drink dirty water. Group two can work together to act out what it would be like to use a well and have clean water to drink.

Decide if they would like to pray for and/or work together to raise funds for Project Blue. For more information on Project Blue go to one or both of the following links:
http://covenantcompanion.com/2015/02/18/water-really-is-a-kingdom-issue-students-learn-from-project-blue/ or http://chic2015.org/project-blue/


Gather children around the candle again. As you light the candle, explain that the flame is something that is present in the light and the darkness. It 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 example: “Lord God, we thank you that you are always with us and that you always love us. It’s good to be with you. Thank you for clean water and for what we have learned today. Thank you for being with us and for teaching us through the Bible. Help us to remember what you have taught us today and to live it out when we leave. Amen.”