by Rachel Freeny
Editor’s note: Jennifer Kennedy Dean’s Altar’d can be used in a variety ways. Certainly individuals can benefit greatly from the book. There is, however, something to be said for processing material together as partners or in a group. When brothers and sisters meet together to pray, read the Word, and discuss a book like Altar’d, new insights and perspectives can be discovered, thereby encouraging everyone involved. New Hope Digital offers this guide as a suggested means to that end.
Plan an introductory gathering to discuss plans for structuring this 6-week study together. Consider offering light refreshments, such as cookies and beverages.
Begin by choosing a weekly meeting time (Sunday school, small group, book club, etc.) that works best for the group. About an hour should be sufficient to work through the suggested questions and pray. Organize weekly child care, if necessary.
Depending on how well your group knows each other, spend some time getting to know everyone. Introduce yourself to the group and tell them a little about yourself. If your group is small, go around the room and have everyone introduce themselves and offer an interesting fact about themselves. If your group is large, do this in groups of 2 or 4.
After introductions are made, take a few minutes to present the theme of the book: a 40-day exploration of the Scriptures uncovering what it means to truly live a life dead to the flesh and alive to the Spirit.
Suggest that everyone find a partner or assign everyone a partner in the group (same gender). Partners will walk through the book together during the week and should be encouraged to talk and pray regularly via phone, email, texts, and/or face-to-face meetings. Each day in the Altar’d devotional contains at least 1 reflection question to spur discussion.
On group meeting days, partners will join with 2 or 3 other sets of partners to form groups of 6 or 8. People who do not feel comfortable sharing in a large group will have a chance to open up and discuss questions in these smaller groups.
This group study can be as formal or casual as you want it to be. Be a guide through the material, but allow the focus to be on the group discussion.
General Format for Weekly Meetings
The daily devotionals in Altar’d are quite in depth, so when you meet each week as a group, the best use of your time will be to discuss major points of the study instead of spending a lot of time on each day.
As a leader, begin each meeting by quickly bringing up a few points that stood out to you. Then ask a couple volunteers to briefly share some points that stood out to them from the previous week. (10–15 minutes)
The rest of the time should be focused on small group discussion (3–4 partners) using the suggested sample questions for each week below. (Or feel free to develop your own questions.) (30–40 minutes)
These groups of 6–8 should close the time together in specific prayer for one another. (10–15 minutes)
Week 1 (Days 1–7)
- What do you think it means to be “of the flesh?”
- What do you think it means to be “of the Spirit?”
- What is one lie your flesh tells you? How can you keep from listening to that lie?
Week 2 (Days 8–14)
- What does it mean to be a “new creation?”
- Dean makes the point that surrendering to Christ enhances, not hinders, our personalities (p.54). How have you seen this statement proven true in your own life or the life of someone you know?
- How is obedience a part of the process of being made new? Why is obedience difficult?
Week 3 (Days 15–21)
- How does our insecurity and self-focus hinder us from fully living out our salvation?
- What happens to us when we let Christ’s life flow through us?
- Why can we trust Christ to help us overcome even our biggest temptations and sins?
- Does knowing Christ dwells in you change how you live? Why or why not?
Week 4 (Days 22–28)
- Why was Jesus able to resist temptation? What does that mean for us?
- How does temptation benefit us?
- How can we recognize when our “flesh” is acting? How should we respond?
- How do we develop a “steadfast heart?” (p.141)
Week 5 (Days 29–35)
- How can our words be dangerous? How can Jesus transform our words?
- What is holding you back from fully surrendering your heart and life to Christ?
- What do you think the author means when she writes, “Sometimes worshipping is an act of your will, not your emotions”? (p.167)
Week 6 (Days 36–40)
After you discuss the last week’s readings, spend some time reflecting on what the Lord has done in group members’ lives through this study. Give them the opportunity to share something they’ve learned about altar’d living over the past 6 weeks. Consider closing out the study with a special prayer time thanking the Lord for what He has done and what He will continue to do in each of your lives.
- What is the difference between happiness and joy?
- How does the author define Sabbath? What are the benefits of Sabbath?
- In what ways does God use our weakness for His glory?
- What happens in our lives when we “cut off” our “flesh?”
An intern with the WMU® Product Development Center, Rachel Freeny is a junior majoring in journalism/mass communication at Samford University, Birmingham, Alabama.