As the oldest church in Scarborough, Ontario, St. Andrew's Presbyterian exists to help people experience life through Christ. An integral part of this vision statement is what we call our Adult Discipleship Studies, consisting of our pastor's bi-weekly Tuesday morning Bible study, a laity-led bi-weekly Wednesday evening study, and a between-the-services Sunday morning study.
Alpha was part of our study curriculum for several years. But in 2009, we decided to explore a variety of other studies coming on the market, including DVD short-term studies. We have been truly blessed by the variety of study themes that we have studied, which have helped us to grow in our faith and knowledge. Each time we start a new study, it is exciting and heart-warming to have first- timers from our church and people from other churches and faiths join in with us.
In 2010, the first study in our new curriculum was Prayer Ministry – It's Easier Than You Think. During the Alpha studies we realized that most of us were not comfortable praying aloud. This 4-session study was based on Sandy Millar's Prayer Ministry Training Manual and Max Lucado's book, Discovering the Power of Prayer. We designed a post-study questionnaire to help us assess the study and its impact on our participants.
Later that year, we turned to Challenging Lifestyles by Nicky Gumbel. The theme of the study was Practical Guidelines for Living out Jesus' Teachings. The topics included how to have an influence on society, how to find life, getting our relationships right, dealing with anger, sexual sin, avoiding divorce, how to respond to evil people, loving your enemies, and dealing with criticism. This 6-session study was held in the spring and again in the fall.
In the last two and a half years, we have held seven other studies – usually accompanied by a DVD presentation. Listed below are the titles of the studies and a brief report on each of them. Our format is to meet at 7 p.m. for a short social, prayer and refreshment time, viewing the DVD presentation, going to our individual groups for study and discussion, and adjourning at 9 p.m.
St. Andrew's Scarborough
Pastor Duncan Cameron is usually with us during the large-group time, and then is available in his office whenever we need clarification and assistance during the individual group discussion times.
Becoming a Contagious Christian – Bill Hybels and Mark Mittelberg.
Both of these individuals are associated with Willow Creek Community Church. Bill Hybels is the pastor and Mark Mittelberg is an evangelism strategist and author. The themes in this study are on developing a natural evangelism style, building spiritually-strategic relationships, learning how to direct conversations towards matters of faith, and sharing biblical truths in everyday language. It is a 6-session study.
The Power of a Whisper – Bill Hybels.
This 4-session study taught and encouraged us to listen and discern the "voice" of God from all the other voices that vie for our attention; and how to allow heaven-sent input to direct our lives toward making a difference in this world.
A Life Worth Living – Nicky Gumbel.
This 5-week study is based on Paul's letter to the Philippians. It is a practical and positive guide to uncovering a new heart, purpose, attitude, and confidence in the way we live our lives.
God's Story – Your Story – When His Becomes Yours – Max Lucado.
This 6-session study gives us perspective on how our daily life relates to God's grand, epic story. He peels back the chaos and confusion of our story to reveal God's loving and orderly purpose and perspective.
The Case for Christ – Lee Strobel.
The author is a journalist who was an atheist determined to prove that our Lord Jesus was not the Son of God. In this 6-session study we see and hear him using his journalism and legal skills to cross-examine a dozen recognized theological authorities with doctorates from leading schools. He questions whether any evidence for Jesus exists outside the Bible and whether there is any reason to believe that the resurrection was an actual event. The responses he received are helpful for us when we deal with people who are not believers.
The Reason for God – Pastor Timothy Keller, Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan.
The format of this 6-week study is with Dr. Keller hearing the doubts and scepticism of non-believers. Questions to him include how a good God can allow suffering, how a loving God can send people to hell, and why have so many wars been fought in the name of God. He responds using literature, philosophy, and reasoning.
The Prodigal God – Pastor Timothy Keller.
The Parable of the Prodigal Son is the best-known but least understood parable. In this 6-session study we watched and listened to the entire video the first evening, and it was mesmerizing. All of us realized that we had not truly understood the message before and now looked at each of the two sons in a different light than we had previously.
Gospel In Life – Grace Changes Everything – Timothy Keller.
This is an 8-session study on the gospel and how it is lived out in all of life: first in our hearts, then in our community, and then out into the world. This study will start on September 24th and be completed in mid-November.
Grace – More Then We Deserve – Greater Than We Imagine – Max Lucado.
This is a 6-week study starting in January 2014.
On a final note, in 2009 and then again in 2011, we held the exciting and inspirational Discovering your Spiritual Gifts Workshop. Most people are not aware of the spiritual gifts they have received from our Lord. Often we are surprised when we are complimented or thanked about a work area we are involved in at our church. It is exciting when you realize you have an unexpected spiritual gift. This encourages us to explore new areas of activity. We are planning to have another one in 2014, again being led by Rev. Dr. Jeff Loach.