This study series is designed to help those brothers and sisters who have been counted out of our membership to come back to the fold. The focus of the series is helping them be reconciled to God clearly again. True restoration occurs when one is reconciled to the one who restores. Those who help the returning Christian act like “bridges” to reconcile a person with God.
Summary & guidelines of restoration process:
The returning Christian is encouraged to have a good talk (say, over lunch, dinner or coffee) with a disciple committed to helping them in their restoration. It is important for the disciple to express willingness to help the returning Christian. It is helpful also that the present staff member get with them separately.
Note: It is not necessary for the returning Christian to be 100% sure of their decision to come back to the fold. It is also not necessary to give any challenges at this point. What is needed is a willingness to get help, or to at least do some spiritual activities towards becoming strong again.
Before starting the series, the returning Christian is encouraged to attend at least one meeting of the body (either Sunday or devo) to be able to feel more comfortable in a church setting. This will also affirm our support as a family.
Each returning Christian will go through the following studies, not necessarily in this order:
The Restoration Study Series:
1. “The Meaning of Falling Away” – to clarify spiritual drift and its end
2. “The Purpose of Restoration” – to show how faith is the focus of a spiritual comeback
3. “Restoration to God” – to show how a deep understanding of God prevents spiritual drift
4. “The meaning of Surrender” – to explain the meaning of biblical surrender
5. “Restoration to the Family of God” – to prepare a person to return to the family
The First Principles series: not all the studies, but at least Discipleship, Sin, and Church. There may also be some questions regarding the other studies or the former First Principles series. This is more to deal with doctrinal issues.
Character studies. The BT leader must personally do at least one study based on the weakness of the returning Christian.
In addition to the studies above, the teaching committee has also drawn up a special study for the Christians who are helping the one coming back. This is helpful to do for the Bible Talk, HC, or d-group the returning Christian will be part of.
As the returning Christian goes through the studies, particularly the “Restoration to the Family of God”, it may become evident that he must be reconciled to certain brothers and sisters who may have hurt the returning Christian or whom the returning Christian may have hurt. For this purpose, care and sensitivity must taken into consideration in the communication of such hurts or other issues. In each case, it must be made clear that the intention is not to assign blame but to achieve healing and forgiveness. For some, there may be need to contact other sectors or provincial churches. For those who have been shunned in the past, it is best that the staff member involved previously be talked to. In the spirit of Matt 18, it is encouraged that talks be as private as possible. When needed, a more mature Christian may act as mediator for certain sensitive cases.
During the course of the restoration process and more so as the announcement of restoration draws near, the returning Christian is encouraged to spend a longer and more meaningful time with God daily. This will be a time of reflection and gratitude, as well as surrender to God.
Members of the Bible Talk should be involved in the studies, or at least spend some time with the returning Christian. In some ways, they should also “count the cost” of helping the one coming back to become strong.
The restoration will be announced to the sector at service or devo. We encourage the sector/region to make it a special time. The two usual questions (“Do you believe that Jesus is…” and “What is your good confession?”) are not necessary. Also, it is not necessary to say “We restore you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” Any simple announcement to glorify God and welcome back the Christian is enough. A good practice is for the returning Christian to read a letter to the group. Christians can be creative on the sharing portion. Perhaps a testimony or two from those instrumental in the restoration process can share how the heart of the returning Christian has changed.
Apart from these guidelines, we encourage the staff and those closest to our returning brothers and sisters to rely on the wisdom of God. Jesus values each one of his sheep. It is vital that we treat each restoration with soberness and spirituality, imitating the Chief Shepherd.
#1 The Meaning of Falling Away Purpose: To explain the biblical meaning of falling away and how it relates to a returning Christian
Opening Question: What do you think it means to fall away?
In the last few years, we have seen the need to clarify our teaching about falling away. At the same time, we seek to refine the different processes involved with counting out members in keeping with biblical principles. Whatever possible problems we may have had in the past, it should be clear that:
The Bible describes falling away as a negative reaction to God which ultimately results in losing salvation.
Those who were “fallen away” ” (as we use to characterize those who are no longer part of the church) before may or may not have lost their relationship with God. Yet, leaving the church is, for the most part, considered part of the process of “falling away”. This is why each one who has left our membership is our concern.
Each person who has left the church may have different issues to deal with. However, it is important that they deal first with their relationship with God before being concerned about people.
We acknowledge that each person is different. Because of this, a returning Christian may need to have extra studies, or extra talks with people depending on their need. So, while we are united in our theology, the actual length and procedures for restoration may vary from person to person. But there are very basic, central issues which are common to all and these are discussed in the Restoration Studies.
Read the MMCC statement on falling away (available at www.ucd.net) and discuss and questions that may arise.
Give the Falling Away FAQ as an assignment to read at home.
Read the Falling Away FAQ.
Have a Quiet Time with a Christian.
Optional verses: What happens when we rebel against God?
#2 The Purpose of Restoration Purpose: to understand the meaning and purpose of restoration
Restoration as a process in church is difficult to define in the Bible. However, we do know that each person is needs restored back to God. Just like a shepherd, God wants to pull us back towards him (Ps 23:3-4), restoring our soul. In the gospels, Paul exhorts the Galatians to restore someone gently (Gal 6:1-2). Just from these two verses, we see some very important principles.
In some ways, all Christians need restoration (or strengthening).
God understands that some of his sheep can stray away more than others.
Restoration is always a spiritual direction towards God.
Restoration is always done within a spiritual family setting.
Opening questions (better to write answers on paper):
Write down the three top reasons why you left the church/ were counted out.
In your opinion, what were your main sins when you left, or before your left?
Write down any characteristic/s of God that you did not like or doubted when you left.
Read and discuss the following verses:
Heb 2:1 For you, what is drifting from God?
Why is it possible for Christians to drift?
Why should we pay attention then? What does this mean for you?
Heb 3:12-14 What are we to ensure?
Why is belief so important to God?
What happens to the unbelieving heart?
Heb 3:15-19 What were the problems of the Christians in the desert?
Why were they not able to enter the promised land?
Why then is faith important?
Heb 11:6 What is needed to please God?
Jude 3 What are Christians to do?
What does it mean to “contend” for the faith?
Faith is important to God. God wants us to protect it and nurture it.
Consequently, when we leave the church, it is usually a problem with our faith.
Also, while we can think that our biggest sin upon leaving the church was probably immorality or deceit, the issue comes back to our faith! The returning Christian should realize this.
#3 “Restoration to God” Purpose: to show how a deep understanding of God prevents spiritual drift
From the past study, discuss the character of God that was not pleasing to you.
Hosea 4:1-6 What was the deeper problem of Israel?
We see here that idolatry was only a symptom of a deeper problem, spiritual ignorance.
Israel fell into sin because they didn’t know God deeply. The point is that a shallow understanding of God hurts us; it makes us treat God wrongly. As a result, we hurt ourselves too.
Jer 4:22-23 What was God’s concern here?
What is the result of not knowing God deeply?
Jer 9:23-24 What is the challenge here?
Why is it important for us to know God?
Jer 24:7 What will God do here?
What is the heart of God displayed here?
Jer 31:34 What does God envision here?
Why is this important to God?
Eph 1:17 What was Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians?
Why do you think Paul prayed for this?
Points to ponder:
Knowledge of God is extremely important. As he is our father, we should strive to know him deeply. A child who does not know his/her father deeply will have an incomplete relationship with him.
Recall your days leaving the church. Did God try to show himself to you?
What character of God do you need to learn more? Why?
Study out the character of God, focusing on some verses about one specific attribute of God (e.g. God’s love, God’s wrath, God’s holiness, etc.)
Study the Nature of God toolbox study.
#4 “The Power of Surrender” Purpose: to explain the meaning of biblical surrender
Introduction: In a worldly sense, the word “surrender” is a negative one. It denotes defeat, failure, or weakness. However, in a Christian sense, surrender to God is not only needed, but powerful.
Ps 81:10-14 God is talking about the attitude of Israel towards Him.
The word “submit” here is has the same meaning as “surrender.”
What was important to God here?
Why was He disappointed?
What could have been the relationship of God with Israel?
How can this apply to Christians today?
Mt 5:5 In Jesus’ famous Sermon, he lifts up those who are meek.
“Meek” here does not mean “shy” but “subdued” or “surrendered”. It refers to someone who has humbled himself before God.
Blessed (Gk: ma-Kar-ioi) means “very happy.”
Why is a humble person happy before God?
In what ways is a humble person powerful (e.g. to inherit)?
HW: Read Zep 3:11-12. Reflect on the meaning of meekness there.
Lk 14:31-33 This reminds us of surrender in discipleship.
It starts with acknowledging that we are helpless before God.
What does it mean to surrender to an enemy of war?
What does it mean to “give up everything?”
Does verse 33 mean that we will have no possessions or personal decisions?
One commentary on verse 33:
“His thought probably is that of a continual abandonment of things, yielding up the right of ownership or the desire to cling to things, rather than outright disposal of them. The disciple of Jesus may be given the use of things in trust, as a stewardship, but they are no longer his or her own.”
Ja 4:7 What should all Christians do?
What are the results of this?
Rom 5:5-8 What are the two kinds of people described here?
What is the advantage of submitting oneself to God?
Questions for discussion:
In the Bible, what are the things associated with surrender?
Why is surrender powerful?
What are some things you need to surrender to God again? How can others help you in some of these areas?
Some results of surrender:
joy – because you know that you are not on your own
security – because you know that you are on God’s side
power – because the Holy spirit will now help you
Close with prayer.
# 5 “Restoration to the Family of God” Purpose: to prepare a person to return to the family
Introduction: This study will prepare the returning Christian to see where he stands before God’s family. The first part of this study presents a biblical understanding of our relationship with Christ. The second part deals with a Christian relationships in the church.
A CHRISTIAN’S RELATIONSHIP TO CHRIST
Discuss the following verses to see that our relationships with each other should be based on our relationship with Christ.
John 15:1-11 Christ is the vine and we are the branches
1 Co 12:12, Eph 1:22-23 Christ is the head of the body; we are the members
Rom 6:3; Gal 3:27 Christ is the “clothing” we put on in baptism
Eph 5:23-30 Christ is the authority; we are subjects
John 10:1-18 Christ is the shepherd and we are the sheep
How will our relationship with Jesus affect our relationship with others?
COMMITMENT TO FELLOWSHIP
Acts 2:42-47 What was the early fellowship like? Why?
What does devoted mean to you?
1 Cor 11:32-33 What did Paul assume about the Corinthian church?
1 Cor 12:4-7 What is the purpose of spiritual gifts?
What are some abilities/talents you can use to build up the church?
Heb 10:24-25 Why is it important to be committed to church meetings?
Are you willing to commit to the meetings of the body?
What are your hindrances/problems? How can we help find solutions?
COMMITMENT TO FRIENDSHIP
Matt 5:23-24 What is the desire of God when we come before him?
Why is it important to not have anything against others dwell in our hearts?
Is there anything in this regard that you may need to open up?
Do you have any unresolved issues from the past?
How can we help you reconcile with others?
1 Cor 12:14-27 What analogy does Paul use to describe different Christians?
How should those in the church treat each other?
Discuss past and present relational challenges.
Setup times to talk to specific people, whenever needed and possible.
Pray to develop deep relationships in the church. The idea is to create a circle of friends that will help you grow and get to heaven.
Heart for the Returning Christian
A study for those helping others come back
Purpose: To prepare the hearts of the Christians to whom the returning Christian will be added (House Church/Bible Talk/Discipling Group).
[Note: The returning Christian should not be present when this study is discussed by the group. Also, it may be helpful to update the group on the background and progress of the returning Christian.]
Introduction: Acceptance, mercy and forgiveness are godly traits that all Christians should exhibit. But like all virtues we often need the encouragement of Scripture to have the right heart.
Mt 18:21-35 What did Peter want to know? What was the meaning of Jesus’ reply?
What was the principle the parable was meant to explain? (Because of the magnitude of God’s mercy on us, no offense or number of offenses should be considered too great that we cannot forgive)
Lk 15:21-32 [Summarize first part of story prior to reading scripture]
Why was the older brother angry?
Do you think we should rejoice each time a person is restored?
Eph 4:31-32 What should we get rid of? Do you have any bitterness, anger, bad attitudes towards the person being restored? Why?
How should we treat each other? In what way should we forgive?
Col 3:12-15 What should we clothe ourselves with? Why?
What else should we do?
Lk 6:36 What are we commanded to be? Is this command conditional on whether or not the person “has earned” our forgiveness? Why not?
1. Is there anything we need to repent of in terms of our relationship with the returning Christian (e.g. need to be more warm, fellowship more)?
Is there anything in our hearts preventing us from accepting or forgiving the returning Christian? If so, what must be done?
In what ways can we help the returning Christian feel welcome in our group? (e.g. initiating, helping them in their weakness, friendship, etc.)