Story of the New Testament - Lesson 11

By Curt Niccum

Life in the Church

Background Information for the Teacher


  1. The student can describe the corporate nature of God's people and the obligations of living as a member of His people.
  2. The student will apply biblical teachings about living in the church to real life scenarios.


  1. Each student will need to have a New Testament.
  2. The teacher may want to make a list on the blackboard or an overhead projector. If so, appropriate materials will be needed. If it is desired that the students keep a list, sheets of paper and writing instruments will need to be passed out to the class.
  3. The teacher may want to distribute one or more handouts (provided below).


In a sense, God has not called individuals to salvation, but a people. This idea is countercultural, at least in America where rugged individualism has shaped almost every aspect of our culture. In this lesson the corporate nature of Christian life will be examined by applying biblical principles to real-life situations.

Lesson Plan for Conducting the Class

Introduction: (10 minutes)

  1. Organizational matters (taking roll, etc.)
  2. Ask the students to share examples of how they lived the "life of the cross" during the previous week.
  3. Prayer and/or song: Songs like "Hear, O Israel," "The Greatest Command (Love One Another)," or "When My Love to Christ Grows Weak (especially verse 3)" would be appropriate to the theme. The prayer should include requests for us to be more loving towards our Christian brothers and sisters.

Learning Experiences: (about 20 minutes)

  1. Have the class list all the biblical names for the church that they can think of (along with accompanying scriptures when possible). It is not necessary that an exhaustive list be compiled. A handful of representative designations will suffice for the point to be made.
    1. Here is a potential list: church/congregation/assembly (all from the same Greek word, Romans 16:3-5, 16 and 23), synagogue/meeting (James 2:2), body (Romans 12:4-5 and 1 Corinthians 12:12-27), people (Acts 15:14; Ephesians 2:19; 1 Peter 2:9-10), priesthood (1 Peter 2:9), building/temple (1 Corinthians 3:9-17 and Ephesians 2:19-22), nation (1 Peter 2:9), children (Romans 8:15-17 and 29; Hebrews 2:10-13; and 1 John 3:1), family/household (Ephesians 2:19), kingdom (Colossians 1:13-14 and Hebrews 12:28-29), flock (John 10:1-18), vine (John 15:1-6), olive tree (Romans 11:16-24), field (1 Corinthians 3:9), and bride (Revelation 19:7-8, see also Ephesians 5:25-27. Some of these could be used to help the students get started. (Note that most of these are continuations of how God's people were designated in the Old Testament.)
    2. Now have the class categorize the list. Q: Which of the names emphasize individuality and which community? A: All of the biblical designations of the church are corporate in nature. (Someone might say that the term "bride" is individual in nature, but a closer look at the passages in Ephesians and Revelation will show that the bride consists of numerous people.)
    3. Have the class discuss what this means and its importance. We are not just called to have a right relationship with God, but with all of His people. The church is, as Jesus said, the two greatest commands in action. We must love both God and people (Mark 12:28-34).
  2. A good portion of the class time should be devoted towards wrestling with the implications of this teaching. American youths (as well as adults) have allowed an individualistic culture to distort the true, corporate nature of the church. Offered below are several different scenarios based on true events that tested the character of a Christian community. They provide an opportunity to synthesize much of what has already been learned in the quarter. Either as a class or in groups, have the students reflect on a scenario. (The teacher can choose which scenario would best fit the class he is teaching or can divide the class into groups giving a different scenario to each group.) First, the students should suggest how non-Christians might deal with or handle the situation. Next, after reading the accompanying scriptures, they should discuss how Christians should deal with the problem. (Remind them to think of previous lessons learned this quarter as additional guides for solving the problems.) If the class is divided into groups, manage their time so that each can make a report to the class about its conclusions. (Note - Explain that in each of these scenarios, the students are to assume that everyone involved is trying to be a devout Christian. Too much should not be read into any of the situations. Take scenario #1 for example. One could argue that the song leader purposefully introduced songs that would bother the elderly or that the young could care less about the words of a song and are only interested in music that sounds more like what they hear on the radio. Both attitudes would present a serious sin problem that would need to be addressed. Instead, assume the best for each group mentioned in the scenario. Thus, the song leader chose the songs for their meaningful words, not for their divisiveness.)
    1. Scenario #1 - Last Sunday the song leader led some songs that were brand new to most of the congregation. The youth group, though, was already familiar with them, having sung them for over a year. A few of the older Christians were upset because the songs sounded too "worldly," and felt that they were inappropriate for the worship setting. Not only that, they were sung in unison or with women echoing men rather than in four part harmony. There were some questions as to whether this was biblical or not. Many in the youth group, on the other hand, thought it was one of the best worship services that they had ever experienced. They were eager for more of "their" songs to be included in the future. Within the week the congregation seemed to be heading toward division based on age. There also tended to be some name calling. Things like "young whipper-snappers" or "old fogeys" could be overheard in various conversations in and around the church building.
      1. Q: How would the world react if faced with a similar situation? A: Almost any answer will be right. The idea that the young should leave and start a group that does things their way will likely be a normal response.
      2. Now have the students working on this scenario r,ead Romans 14:1-15:7.
      3. Q: How should Christians react to this situation? A: Any answers that focus on giving up one's rights and benefits for the sake of another will be correct.
    2. Scenario #2 - One of the members of your congregation has a drinking problem. A close, Christian friend of his has worked with him to try to get the abuse to stop. When all efforts failed, he approached a couple of other friends, and together they convinced the man to enter a Rehabilitation Program. They even paid for it out of their own pockets. The man stayed sober for about six weeks, but then began to drink again, this time worse than before. He would even come to church drunk or with a hangover. Additional intervention by his friends failed. Some members of the congregation want to disfellowship the man. Most, however, suggest that it is a private matter. "It is between him and his God," they often say.
      1. Q: How would the world react if faced with a similar situation? A: Almost any answer will be right. The idea that it is none of our business will likely be prominent.
      2. Now have the students working on this scenario read 1 Corinthians 5:4-8, 12-13 and Matthew 18:15-20.
      3. Q: How should Christians react to this situation? A: Any answers that focus on removing the evil for the sake of the person (his physical and spiritual health) and for the sake of the church (one person's sin corrupts the entire community) will be correct.
    3. Scenario #3 - Your congregation has started to work with the poor in the area. Grocery items and clothes are being distributed every week to those who have need. Several things have resulted from this. First, some of the poor that have been helped are now attending worship services and some have even been baptized. They do not have nice clothes and they obviously do not shower regularly or at all. Some of the richer members are complaining about having them around. Second, news about this ministry has spread and the number of people being served is growing at an alarming rate. Not only that, but some have figured out how to cheat the system and are clearly stealing from the church and others being helped by the church. Third, some are afraid the church is becoming a welfare station. In their opinion anyone who wants to can find a job and provide for his or her family. They are concerned about being "good stewards" and fear that the church is not observing Paul's command in 2 Thessalonians 3:10: "If a man will not work, he shall not eat." Furthermore they say, "This ministry only encourages laziness." These situations have caused some to suggest shutting down the ministry entirely.
      1. Q: How would the world react if faced with a similar situation? A: Almost any answer will be right. Closing the doors would be the obvious solution.
      2. Now have the students working on this scenario read James 2:1-13; Romans 5:6-8; 2 Corinthians 8:7-15 and 9:12-15.
      3. Q: How should Christians react to this situation? A: There are two issues here, one the continuation of ministry and the other bias. Any answers that focus on the unity of all Christians, both rich and poor, will be correct, and any answers that emphasize giving without respect to the character of the receiver will be correct.
      4. The teacher will need to be well prepared for this part of the lesson. Broad scenarios like these allow for a lot of variation in the students' responses. Students could easily get sidetracked onto the wrong issues. The teacher needs to anticipate all of the different directions that the discussion(s) could go and be prepared to deal with those tangents in a Christlike manner and also guide the students towards the intended goal. At the end of this exercise the difference between the world and the kingdom of God should be clear. The radical nature of living the life of the cross in the Christian community, the church, should also be demonstrated.

Applications: (10-15 minutes)

  1. Read 1 John 3:16-18 and 4:7-21.
  2. Discuss how the students' responses to the scenarios fit this reading out of 1 John.
  3. Have the class discuss how the world creates divisions and exhibits bias. Do these ever appear in the church? (This would be a good opportunity to discuss particular problems in the youth group. It is the nature of teens to group into cliques and to use derogatory language towards those who "don't fit in."). How should we deal with this problem?
  4. Read Galatians 3:26-27.
  5. Pray for Christian unity and the patience needed to get the entire community to grow toward the full stature of Christ and to obtain the heavenly reward.

Assignment: (about 1 minute)

Have the students read Jude and write down what actions the church is to take against this threat of false teachers.

Evaluation: (next class meeting)

Further Resources:

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