Use one or both of these questions to introduce the lesson:
1. In high school, were you part of a certain social group? What cliques or divisions were you aware of as a teenager? Are you aware of different closed communities now?
2. Let’s talk plants for a moment. Weakly established root systems produce sickly, poorly producing plants. Burgeoning, prolific root systems produce plants that last through the stresses of the seasons to yield a great harvest. What are some elements of a healthy, deep, spiritual root system?
Read Ephesians 3:8-16
1. Consider people groups that are fundamentally different than you—ones you may have thought were too far from God to ever be accepted by him. Think about immigrants (language and cultural barriers), prostitutes, people in the LGBT community, people who are addicted to drugs and alcohol, or those with different belief systems. What would it look like to minister to people like these?
2. Prior to his conversion, Paul approved of killing and destroying anyone or anything outside of his “clique” (anyone or anything that challenged his understanding of Jewish law). Following his conversion, Paul regarded himself not only as a servant of the gospel of Christ, but as one called to preach to those he formerly disdained, the Gentiles. What would it be like to minister to people you previously refused to eat with, touch, or speak to?
3. Mark Scott noted that the word mystery in verse 9 refers to the unity in Christ between Jews and Gentiles (see Ephesians 3:6). Do you see division or a lack of unity among believers within your own congregation or within the church as a whole (perhaps based on economics, race, background, politics, education, or age)? Discuss why you think this exists and what your group could do to be a catalyst for unification and restoration between these divisions.
4. Jesus’ suffering and passion are our glory. His death, like a kernel of wheat, took root and bore incredible fruit—the church. Paul explained in verse 13 that his sufferings were for the church’s glory. What suffering have you experienced or witnessed someone endure so that a person far from Jesus could know him as Lord and Savior? Talk about this together as a group.
Read Ephesians 3:16-21
5. Being “rooted” means to go down deeply, spread widely, be established firmly, and to be immovable. What are three practices or disciplines that have helped root you in your faith?
6. Discuss your answers as a group. What discipline or practice will you put into place this week to grow deeper in your faith?
(Dr. Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline is a great resource for further ideas.)
7. Luke 8:1-15 contains the well-known Parable of the Sower, where Jesus taught about seed (the Word of God) being sown in different kinds of soil. Verse 13 explains how those who represent rocky soil “have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away.” Discuss together what part love plays in establishing and growing a believer’s faith, allowing God to dwell in their heart. Is it found in the soil or the plant or both?
8. Paul prayed that God’s people “may have power . . . to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge” (vv 17, 18). Discuss what you think Paul meant when he described God’s love as wide, long, high, and deep. How can we demonstrate this kind of love to the watching world and to one another?
Conclude your group time in prayer, asking God for confidence and boldness to encourage one another as you take the gospel to your community and to the world.