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A Disciple's Heart Leader Guide with Downloadable Toolkit: Growing in Love and Grace

A Disciple's Heart Leader Guide with Downloadable Toolkit: Growing in Love and Grace

by Justin LaRosa, James A. Harnish

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Discipleship in the Methodist tradition affirms that there is always more work for God to do in the human heart. A Disciple's Heart attempts to reclaim and, in a sense, reinterpret for today John Wesley’s understanding of this transformation of the heart, which he called “Christian perfection,” with the goal of equipping participants to continue to grow into the likeness of God’s love in Christ.

Designed to be used in a small group and, if desired, a congregation-wide emphasis, the Leader Guide equips group facilitators with tips for leading a group plus six ready-to-use session guides. An Online Toolkit of downloadable leader helps, such as sample e-mails, handouts, sermon outlines, images for promotion, and customizable media templates that can be modified for any congregation, are accessible with the purchase of the Leader Guide.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781630882600
Publisher: Abingdon Press
Publication date: 02/03/2015
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Sales rank: 346,439
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Justin LaRosa is a United Methodist Deacon and a licensed clinical social worker. He has served Hyde Park United Methodist Church in Tampa since 2005, first as the Minister of Discipleship and now as the Director/Minister of The Portico, a community gathering space where people come together for conversation, connection, and community change. Justin has co-authored three studies for Abingdon Press: A Disciple’s Path: A Guide for United Methodists; A Disciple’s Heart: Growing in Love and Grace; and Sent: Delivering the Gift of Hope at Christmas. He and his wife Caroline have a daughter, Isabella, and a son, Russell.

The Rev. Dr. James A. Harnish retired after 43 years of pastoral ministry in the Florida Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. He was the founding pastor of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Orlando and served for 22 years as the Senior Pastor of Hyde Park United Methodist Church in Tampa. He is the author of A Disciple’s Heart: Growing in Love and Grace, Earn. Save. Give. Wesley’s Simple Rules for Money, and Make a Difference: Following Your Passion and Finding Your Place to Serve. He was a consulting editor for The New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible and a contributor to The Wesley Study Bible. He and his wife, Martha, have two married daughters and five grandchildren in Florida and South Carolina.

Read an Excerpt

A Disciple's Heart - Leader Guide with Downloadable Toolkit

By Justin LaRosa

Abingdon Press

Copyright © 2015 Abingdon Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-63088-260-0


Session 1

We Do We Go From Here?

Mark 1:16-20

Session at a Glance—60 or 90 minutes (add 5 minutes if including introductions)

Preparation (In Advance)

Note: All handouts are included in the Leader Toolkit (download from, or see the flash drive in the Leader Kit).

• If you did not have an introductory session:

* Have participants register in advance for the class. Sample reminder e-mails are included in the Leader Toolkit.

* Gather materials for permanent name tags or tent cards in advance (reuse these each week).

* Distribute copies of the Daily Workbook and Companion Reader at least one week prior to Session 1 and instruct participants to read and complete Week 1 in the Daily Workbook and read through Chapter 1 in the Companion Reader before the group session.

* Read "Overview of A Disciple's Path " in the Daily Workbook (pages 9–13).

* Review and make copies of the "Spiritual Practices" handout included in the Leader Toolkit.

• Review the overall study and session objectives (see Welcome / Objectives).

• Complete the readings and questions for Week 1 in the Daily Workbook and read Chapter 1 in the Companion Reader. Highlight the selections from the Companion Reader that you feel are particularly helpful for this week's lesson.

• Read the Scripture passages assigned for the week:

* Day 1: John 1:35-42 and Mark 1:16-20

* Day 2: Matthew 5:43-48

* Day 3: 1 Peter 1:13-16

* Day 4: 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

* Day 5: Psalm 84

• Review the "Twenty-two Holy Club Questions" (pages 85–86).

• If you are having a 90-minute session, make copies of the "Lectio DivinaSession 1" handout for participants (see Leader Toolkit) and review the exercise.

• Consider whether you will read in unison the prayer of Saint Richard of Chichester or choose to pray a spontaneous prayer, select a prayer from the Daily Workbook, or invite a participant to pray (ask in advance). You also might consider having a sign-up sheet for opening and closing prayers.

Note: Slide numbers throughout the following outline refer to the PowerPoint presentation for the session if you choose to use it.

Welcome / Objectives (2 minutes, slides 1–4)

• If you did not have an Introductory Session, invite participants to sign in and make a name tag. If you are seated around a table, tent cards are another option. If you had an Introductory Session, distribute the reusable name tags or tent cards (slide 1).

• Provide a warm welcome to the group. If you did not have an introductory session, briefly introduce yourself.

• Provide for the first time (if you did not have an Introductory Session) or review the dates and times for the group sessions, four basic rules (class covenant), and any other housekeeping items (slide 2).

1. Be on time so we can achieve the session's objectives.

2. Complete the readings and activities and come prepared. If you don't participate, you'll get so much less out of it. So will everyone else!

3. Contact us if you are unable to attend class. If you know you will miss more than one session, let's discuss if there may be a better time for you to take this class.

4. Confidentiality. What is said in the group is kept confidential.

• Share the overall study and session objectives (slides 3 and 4).

Opening Prayer (1 minute, slide 5)

• Explain that you will open and close each session with prayer and Scripture. Consider inviting group members to sign up for opening and closing prayers for future group sessions.

• Read the prayer of Saint Richard of Chichester, or you may choose instead to offer a spontaneous prayer, read a prayer from the Daily Workbook, or have a participant pray (ask in advance).

Thanks be to thee, my Lord Jesus Christ,
for all the benefits thou hast given me,
for all the pains and insults thou hast borne for me.
O most merciful redeemer, friend and brother,
may I know thee more clearly,
love thee more dearly,
and follow thee more nearly, day by day.
—Saint Richard of Chichester (1197–1253)

Introductions (5 minutes, slide 6)

If you had an Introductory Session, skip to the Biblical Foundation. If you did not have an Introductory Session:

• Ask participants to share their names, two facts about themselves (this can be anything they want to share about themselves, including how they found their way to this church), one hope they have for the small group experience, and one question that they have about A Disciple's Heart. If you are not using the PowerPoint, write the list on a board or chart to help participants remember what to share:

* Name

* Two personal facts

* One hope for this experience

* One question about the study

• Set the example by going first, giving a brief response.

• As participants share their hopes, have someone record them.

Note: If you have fewer than ten people, do the introductions together. If your group is larger than ten people, you may want to break into small groups for sharing in order to keep things moving. This part of the session can take a long time if it isn't kept to a specific time frame.

Biblical Foundation (2 minutes, slide 7)

• Read aloud Mark 1:16-20, or have a participant read it.

As Jesus passed alongside the Galilee Sea, he saw two brothers, Simon and Andrew, throwing fishing nets into the sea, for they were fishermen. "Come, follow me," he said," and I'll show you how to fish for people." Right away, they left their nets and followed him. After going a little farther, he saw James and John, Zebedee's sons, in their boat repairing the fishing nets. At that very moment he called them. They followed him, leaving their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired workers.

• Provide a brief summary of the passage. Example: Jesus calls the first disciples and asks them to drop their nets, which represent their livelihood, and follow him.

• Suggested talking points (as time permits):

* Notice that Jesus called normal people to become his disciples.

* He promised that he would show them how to fish for people.

* He asked them to come on a journey with him.

Contemplative Practice (20 minutes—for 90-minute session, slide 8)

• Distribute copies of the "Lectio DivinaSession 1" handout.

• Explain the practice of Lectio Divina using the following notes adapted from M. Basil Pennington's book Lectio Divina: Renewing the Ancient Practice of Praying the Scriptures.

* Lectio Divina is an ancient practice of prayerful meditation of Scripture in which you listen to what Christ has to say. It comes from the Latin and means "divine reading." Its purpose is not for Bible study or intellectual understanding of the text. Rather, it is primarily for the soul. It is a spiritual practice that is done to get in touch with the Spirit of God. Possibly one of the earliest forms of prayer, Lectio Divina seeks to personalize the Scripture. It is a practical way for Christ to communicate with us and cultivate our relationship with him.

* Lectio Divina can be done in a group or individually. Though it may be done in different ways, there are generally four movements or steps.

1. Lectio: A slow, meditative reading of Scripture.

2. Meditatio: Thinking or reflecting on the word or phrase. (Why did it stand out? Why did it strike your heart?)

3. Oratio: Responding to the word or phrase. Tell God how you feel and what you think.

4. Contemplatio: Resting in God in silence—without words, thoughts, or images.

* Specify time allotments for each movement (e.g., 5 minutes each), informing the group that you will give verbal cues when it is time to move into the next movement.

* Offer the group the option to journal during the meditatio and oratio movements.

* Suggest that group members use their word or phrase for the contemplatio movement, gently repeating it when their mind wanders.

* Select one or more readers for the first, second, and third readings of the Scripture. (You may invite one person to read the passage three times, or you can have three different readers to read the Scripture once each.) Inform the reader(s) to read the passage aloud very, very slowly.

• Lead the group through the steps of the exercise, using Mark 1:16-20 as the Scripture. (They may follow along using the streamlined instructions provided on the handout.) Instruct them to begin by saying a silent prayer, believing that God is going to speak to them.

1. (Lectio) Have the reader(s) read aloud Mark 1:16-20 three times, pausing between each reading for a thirty- to sixty-second period of silence (Note: You may indicate when it is time for each reading to begin by saying, "First reading," "Second reading," and "Third Reading.")

* During the first reading, participants are to listen for context.

* During the second and third readings, they are to listen intently as they wait for a word or phrase from the Scripture to touch their heart. At that point, they are to stop and write the word or phrase they have received from God on the handout.

* Let them know that it is normal for the mind to wander and to have racing thoughts.

2. (Meditatio) Instruct participants to say their word or phrase to themselves and begin to reflect on it.

* Tell participants to think about why that word or phrase struck them, asking themselves: Why did it strike my heart? How is it pertinent to my life?

4. (Oratio) Invite participants to respond to the word or phrase from their heart. They can tell God their feelings either by journaling (on the handout or in a journal) or talking silently to God.

5. (Contemplatio) Invite participants to rest in God in silence.

* Tell participants that if their mind begins to wander, they may use the word or phrase God gave to center themselves again.

• Invite participants to briefly record a few reflections on the experience at the bottom of the handout (optional).

Holy Club Questions (15 or 20 minutes, slide 9)

• Inform the group of the purpose of this section of the group session, which is to allow participants to experience the ways in which the members of the Oxford Holy Club were in covenant together and to allow the Spirit to shape and mold them through accountability. More information on the beginning of these small groups in Oxford is available in the Daily Workbook and Companion Reader.

* Refer particpants to the "Twenty-two Holy Club Questions" (pages 117-118 in the Daily Workbook).

* Explain that in Sessions 2–6, you will break into pairs or groups of three, and that each pair/group will discuss at least one (or more) of the questions. These pairs/groups also will serve as prayer partners for the week.

* In advance, determine if the pairs/groups will be gender specific to mirror an accountability partner or group and if the pairs/groups will remain the same throughout the study or change each week. Each week, choose one to three questions in advance for the groups/pairs to discuss. If choosing just one question, you might write each question on a strip of paper, place them in a basket, and have a group member draw a question at random.

Daily Workbook Exploration (30 or 35 minutes, slides 10–11)

Part 1: Explore Christian perfection and discipleship in the Wesleyan tradition. (slide 10)

Christian Perfection Talking Points and Discussion Questions:

• Wesley discovered that God's heart-transforming work is not a static or stationary thing. We do not "get saved" and then sit around waiting to go to heaven.

• Discipleship in the Wesleyan tradition is always going somewhere. There is always more work for God to do in the human heart. Salvation is not a vaccination that protects us in this life until we die and enter the life to come. It is a lifelong journey of heart transformation by which the Spirit of God is at work to form us into people who love God with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength and who love others as we have been loved by God.

• Wesley called this process of heart transformation "Christian perfection" or "being made perfect in love." He identified it as "the grand depositum which God has lodged with the people called Methodists" and saw it as God's mission for the early Methodists. He called them to a methodical practice of spiritual disciplines and service through which the Spirit of God would be at work in their lives to restore the image of God within, to renew their hearts in love for God and love for others, and to empower them to become the agents of God's transformation in the world.

1. What strikes you about the discussion of Christian perfection?

2. Have you thought of salvation as a lifelong journey or as a moment in time? (Ask group members to discuss their views.)

3. How have spiritual practices restored—or how are they currently restoring—the image of God within you?

Discipleship in the Wesleyan Tradition Talking Points and Discussion Questions:

Discipleship ...

• Begins as a response to a gnawing, soul-level hunger for a closer relationship with God.

• Involves a personal commitment to become a more faithful follower of Jesus Christ.

• Is formed by specific spiritual and personal disciplines through which the Spirit of God works to continually form us into the likeness of Christ.

• Is lived in community with other disciples who encourage our growth and hold us accountable to our spiritual disciplines.

• Moves us into the world in loving service to others, particularly to people in need.

When and how have you experienced a gnawing hunger for a closer relationship with Christ?

Invite group members to share a way in which they are serving (or have served) that is making a difference in the lives of others and that is meaningful to them.

Part 2: Review questions from the Daily Workbook.

• Have participants break into small groups to discuss and share their answers to selected questions from the "Your Reflections" section of the Daily Workbook. Choose in advance the questions you would like the groups to discuss. Here are some recommendations (from Week 1:Day 2):

1. Are you going on to perfection?

2. Do you expect to be made perfect in love in this life?

3. Are you earnestly striving after perfection in love?

Part 3: Identify a next step. (slide 11)

• If you did not have an Introductory Session, pass out copies of the "Spiritual Practices" handout, which outlines the spiritual practices of prayer, Scripture meditation, financial generosity, invitational evangelism, corporate worship, small group community, and gifts-based service. Invite group members to review the relationship stages and then write the relationship stage that best describes where they are in each spiritual practice, along with a next step for growth. Remind them that there are seasons in which different practices seem to ebb and flow. You may do this in the full group or in small groups.

• If you did have an Introductory Session, distribute the "Spiritual Practices" handouts that the participants completed during that session. Ask them to choose one practice from the list that they could engage more fully and consider how they might take the next step they identified in the coming week. Invite participants to share their ideas with the group.

Looking Ahead to Next Week (5 minutes, slide 12)

• Tell participants that the focus of Week 2 is the way of salvation, grace, and the meaning of the sacraments.

• Instruct participants to complete Week 2 in the Daily Workbook and read Chapter 2 in the Companion Reader (if possible) before the next session. Emphasize that completing the material will enrich the next session for everyone.

• Remind participants to bring their workbooks and Bibles to the group session next week and to be praying for their prayer partners from the Holy Club Questions groupings.

• Ask if there are any questions.

Take-home Message / Closing Prayer (5 minutes, slide 13)

• Have participants stand in a circle.

• Ask each participant to share his or her take-home message—the one thing that spoke most loudly or clearly from today's session.

• Offer a closing prayer—the one below or a spontaneous prayer of your own. Consider asking for a volunteer to lead opening and closing prayers next week.


Excerpted from A Disciple's Heart - Leader Guide with Downloadable Toolkit by Justin LaRosa. Copyright © 2015 Abingdon Press. 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.

Table of Contents


How to Use This Leader Guide,
Helpful Hints for Leaders,
Introductory Session: An Overview of A Disciple's Path Luke 10:25-28,
Session 1: Where Do We Go From Here? Mark 1:16-20,
Session 2: Walking the Way of Salvation Ephesians 2:1-9,
Session 3: By the Power of the Spirit Acts 1:1-11; John 14:1-21,
Session 4: The Company of the Committed Luke 6:12-16,
Session 5: On Fire with Holy Love 2 Timothy 1:1-7,
Session 6: All the Way to Heaven Philippians 3:7-14,
Twenty-two Holy Club Questions,
List of Weekly Scriptures,
Using A Disciple's Heart in a Church-wide Initiative,
Leader Toolkit Contents Handouts,

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