This We Believe: The Core of Wesleyan Faith and Practice (Leader's Guide)

This We Believe: The Core of Wesleyan Faith and Practice (Leader's Guide)

This We Believe: The Core of Wesleyan Faith and Practice (Leader's Guide)

This We Believe: The Core of Wesleyan Faith and Practice (Leader's Guide)

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Leader guide for eight-week small group study to help you deepen your understanding of United Methodist core beliefs. This We Believe: The Core of Wesleyan Faith and Practice by William H. Willimon For John Wesley, the Bible is the joyfully consistent testimony of God’s never-ending grace and ever-seeking love. Likewise, studying the Bible is more than merely knowing what Scripture says; it is also about living every day as a child of God. Beginning with the Core Terms found in The Wesley Study Bible, author Bishop William H. Willimon systematically lays out key Wesleyan tenets of faith so that you will have a fresh way to hear God’s voice, share in God’s grace, and become more like Jesus Christ. Let this book be your trusted companion to the NRSV version of The Wesley Study Bible as you grow to love God with a warmed heart and serve God with active hands. Order the separate book for each participant in a small group #9781426706899

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781426708237
Publisher: Abingdon Press
Publication date: 05/01/2010
Edition description: Leader's Guide ed.
Pages: 18
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.05(d)

About the Author

Will Willimon is a preacher and teacher of preachers. He is a United Methodist bishop (retired) and serves as Professor of the Practice of Christian Ministry and Director of the Doctor of Ministry program at Duke Divinity School, Durham, North Carolina. For twenty years he was Dean of the Chapel at Duke University. A 1996 Baylor University study named him among the Twelve Most Effective Preachers in the English speaking world. The Pew Research Center found that Will was one of the most widely read authors among Protestant clergy in 2005. His quarterly Pulpit Resource is used by thousands of pastors throughout North America, Canada, and Australia. In 2021 he gave the prestigious Lyman Beecher Lectures on Preaching at Yale Divinity School. Those lectures became the book, Preachers Dare: Speaking for God which is the inspiration for his ninetieth book, Listeners Dare: Hearing God in the Sermon.

Feeling most at home behind a pulpit, Will Willimon’s deepest calling is to be a preacher and truth-teller of Jesus Christ. He is Professor of the Practice of Christian Ministry at Duke University Divinity School and retired Bishop of the North Alabama Conference of The United Methodist Church, after serving for 20 years as faculty member and Dean of the Chapel at Duke University. He lives in Durham, North Carolina. Will Willimon has published many books, including his preaching subscription service on, Pulpit Resource, and Fear of the Other: No Fear in Love, both published by Abingdon Press.

Read an Excerpt

This We Believe Leaders Guide

The Core of Wesleyan Faith and Practice
By M. Kathryn Armistead

Abingdon Press

Copyright © 2010 The United Methodist Publishing House
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4267-0823-7

Chapter One


This We Believe: The Core of Wesleyan Faith and Practice is an eight-week study for adult groups. Its purpose is to provide participants with information about fundamental Methodist beliefs in order to help them live more faithfully as disciples of Jesus Christ. This study is designed to give guidance for interpreting the Scripture within a Methodist/Wesleyan framework, which will help people live the abundant life that Jesus promises. Many of these basic beliefs are spelled out in the Core Terms found in The Wesley Study Bible.

As group leader, you facilitate each session using this leader's guide. You will need a copy of This We Believe: The Core of Wesleyan Faith and Practice and, for best results, a Wesley Study Bible for each participant, and a chart or board with appropriate writing instruments for group activities.

Throughout the book, Bishop Willimon refers to the Core Terms that appear as sidebars within the notes of The Wesley Study Bible. In the book, the Core Terms are noted with the page number on which they appear in the Bible. They are meant to help people understand the basics of our faith. For your convenience, they are also listed by biblical book and in alphabetical order in the back of the WSB. Just as John Wesley sought to speak as plainly as possible, these brief explanations will help people apply their faith to their daily lives.

You, as leader, might want to make a list of the Core Terms referred to in each chapter and read them ahead of time. They will be a valued resource for you as you study, plan, and lead the sessions. They will also help you keep the discussion focused.

Because no two groups are alike, this guide has been designed to give you flexibility in tailoring the sessions to your needs. You may use the following suggested format, or adapt it as you wish to meet the schedule and needs of your particular group.

Suggested Format (40–50 minutes) Sharing Prayer Concerns (5–6 minutes) Opening Prayer (1–2 minutes) Icebreaker (10 minutes) Scripture Reading (3–5 minutes) Group Discussion (20–25 minutes) Closing Prayer (1–2 minutes)

Here are a few helpful hints for preparing and leading your group sessions:

Read the corresponding chapter in This We Believe: The Core of Wesleyan Faith and Practice to the group session. Make note of the scripture references and core terms.

Be the first person at the session. Arrive at least five minutes early, so you can welcome persons as they come in. Practice gracious hospitality. Begin and end on time.

Introduce guests, help them feel welcome, and keep the business of the group short.

Create a climate of participation, encouraging individuals to participate in ways that are comfortable for them. Some people are uncomfortable talking, so occasionally let them write their responses. If no one answers at first, don't be afraid of a little silence. Count to seven silently; then say something such as, "Would anyone like to go first?" If no one responds, venture an answer yourself. (Prepare your answer ahead of time.) Then ask for comments and other responses. Model openness as you share with the group. Group members will follow your example. If you share only at a surface level, everyone else will follow suit. If you want a richer discussion, you need to share at a deeper level.

Be aware, however, that it is natural for the conversation to begin at a surface level and then move more deeply as the session goes on.

Draw out participants without asking them to share what they are unwilling to share. Make eye contact with someone and say something such as, "How about someone else?" Encourage multiple responses before moving on. If you want more conversation around a response, ask something like, "Has that ever happened to anyone else?"

Consider giving your answer first and then just going around the circle if you have trouble getting responses from the group.

Avoid asking, "Why?" or "Why do you believe that?" Instead consider asking or giving an example to illustrate the point. Affirm others' responses with comments such as "Great," or "Thanks," or "I like that"—especially if this is the first time someone has spoken during the group session. Steer the conversation away from argument. If you feel things heating up, say something like, "You seem to feel strongly about this."

Give everyone a chance to talk, but keep the conversation moving. Moderate to prevent a few individuals from doing all of the talking. Please note that some people will not talk unless you call on them.

Monitor your own contributions. If you are doing most of the talking, back off.

Remember that you do not have to have all the answers. Your job is to keep the discussion going and encourage participation.

Before each group session, pray for God's presence, guidance, and power throughout the study. Pray for your group members by name and for what God may do in their lives.

It takes a dedicated leader to make any group session go well. Thank you for your commitment. Blessings on your ministry.


Sharing Prayer Concerns (5–6 minutes) Opening Prayer (1–2 minutes)

Dear God, we really want to know you better, but we confess that sometimes it's just easier to turn away. Thank you for your faithfulness to us even when we are not as faithful as we need to be. But even when we turn from you, you are there pursuing us with your ever-seeking love. Be with those persons we've mentioned. Let them feel the presence of your Holy Spirit. But help us also do our part to help and comfort them. Now, we turn our hearts to you. Touch us, inspire us, lead us so that we might see just a glimpse of your glory. In Jesus' name, amen.

Introduction of Study (7–10 minutes)

To the leader: Take a few minutes to introduce this study at the first session.

John Wesley was the founder of the Methodist movement, begun in England in the eighteenth century. We, as United Methodists, are part of that heritage. For Wesley, the Bible is the joyfully consistent testimony of God's never-ending grace and ever-seeking love. Likewise, studying the Bible is more than merely knowing what Scripture says; it is also about living every day as a child of God. You might want to talk about why it is important to know what we as Christians believe.

Icebreaker (10 minutes)

Trust is fundamental to any relationship, including our relationship with God. When you were a child, who was the person you trusted the most? Share a time when you trusted someone with a secret. What happened? On a scale of one to ten (with one being low and ten being high), how trusting are you as a person? Take a few minutes and share with the group.

Scripture Reading (3–5 minutes) Mark 10:17-31

Group Discussion (20–25 minutes)

1. People put their faith in all kinds of ordinary things, for example, car brakes, the availability of candy bars, and gravity. Share a time when you put your faith in someone or a time when someone put his or her faith in you. How easy is it for you to put faith in God's extraordinary love for you?

2. Who have been some of your faithful guides—a spouse, teacher, coworker, pastor, friend, child? How did they show you what it means to love God and neighbor? What did they do, and what did you learn from them?

3. Do you agree with Bishop Willimon's statement that "our God is so wonderfully complex, dynamic, mysterious, and counter to whom we expect God to be that you need help from your friends to think about the Trinity"? In your opinion, if there is value in group study, what is it? Share your most memorable group experience.

4. Bishop Willimon writes that Jesus never said, "Think about me!" He said, "Follow me!" What is the difference? Are you ready to follow Jesus more closely? What step could you take today that would lead you toward living a more grace-filled life?

5. Where do you need God's grace today? With whom do you need to share God's love today? Think of a relationship in your life that needs work. What can you do to let the love of God show through you to that person?

Closing Prayer (1–2 minutes)

Dear God, thank you for loving us and trusting us. Now empower us to follow you more faithfully. In Jesus' name, amen.


Sharing Prayer Concerns (5–6 minutes) Opening Prayer (1–2 minutes)

Dear God, we thank you for showing us who you are in Jesus Christ. Everything we know about you comes from his life, death, and resurrection. And thank you for your generous gift of grace that helps us offer real and authentic prayers to you. We celebrate your power, justice, and righteousness; but today we want to especially thank you for your active, initiating, and ever-seeking love. We know that in the tough times, we can count on your promises to heal, guide, reconcile, and sustain us. Bless those we have mentioned, and let us now lift our hearts and turn our eyes upon you. In Jesus' name, amen.

Icebreaker (10 minutes)

Some people think of God as large, distant, and invisible. Others see God as a version of Santa Claus—perhaps even with a white beard. But in all cases, every one of us has some picture of God in our heads. Although we can't really see God, Jesus was fully human, a Jew born in Bethlehem. When you picture Jesus, who do you see? In your mind's eye, what does he look like? What color are his eyes, his hair? What is he wearing? What do his hands look like? Take a few minutes and share with the group.

Scripture Reading (3–5 minutes) 2 Corinthians 5:19; 1 John 4:7-21; Luke 15

Group Discussion (20–25 minutes)

1. Share a time that you lost something so valuable that you would not stop looking until you found it. If God never gives up on us, what does it say about God's active, initiating, seeking love? Is there someone in your life that you've been tempted to give up on?

2. According to Bishop Willimon, if God's love is more interesting, active, expansive, and determined than any human love, where would you like to see it in action? Where is God's love needed today in your life, your church, your neighborhood? If a person's relationships are shaped by love, what are the characteristics of those loving relationships? For example, how do you listen, how do you show you care, how do you set aside time for that person?

3. Understanding God as Father can be a problem for people who have had abusive or neglectful human fathers. Are there other ways to talk about God that might be more appropriate for those people? What was your father like, and how is God both like and unlike your dad?

4. John Wesley had a life-changing experience at Aldersgate. There, according to his own words, his heart was "strangely warmed." Share a time when you had a heartwarming experience. Share what happened to you or someone you know when she or he had a life-changing experience. How old were you? Where were you? What were the long-term consequences?

5. Most waiters and waitresses say the worst crowd to serve is the Sunday-after-church crowd. Why do you suppose this is? How could you show God's love to a stranger or family member today?

Closing Prayer (1–2 minutes)

Dear God, we praise you for giving us freedom to choose, and we pray that we find more ways to say yes to your ways. Be with us now as we depart to be your hands and feet in the world. In Jesus' name, amen.


Sharing Prayer Concerns (5–6 minutes) Opening Prayer (1–2 minutes)

Dear God, we praise you for being the kind of God who finds us when we are lost, who redeems us when we sin, who restores us when we are broken, and who loves us when we are unlovely. Thank you for sending Jesus, who gave his life for us and our salvation. Because of Jesus, we can have eternal life beginning right now, here. We pray for those we have mentioned. Provide for their needs, and help us do our part to bring health and wholeness to our world. In Jesus' name, amen.

Icebreaker (10 minutes)

Share a time when someone made you feel that you were special. What did that person do? How did you respond? What have you done this week to make someone else feel special? Share a time when someone being with you made a big difference.

Scripture Reading (3–5 minutes) Colossians 2:6-19; Romans 8:18-25; Matthew 6:9-15

Group Discussion (20–25 minutes)

1. Share a time when you had to be present for a special event. Why was it so important for you to make a personal appearance? Jesus is God's personal appearance. What real difference does it make to you that Jesus lived, died, and was resurrected? How is the world different as a result?

2. According to John Wesley, Jesus suffered and died for our sins, and through these great acts, our capacity to love God, neighbor, and self is restored. What are the characteristics of God's love for us, for example, unconditional, merciful, patient, ever-seeking, eternal, freely given? Make your own list. How does your love align with God's love for you? Who do you need to love more like God loves? At home, work, school, play?

3. Before United Methodist pastors are ordained, they have to answer a series of questions before the Board of Ordained Ministry. One of these questions is, What does it mean to say, "Jesus is Lord"? If you had to stand before your friends and answer that question, what would you say? How would you begin? How is Jesus the Lord of your life today? Does that mean making any changes in your life?

4. Share a time when you tried a quick fix. What happened? What did you learn? The disciples wanted quick and easy answers too. How did Jesus respond to them?

5. Share your favorite story in the Bible about Jesus, or share your favorite story that Jesus told. What does it say about Jesus? What kinds of people were in his audience: the true believers, the skeptics, the ignorant, the powerful, the outcast, and so on? If you had been there, what group would you have been in? Do you think that Jesus had a sense of humor, a sense of wonder, and a sense of amusement? Do you think that Jesus was savvy about people? Why or why not? What kinds of qualities did Jesus value in his disciples?

Closing Prayer (1–2 minutes)

Dear God, let us depart from this place refreshed and renewed, with a right spirit within us. To you be the glory and honor. In Jesus' name, amen.


Sharing Prayer Concerns (5–6 minutes) Opening Prayer (1–2 minutes)

Dear God, we confess that most of the time we are in too much of a hurry. Help us slow down and focus on you for these next moments. Watch over us and our loved ones. Be with those we have mentioned who need a special word from you today. May the dove of your Spirit rest upon us as we discuss and learn more about you. In Jesus' name, amen.

Icebreaker (10 minutes)

Share a time when you were in so much of a hurry that you forgot or overlooked something. What are some ways that you relax?

Scripture Reading (3–5 minutes) Mark 1:9-11; Acts 2; Luke 4:14-30

Group Discussion (20–25 minutes)

1. In John 3, Jesus refers to the Spirit of God as the wind. We have all been out in the wind, perhaps on a boat, in a car with the windows down, on a hill flying a kite as a kid, or in the eye of a storm. Share a time when you were in the wind. What was it like? How is the wind you experienced both like and unlike the Holy Spirit?


Excerpted from This We Believe Leaders Guide by M. Kathryn Armistead Copyright © 2010 by The United Methodist Publishing House. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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