Gospel Identity Small Group Resource

At this year’s General Assembly of the PCA, I received a preview copy of New Growth Press’s small group materials. I was excited because I am a big fan of New Growth Press and their partnering organization, World Harvest Missions. As a pastor, finding small group material is often the rough equivalent of getting a root canal. Trust me, I hate the dentist; this is the most horrifying analogy I can come up with. You are constantly being torn between material. You have to make a choice between material that is Christ centered and material that is easy enough for lay-leaders to use. You have to choose between material that is well packaged and material that is banal. Rarely can you find something firing on all cylinders.

When I received the copy of Gospel Identity, I immediately tore into it. It is an excellent booklet for small groups. I want to point out some of it’s strengths and caution you about a minor weaknesses. First and foremost, what I loved about Gospel Identity was the way it pushed groups into the scripture. This was not like some other small group studies that focused on how you felt, with broad discussion questions. Instead the lessons drove you straight to the heart of scripture. As it directed you to read and study passages together, it asked penetrating, helpful questions that were easy to understand. Sometimes other small group resources ask questions that leave you wondering what they are getting at. Gospel Identity avoids those pitfalls.

Secondly, the book has a brief small group leader briefing that helps leaders get their “sea-legs” leading a group. At the end of the book, there is a leaders section with suggested answers to the questions in the lessons. The authors are careful to teach leaders not to use these answers as a crutch but rather as a “push” to get the group past a place where they may be stuck.

Third, the book is focused on pushing us deeper into our relationship with Jesus. This is not an intelectual exercise, meant to make us smarter; the studies are well-designed to push us, as C.S. Lewis said, “farther up, farther in”. This really comes out in 4 great statements from the introduction:

  • Cheer up! The gospel is far greater than you can imagine.
  • Cheer up! You are worse than you think.
  • Cheep up! God’s Spirit works in your weakness
  • Cheer up! God’s Kingdom is far more wonderful than you can imagine.

These statements clearly set the tone of the studies that follow.

Finally, I loved this material because it pushed people not just to the cross of Christ but also towards one another. The small groups, if run as suggested in the book, move back and forth between interaction in the group at large and discussion in smaller “micro-groups” of 2-3 people. This allows for more introverted members of the groups to still interact. It also creates a greater sense of intimacy, allowing members to open up in a deeper way to an even smaller group. These “micro-groups” are then encouraged to pray for one another and call one another during the week. This whole concept is so much better than the typical discussion-video-discussion format used by small groups. Instead of focusing on videos, groups focus on knowing each other.

The only drawback to the curriculum is its dependance on the leaders of each group. While it is set up well for leaders, if the leader is uncomfortable with the message of grace and sanctification by faith, they could accidentally derail the materail. If a church were to implement the materail, I would suggest that leaders meet together to go through the material in their own small group to familiarize themselves with the study and to be shephered through it themselves.

Overall, I would highly reccommend this material. You can see the publishers page where you can download a free chapter or purchase the book by clicking here. It is also part of a 3 book series, so in all there is 30 lessons available at this high caliber!

New Growth Press is a publisher that I support whole-heartedly. Over the next few months, I will be partnering with New Growth to give away some of their newest rescources for you and your family, so stay tuned!

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About futonreformer

I am a pastor in the PCA serving in Myrtle Beach, SC. I am a sixth generation Tampa native and I love the Rays and Bucs!

10 responses to “Gospel Identity Small Group Resource”

  1. Stephanie Nelson (@stephanienels) says :

    Are you familiar with other WHM and NGP material such as Gospel Transformation, Sonship, Living in Light of the Gospel Story and The Gospel-Centered Life? Just wondering if the material is similar (it seems in spirit, I’m taking more about content) I love their stuff, too, but I see a lot of repetition in those 3. Just wondering if that’s the case here, too.

    • futonreformer says :

      Stephanie,
      I am absolutley familiar with those other materials. The comment below this one is by the author and he explans just that!

      • carlsimmonslive says :

        To clarify: I’m not THE author. But I did rework Neil Williams’ original material in GT a LOT. The basic content is still very much his/WHM’s, but the lesson intros, a lot of the questions, and the general small-group approach would be mine (with WHM/NGP’s stamp of approval, of course). But with that caveat, the above (both my words and morese Justin’s) explains what’s different pretty well.

        And yeah, WHM definitely has a message that’s consistent throughout all their products. But I do think the Gospel Series has a different “feel” (probably ’cause they let an outsider tamper with it :)).

        FYI, I also worked on a third editon of Sonship that’ll be out soon — not a major overhaul as was GT –> Gospel Series, just a “freshening up” of the existing content. I think WHM has bigger plans to overhaul that one down the road, too, though.

      • futonreformer says :

        Carl,

        Thanks for that clarification and for your hard work on the series. I am excited to see the Gospel Transformation material in this new medium!

  2. carlsimmonslive says :

    Hey Justin,

    I’m the editor/rewriter of the Gospel series. Love the review. And you even read the back matter! Captures exactly what World Harvest Mission/New Growth Press and I were trying to accomplish in “transforming” Gospel Transformation into a small-group series.

    Some back story: Loved the original GT but it had taken our men’s group (who worked for another Christian publisher) THREE YEARS to work through it. Thus, when NGP offered me the opportunity to “small-group-a-size” this, I jumped at it. And we were on the same page from the beginning — keep the incredible meat of the original, but make it a lot more accessible. Patric Knaap at WHM (who oversaw/QC’d the project) was a joy to work with; there was genuine give-and-take, even as we both shot for the same goal.

    In short, I’m really happy that you like it and that you feel the mission was accomplished. Aside from my own material, it’s the proudest I’ve even been to work on a project. Not even close. πŸ™‚

    — Carl Simmons

  3. carlsimmonslive says :

    Reblogged this on Lay It Down and commented:
    Someone else’s words today, but that’s OK…

    “You have to make a choice between material that is Christ centered and material that is easy enough for lay-leaders to use. You have to choose between material that is well packaged and material that is banal. Rarely can you find something firing on all cylinders.”

    Needless to say, I SO agree. πŸ™‚ My own longer review will be forthcoming (when my own review copies are in hand), but in the meantime this captures everything good about the Gospel series, that I was shooting for when I worked on it last year…. enjoy….

  4. Stephanie Nelson (@stephanienels) says :

    So trilled to hear about the back story! It helps me know where it will fit in the life of our church. To encourage you all – I went through GT as a learner then as a teacher/facilitator back to back. God used it so mightily in my life. I was truly transformed. We are currently using GT in our leadership training – and a a small group I lead finished The Gospel-Centered Life in May and one of the members of that group because of Christ follower during the process. God is so faithful and good to his people.

  5. Stephanie Nelson (@stephanienels) says :

    sorry for the typos! my last comment should read “became a Christ-Follower” not “because of Christ follower” my head may have been in the clouds that day πŸ™‚

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