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Context Guide | Appendix D
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Who IS my Neighbor? | A Bible Study
to Accompany the Context Report
The following Bible study is presented in three sessions and is designed for use with adults or older youth. Each session is 45 minutes long and is suitable for a church school setting or small group gathering. The insights and ideas from these Bible studies may be a helpful way to further introduce the data found in your Context Report but may also be valuable resource for your church board or council in planning future ministry efforts.
Materials needed: Bibles, newsprint or chalkboard, markers, copies of the
Context Core Story.
Bible Dictionary Paul J. Achtemeier, editor (Harper, 1996) and An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, W.E. Vine (Thomas Nelson, 1952) were the resources used in Session One
and Two.
Session One | Who are our Neighbors?
An Old and New Testament Understanding
15 minutes
Ask participants to read the following verses aloud: Exodus 12:4 and Proverbs 27:10 (our neighbor is one who lives close by)
Ask another participant to read I Samuel 28:17. (David is referred to as “neighbor” because he is a fellow Israelite)
For discussion — what conclusions can we draw from these verses about who
are our neighbors?
10 minutes
Share the following information with the class (the Greek words should be
written on newsprint).
In the New Testament, three different words are used for “neighbor”.
Geiton - one living in the same land. This word is always plural in the New Testament.
Perioikos - an adjective meaning those who dwell around.
Plesion - an adverb from the Greek word pelas, meaning near, the one who is near.
These words have a wider range of meaning than the English word “neighbor”. Although Palestine was agricultural, there were no farmhouses scattered around. People lived in villages and went out to toil the land. A wide circle of people, the neighborhood, touched life. These Greek words were therefore very comprehensive in their use.
For discussion — How does this change our understanding of neighbor?”
20 minutes
The Old Testament limited the concept of neighbor to those who lived very close by or those who were fellow Israelites. The New Testament expands this concept to include those living in the same land, both near and far.
Refer to the portion of your Core Story, which discusses who lives in your study area or Part One of the Context Report, “Who is Out There?” Discuss the following questions:
Do we consider those who are members of our church “neighbors”? Who in the group comes the farthest to participate in the life of the congregation? Who is the closest?
Do we consider our study area neighbors to the church because they are in close proximity or neighbors to us, even though we may not live next to them?
Who are those living in our study area? How are they like or different than our church’s membership?
How would our congregation be challenged if we considered those living in our study area as our true “neighbors”? How would our congregation be richer?
Session Two | Who does Jesus say is our Neighbor?
10 minutes
Ask different members of the group to read the following verses aloud:
Leviticus 19:18
Matthew 22:39
Mark 12:31
Luke 10:27
Ask someone to now read Luke 10:25-37
For discussion — How did Jesus expand the understanding of “neighbor”
in this parable?
20 minutes
Referring to the information in your congregation’s Core Story or Part 7 of the Context Report, “Health and Wholeness – Where are People Distressed?” divide the class into groups of 4 and ask them to rewrite the Parable of the Good Samaritan using the information about the people in your study area. What would be the scenario? Who might walk by? Who would help? What would helping look like?
15 minutes
Return to the total group and ask each group to read their story.
Close with the question, how could our congregation be more like
the Good Samaritan?
Session Three | What are Our Responsibilities as a Neighbor?
5 minutes
Ask the group to list all the responsibilities of being a neighbor. Write these
on newsprint.
10 minutes
Now, let’s review some of what Scripture tells us about being a good neighbor.
Ask different participants to read the following texts aloud. Add these Biblical characteristics to the list previously developed.
Luke 10:36-37 (show mercy)
Luke 15:6,9 (hospitality/celebration)
Exodus 22:7-8 (helpfulness, trustworthiness)
Proverbs 3:28 (generosity)
Proverbs 3:29-30 (kindness, friendliness)
Romans 13:10 (love)
Ephesians 4:25 (truthfulness)
James 4:11-12 (keep your tongue, do not judge)
20 minutes
Divide the participants into groups of 4 (or do the exercise as a whole group if
smaller than 8).
Ask the groups to quickly review who lives in their area of study (previously discussed in Session One and Two and found in the Core Story and Context Report)
Referring to the newsprint list of group ideas and the Biblical mandates, discuss the following question:
What might our congregation do to both reach and serve those within our neighborhood?
10 minutes
Ask each group to share their ideas with the whole group.