by Connie Cavanaugh
I have divided the discussion questions into four sections so that you can do this in a month. You could easily subdivide the sections to prolong this to eight or even 12 weeks if that is your preference. Obviously the longer you spend, the deeper you will go. If you choose to go for the shorter version, pick which questions to discuss (one per chapter?) since there will be more than enough.
Enjoy your time together! I wish I could be there!!
First Group Meeting:
Distribute copies of the book. Make sure there is lots of chocolate available – it is like truth serum and absolutely essential for honest communication!
Preliminary discussion before reading the book:
What does the phrase “spiritual dryness” mean to you?
What advice would you have for someone who felt like she had lost her faith?
Have you experienced spiritual dryness?
If your answer is no, eat more chocolate.
If your answer is yes, describe the feelings you had during that time.
Read Chapter One together: take a little break, refill your drink, and have everyone read silently -- play “spa” music softly in background so readers can relax and not be distracted by one another -- or have someone read it aloud.
Discussion after reading Chapter One:
Can you relate to Connie’s fear as she faced her pastor’s weekly “what has God been doing in your life this week” question? Explain.
Does referring to spiritual dryness as “wilderness” give you any insights or ideas about how and why believers find themselves in a place where they feel far from God and His will?
Read the list on pages 19 and 20 that describes what a “wanderer” looks like. How did you fare? Do you need to eat a little more chocolate and take another run at it?
In the section entitled “Will this book help me” on pages 20-22, did you see yourself in any of the possible scenarios described? Care to elaborate?
Why was this chapter entitled The Road More Traveled? Does it surprise you to read that people in ministry as well as laypeople struggle with spiritual dryness? Why or why not?
Before the next meeting, read Part One (chapters 2-4).
Second Group Meeting:
Read aloud: Jack Conner has been a pastor for too many years to count and has been a godly mentor for my husband and me for decades. When Jack was a boy in Oklahoma, he was the son of a poor share-cropping farmer and his summers were spent working in the fields. There were no air-conditioned tractor cabs with Dolby stereo sound and GPS units in those days. Jack strapped himself into the leather stays behind the ornery mule that pulled a single disk through hard stony ground. At 10 years old he was barely strong enough to keep that plow in the ground and guide the beast that pulled it. But he learned to make straight rows because his daddy taught him the principle he never forgot.
“When you start at each end of the field,” Jack’s dad said, “Pick a tree or a fencepost or a rock or something immovable and fix your eyes on it. Don’t focus on a cloud or a bird or anything that won’t stay still. Determine your focal point, get the mule moving and never take your eyes off your point of focus, not even for a minute. If you do that, you’ll do all right.”
“I learned the hard way,” Jack says, “that as long as I kept focused on that immovable object, I would never veer to the left or right. But the minute I got distracted by a bird or a car driving by or thinking about my favorite fishing hole, I would wander off track and my row would look more like a snake in motion than an arrow.”
What does the “plowman principle” in Jack’s story teach us about spiritual drift?
Refer to the “Pattern of Drift” on page 29 and share with the group your own experiences with disappointment, fear, or self-protection and how it affected your sense of connectedness to God.
Refer to “Are you experiencing Wilderness Thinking?” on page 38 and share with the group anything that resonates with you.
Refer to “Are you experiencing Wilderness Feelings?” on page 39 and share with the group how you are really feeling. Chocolate may be needed…
The Wake-up Call
Has God used the reading of this book thus far to wake you up to the reality that there me be something missing or something that needs changing in your relationship with Him? Reach for a Hershey hug and share.
Thou Shalt Have no other Gods
Lynne Hybels had a “toxic relationship with God” that needed changing. She had to get rid of her “old God” and discover the “real God.” Share your reactions and thoughts about Lynne’s story on pp 55-57. Can you relate?
Read Part Two (chapters 5-10) before the next group meeting.
Third Group Meeting
The God Who Pursues
What is the common theme in the stories Jesus told of the lost coin, the lost sheep and the lost son in Luke 15? (Read Luke 15 if needed)
Reread Hermann’s story on pp 69-73. Have you ever had feelings like Hermann expressed to God on page 72: “I’m tired of trying to live for You. It doesn’t satisfy”? Do you feel that way now? Do you need to “take two Hershey kisses and call me in the morning” before answering?
Have you ever challenged God to come after you (p81)? What happened?
Read aloud the story of Kyle and Cheryl on pp 85-88. This is the true story of my sister Caroline and her husband Kevin. Kevin continues to love, value, cherish, and spend time with his wife who has been in a nursing home since she was 41, even though she cannot give him much more than her presence.
The story of Kevin and Caroline is a parable of God’s undying love for us. His love does not depend on what we bring to the relationship, it is based solely on what He brings: forgiveness, acceptance, grace, kindness. Is this the God you know? If not, what’s missing?
Come out with your hands up
Refer to the first paragraph under The Lifestyle of Surrender on pages 103. Do you have a story to tell about your experience with a “moment of surrender” and “the practice of surrender”?
Read the list of wilderness thinking and surrendered thinking scenarios and share your own experiences. Nibble a Cadbury if necessary.
“Surrender is the opposite of self-protection” (For context, refer to pp. 105-108). Share your thoughts about that statement.
Break the Conspiracy of Silence
Why do believers keep quiet about their doubts?
“A wanderer who wants to have any hope of recovery must break the conspiracy of silence about his spiritual condition.” (p. 113) Do you agree with this statement? Why or why not?
If you had been born in Palestine during the time of Christ, would you have been a follower or a Pharisee? Refer to p 132 for Connie’s confession that, depending on her season of life, she could have been either one.
Full of Grace (you could save this for the last meeting – your choice)
Perform (or read dramatically) The Backpack Drama. Share and pray.
Read Part Three (chapters 11–15 plus “a letter…”) before the next gathering.
Fourth Group Meeting
What are your “holy habits” (p 151) and why do you need them?
Why do we believers wear masks?
Have you ever been in church when someone took off the mask and shared the truth like Andrew and Mattie did (pp 168,9)? Share your experience and tell what it meant to you.
Read Kevin Cavanaugh’s description of the “authenticity gap” (pp. 175,6) and give your opinion.
Do you feel like evangelical Christians sometimes confuse sharing the good news with marketing Jesus? What’s your experience?
There’s Only One You
I define “ministry” as doing what I can do for Jesus (p181). Refer to Mark 14: 1-9 for a scriptural foundation: (v. 8) she did what she could. Are you making a difference? What’s your “ministry”?
Do you agree: “our flaws hold the key to our calling”? (p 184)
Can you relate to Connie’s confession of “Beth Moore” envy (pp. 186-9)? Tell your “comparison” story and what God taught you through it.
Do you “qualify for service” to God? See checklist on p. 194.
The Personal God
Have you ever “heard” God speak to you? Recount the experience and the effect it had on you.
“Jesus is the uncontested delight of my life.” (Beth Moore, p. 204) How did that happen? Is that true in your life? Chocolate, anyone?
Does your vision of God have any resemblance to the “Santa-god” described on p. 205?
“We wear our culture like a nicotine patch…” (p. 206) Agree? How has your culture affected the way you see God?
In Whom we Trust
Tell about a time when you followed God (responded to His nudge to do, say or be something) even though you were afraid and you had to “push through the pain” in order to make it.
Like Katya (p. 227) have your earthly relationships given you a flawed view of a loving God? Do you have “trust issues” with God as a result?
Katya learned that mature faith meant giving up control, but that also meant she had to give up her safety. Are you willing to follow God even though it scares you?
A letter from a friend: Like Toni, have you learned that God’s transforming work in your life is never done? How will you use your story to bring hope to others?