Use one or both of these questions to introduce the lesson:
1. What comes to mind when you hear the word pioneer? What are some benefits of pioneering, breaking new ground, pushing the envelope? What risks are involved?
2. When have you pushed yourself to leave your personal comfort zone? Was it worth it? Would you do it again? Explain.
Read Acts 8:5-13.
1. Who was Philip (Acts 6:1-6)? Why did he (and others) leave Jerusalem (Acts 7:54–8:1)? Why might it have taken an extreme situation to cause Jews to enter Samaria (John 4:9b)?
2. Knowing the hostility that existed between Jews and Samaritans, how might one rate the chance of a successful missionary effort there? What might be some reasons that the common wisdom was proven to be wrong?
3. Think of someone you know that you would consider to be the last person who would accept the gospel. What are some reasons that Simon could have been considered a person unlikely to accept Philip’s message?
Read Acts 8:14-17.
4. What was the role of the apostles in the early church (Acts 1:8; 2:42, 43; 5:27-32)? Do you think it would be accurate to describe Jerusalem as the headquarters of the early church at that time? If so, why is it not surprising that Peter and John would go to Samaria when they heard about what Philip was doing there?
5. The lives of Samaritans were changed by Philip’s evangelistic efforts. But the church of that day changed as well. How did the membership and even prevailing attitudes change in the church because of Philip’s pioneering efforts?
Read Acts 8:18-24.
6. When bringing the gospel into a new culture, why is it unrealistic to anticipate that new believers in that culture change completely and immediately? Why might the backsliding of Simon not be surprising? What was Peter’s approach in confronting Simon’s sliding back into his old way of thinking?
7. Imagine that your church would attempt to push the envelope by starting a missionary effort in a difficult mission field (prison ministry, campus ministry, cross-cultural ministry). By reflecting on the first Samaritan believers, how would you: 1) recruit workers to be pioneers in the effort? 2) convince your congregation’s members to accept the new believers who come from a culture different than theirs? 3) anticipate challenges of the new believers in distancing themselves from their past actions and attitudes?