Like many churches these days, we have something called “home groups” where smaller numbers of Christians meet in homes about once a week for fellowship, discussion, study, and prayer. Our home group just finished a video-supplemented study called Gospel in Life: Grace Changes Everything by Tim Keller. It is an eight-session study on how the gospel changes every aspect of life: our life purpose, our motivation for living, our hearts, our sins and idols, our friendships, our evangelistic mission, our work, our service, and our hope.
From the back cover of the study guide:
Gospel in Life is an intensive eight-session course on the gospel and how it is lived out in all of life–first in your heart, then in your community, and then out into the world. Session 1 opens the course with the theme of the city: your home now, the world that is. Session 8 closes the course with the theme of the eternal city: your heavenly home, the world that is to come. In between, you will look at how the gospel changes your heart (session 2 and 3), changes your community (sessions 4 and 5), and changes how you live in the world (sessions 6 and 7). This study guide contains Bible studies, discussion questions on the DVD, and home studies. The home studies consist of a series of readings, quotations, exercises, questions, and projects to help delve deeper into the topic of each session. This guide also includes an extensive section of notes to help leaders prepare.
Our group spend quite a number of weeks going through this study. One of the reasons is children. We found that each session requires about 1.5 to 2 hours to adequately work through. Young kids (and their babysitters) have a hard time putting in that kind of time in the evening. So we tried to divide each session over a couple of weeks. Another reason is that over the course of the study, in God’s providence many of the people who began the study had to drop out at the same time many others were joining the group. So about half-way through we backed up to review for the newcomers. It turned out that reviewing proved profitable for those of us who had read and discussed the topics before.
I’ve been a home group leader for many years, and I really appreciated this particular study because it has gently prodded everyone to look more deeply at our own hearts, our participation in spiritual community, and our common grace community. And not only that, but to act on what we’ve learned. The discussion questions and home studies have challenged all of us to take biblical truth and apply it. This is the first study I’ve seen that has actually mobilized a home group into action motivated by love for God and neighbor. In my mind, that is the most important way that Gospel in Life is unique.
I also appreciate that this study is video-supplemented rather than video-based. Each session has a 10-12 minute video teaching segment, but the bulk of time for each session is devoted to group Bible study and discussion about the Bible passage, the teaching segment, the home study, and personal and corporate application.
It seems to me that much of Tim Keller’s characteristic thoughts on theology and ministry are introduced in Gospel in Life. For example, Session 2: Heart (Three Ways to Live) covers topics Keller explored in The Prodigal God, and Session 3: Idolatry (The Sin Beneath the Sin) covers topics in his book Counterfeit Gods. Other sessions condense themes from Every Good Endeavor, Generous Justice, and Ministries of Mercy. Therefore this study can serve not only as an excellent Christian discipleship resource for realigning home groups that may need rejuvenation, but also as an introduction to the thought of one of today’s most influential pastors/authors/theologians/missiologists.
Gospel in Life is the best resource I know of for reorienting church home groups toward believing and living for Jesus Christ.