For junior high cell groups

Main point: Take Action! Don’t Be All Talk!


·  In his Epistle to Jewish-background believers, James makes a very strong call to a life of action. Contrary to the claims of some, James does teach salvation by grace through faith like the rest of the New Testament (1:18), but his emphasis is on the fruit of a changed life that should be the natural result. Pulling out themes almost entirely from the book of Proverbs, James touches on practical life issues such as trials, the rich, the poor, dependence on God, favoritism, the tongue, pride, and patience. Throughout his treatment of these topics he calls back to his main thrust: single-minded, unadulterated devotion to God.

·  This teaching series is not tied to a particular grade, so use your own discretion as a teacher about whether to cut or add anything depending on your students’ abilities and level of understanding.

·  Our only suggestion is to make sure you have thoroughly covered the Gospel before launching into James with its heavy focus on action and good works. Obviously, these teachings fit well with a grace-centered perspective, but it is easy for students to focus on the do’s-and-don’t’s lists rather than the love of God that motivates our actions.

Rough outlines

1. Be a Doer, not Just a Hearer (James 1)

·  Main point: Don’t just listen to God’s word; do what it says. (1:22)

o  Be a doer! If not, you’re a faker, or in other words, a hypocrite (write and define word- someone who pretends to be more righteous than they are).

o  Intro discussion: What’s so bad about being a hypocrite?

o  Structure: Doers...

·  1. Keep going when things are hard or confusing. (v. 2-8)

§  Discussion- Why do some people give up following God?

·  2. Are focused on eternal things, not temporary things. (v. 9-11)

·  3. Don’t give up because they know that God is good [GOSPEL]. (v. 12-18)

§  Discussion- If we are forgiven, why would we want to do things God’s way? Why not just sin like crazy?

·  4. Know how to control their anger. (v. 19-20)

·  5. See their lives change for the better. (v. 21-27)

·  Antithesis: Pick a few main points above and develop antitheses:

·  1 & 3. Giving up on God and then regretting it later.

·  2. Focusing on getting rich, and then you die and lose all of it.

·  4. Blowing up in anger, and that’s what everyone knows you for.

·  5. Staying the same and never growing—like having food on your face and never wiping it off!

·  Historical Situation: Believers who were Jewish were being pressured to return to their religious practices from before Jesus came.

·  Application IDEAS

·  Very customizable to your cell group: Pick something that they could take action on this week, depending on the needs of your cell group (unity, evangelism, commitment, etc.), and make a specific challenge.

·  Get into a conversation with someone and practice listening. Keep asking them questions and listening to their answers until they ask you a question.

2. Favoritism (James 2)

·  Main point: Don’t Show Favoritism

o  Intro Discussion: We are called to accept everyone—what are some reasons that people might reject someone?

o  Structure: Why Is Favoritism so Bad? Because...

·  1. Favoritism is the opposite of what Jesus did for us [GOSPEL]. (2:1-4)

§  Discussion: How is Jesus saving us the opposite of favoritism?

·  2. Our reasons for thinking some people are better than others are stupid. (2:5-8)

§  What are things that make some people think they are better than everyone else?

·  3. Showing favoritism shows that we don’t take following Jesus seriously. (2:9-11)

o  Doesn’t mean that all sins are the same, or that you aren’t a Christian if you sin.

o  2:14-20- About being righteous before others, not before God

§  People will tell how serious you are about God by whether or not you show favoritism—God sees your heart and knows if you are really a believer, but others only see your actions.

·  Antithesis: Examples of showing favoritism; portrait of a cell group that judged people rather than welcomed them.

·  Application IDEAS

·  Think about people in your life that you have rejected recently (we all do it). What can you do this week to make it right?

·  Pray silently for two people who might feel excluded.

·  Brainstorm how we can become a more welcoming cell group.

3. Wise Use of Words (James 3)

·  Main point: Be careful about what comes out of your mouth! (3:2)

o  Discuss: When is a time that you said something you wish you hadn’t said?

o  So why did you say it? Because the tongue can’t be tamed! We always have to be careful with it. It’s like walking around with a lion on a leash—stay extra careful because you can never be sure that you can control that thing!

o  Structure: Be wise in the way you use your words by...

·  1. Realizing that you always need to be cautious because you aren’t perfect [GOSPEL]. (3:1-2)

·  2. Understanding the great power of our words (3:3-8).

§  Discussion- Examples of times when your words or someone else’s were extremely powerful (either very destructive or very helpful).

·  3. Looking for ways to use your speech for good (3:9-12, 15-17)

§  Contrast jealousy and selfish ambition with peacefulness, gentleness, humility, and mercy.

·  Antithesis: People that say whatever comes to mind (embarrassing stories); using your words to crush someone when all you wanted was to make others laugh; thinking you use your words well just because you don’t say “bad words.”

·  Application IDEAS

·  Tell two people in this cell group something you appreciate about them before the night is over.

4. Putting God First (James 4)

·  Main point: Putting God first, not second, and not tied for first (4:4-5)

o  Intro Discussion- Have you seen the reality shows where there are guys with multiple wives? Why is it so weird?

o  Marriage is a relationship of devotion, and so is following God. He calls us to put him first, not tied for first.

o  Structure- contrast between putting self first and putting God first

·  James 4:1-5 They were trying to do both- self first and God first! There’s only one first!

§  Discussion- Why does God want us to put him first? Is God like a jealous girlfriend who doesn’t want you talking to other girls? (Switch gender of question for girls’ cell)

§  Fill in chart from verses 1-5

Self First
Fighting- trying to GET from others
Believes that God exists to serve me / God First
Serving- trying to GIVE to others
Believes that I exist to serve God

·  James 4:6-10 [GOSPEL- he gives us grace for failing to put him first]

§  Discussion- Why should we be sorry about our sin if God forgives us anyway?

§  Fill in chart from verses 6-10

Self First
Unable to resist the devil because God is not our priority / God First
Able to resist the devil with God’s strength

·  James 4:11-12

§  Discussion- What’s the difference between how the self-centered person and the God-centered person view other people?

Self First
More worried about whether other people are treating me well / God First
More worried about trying to treat others well

·  James 4:13-16

Self First
Focused on my plans for success / God First
Focused on God’s plans for the world

·  Antithesis: Description of self-first perspective throughout teaching; seemingly good person in verses 13-14 is totally self-centered—no room for God or lost people in all his plans for success.

·  Application IDEAS

·  Think about a fight/quarrel you have had. Does it boil down to you just trying to get your way? If so, go back and apologize.

·  Next time you and a friend want to do different things, go with what they want.

5. Patience in Suffering (James 5)

·  Main Point: Patiently wait for God to bless you (5:7)

o  Intro discussion- What are some situations that require patience? What does it look like to be patient in those situations (in whatever situations they give)? Just because someone is waiting, does that mean they are waiting patiently?

o  Background: Read James 5:1-6 and ask: Look in those verses and describe what was happening to the believers that James was writing to. (Oppressed by a rich minority.)

o  Why doesn’t God just end all suffering?! The Bible’s answer: just hold on, he will! (Explain 2 Pet 3:9- letting the world continue on so more people can come to Christ [GOSPEL]. If he blotted out evil, that would be us too since we sin!)

o  Structure: Having patience in hard times means...

·  1. We believe that God is going to act (5:7)

§  Discuss: What sorts of things will God do to help us with hard things in our lives?

·  2. We stand firm and don’t give up (5:8)

·  3. We don’t worry as much about the little things (5:9)

§  Discuss: How does having patience and trust in God help us to stop grumbling against each other?

·  4. We will be richly rewarded (5:10-11)

§  Summarize story of Job

·  Didn’t know why he was suffering and was very frustrated. He just wanted answers!

·  Got major blessing instead because he decided he wouldn’t renounce God no matter how hard it got.

§  Discuss- What are some hard situations in your life right now that require you to trust God patiently? (Leave time for this one and have leaders share personal stories, too.)

·  Antithesis- Being a whiny brat, demanding your way now; thinking that God has abandoned you when he is actually about to come through in a big way.

·  Application IDEAS

o  Apply the passage and discuss what it looks like to be patient in each of the situations that students bring up—be specific and have students pray for all of the situations discussed.