By John Mark Comer
Begin with prayer (5 minutes)
Gather together as a Community in a comfortable setting (around a table, on the couch, the floor of a living room, etc.). Have somebody lead a prayer asking the Holy Spirit to lead and guide your time together.
Debrief the teaching in small groups (15–20 minutes)
If you are in a Community of seven or more, divide into small groups of 3–4 people each (ideally same gender).
Spend a few minutes catching up on life…
Then talk through the following debrief questions:
Did you listen to the teaching? What did you think?
How would you describe your family or origin?
How does the idea of dealing with your past make you feel? Scared? Terrified? Sad? Guilty?
Transition back to one large group (5 minutes)
Ask a few questions about the last week’s practice:
How does everybody feel about going on this journey as a Community? Scared? Excited? Unsure? Ready to bolt for the door?
How can we make this Community a safe place to deal with emotional pain from our past?
How can we “be there for each other” during this practice?
Read this overview
Who we are today has been directly shaped by where we come from. Put another way, our present has been directly shaped by our past. For most of us, the single greatest influence on our life other than Jesus is our family of origin. Not only the color of our skin, our height, or our genetic code, but our strengths and weakness, the patterns of how we relate to other people and deal with conflict, the values we live by, the faith we practice - all of this and more has been shaped by our past - specifically our family and childhood.
No family is perfect. At some level, every family is dysfunctional. We all have some kind of “emotional baggage” that we carry from our past. And this baggage often holds us back from the life of freedom and joy that Jesus has for us. Dealing with our past is one of the first steps in our apprenticeship to Jesus. We have to “go back to go forward.”
We begin our Practice by making our own genogram. A genogram is a visual map of your family tree, and it’s used to identify 1. generational sins, 2. relational patterns, 3. scripts, 4. blessings, and more. We’ll start our genogram this week, but it will take several more weeks to fill it out and finish. Take your time. Go at your own pace. Let God give you his peace as you work through this Practice.
Week one of our Practice is focused on generational sins. Our goal is to identify and then to begin to break off sins in our own life that go back for generations.
Please note, this is one of the hardest practices in our apprenticeship to Jesus, but it’s also one of the most powerful. If you’re up for it, dealing with your past could unleash your future in ways you never dreamed possible.
Open to the Bible together (10 minutes)
Have somebody read Genesis 26v1-11
Talk about the following questions:
Here we see Isaac repeating the same sin as his father - lying about his wife, calling her his sister, and exposing the woman he loved to great danger to save his own skin. In what ways have you seen generational sins like this one play out in your own family? (Please only share what you feel ready to share with your Community)
Have you ever thought about sins in your own life going back to your parents’ lives? Or your grandparents’ or great-grandparents’ lives?
Do you live under any kind of fear that if you ever have children, you will pass on a generational sin to them?
Talk about the coming week’s Practice as a Community (10–30 minutes)
Here’s the practice for the coming week:
Begin the Genogram Workbook: The goal of the Genogram Workbook is to review key events in your family history and identify generational sins, brokenness, relational patterns, and inherited values.
Watch the Family Genogram Tutorial.
Then take out your Genogram Workbook. Our first step is to fill out our Genograms, going back as far as we can (ideally 3-4 generations). For now, just fill in names, and we’ll add symbols next week.
On page 2, there’s a list of questions to help you navigate the next few weeks of Practice. Don’t feel like you need to answer them all. Maybe tackle a few each week. Each week, you’ll start to have “aha” moments of revelation. When those come, write them down in a journal or your workbook, and share them with somebody in your Community.
Once you have your genogram done, there are five exercises to do over the coming week.
Note: The following four exercise are found on pages 3 – 4 of your Genogram Workbook.
Exercise 1: Key Events
Fill out the four boxes of key events:
In “Trauma” write in any traumatic moments in your own life - the death of a parent or sibling, a divorce, growing up in poverty (or wealth), a childhood disease or accident, moving every two years in an Army family, etc. You’re looking for key events that shaped you in ways you might not yet have realized. For example, people who grew up frequently moving (say, in an Army family or an expat family), often have difficulties with relational intimacy later in life. Making those connections is the first step toward freedom.
In “Redemptive Moments” write an any redemptive moments in your own life - getting saved in high school, getting into your dream college, your parent getting sober, moving to a new city or school where you discovered something you loved, a best friend, etc. You’re looking for key events that Jesus has used for good in your life.
In the second column, do the exact same thing, but for your family going back 3-4 generations. Under “Trauma”, put things like the premature death of a grandparent, a family scandal, an illigimate child, etc. Under redemptive moments, put things like an ancestor coming to follow Jesus, or immigrating to America, etc.
Remember: you’re trying to identify key events that have made you who you are.
Exercise 2: Generational Sins
List out any generational sins in your life and in your family going back 3-4 generations. For example, things like alchoholism, anger, adultery, abuse, etc.
If you feel safe, this can be a very healthy conversation to have with a sibling, parent, or grandparent.
Spend some time in prayer over each sin you write down on the list. Ask the Father, “What do you want to say to me about that?”
When you finish your list, before you move on, ask the Father, “Are there any generational sins I’m missing here?”
Pause for a moment and remember the death of Jesus on your behalf, to “forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1v9)
Exercise 3: Generational Brokenness
List out any generational brokenness in your life and in your family going back 3-4 generations.
“Brokeness” is a much larger category that includes anything outside of what God intended in the beginning. For example, things like premature death, disease, infertility, miscarriages, addiction, obesity, mental illness, eating disorders or unhealthy relationships with food, poverty, wealth, cult practices such as Freemasonry or Scientology, etc.
Spend some time in prayer over each item on the list. Ask the Father, “Is there anything I need to know about this?”
When you finish your list, before you move on, ask the Father, “Is there any generational brokenness I’m missing here?”
Pause for a moment and remember this line from Paul’s letter to the Romans: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8v28)
Exercise 4: Generational Sins and Brokenness That I Carry Forward
Now it’s time to put it all together. This will be the most difficult exercise so far, but also the most important.
Look over your lists of generational sins and brokenness. Write down anything that you carry forward in your own life.
Spend some time in prayer over each item on the list. You might need to spend some time asking God for forgiveness or asking for grace to change.
Ask the Father, “Is there anything you want to say about these sins in my life and family line?” Remember, conviction is from the Holy Spirit, but shame and guilt are never from God. Silence the voices of shame and guilt in your heart and mind. Open yourself up to the voice of the Holy Spirit, who has direct access to your interior world.
Pause for a moment and sit in this declaration of God’s name from Exodus: “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.” Realize that the number one description of God’s character is “compassionate.” Sit in the reality that God’s baseline emotion toward you is mercy.
If you’re up for it, share this list with your Community or a close friend that you trust. Don’t go on this journey alone!
Work through these discussion questions (10–15 minutes)
Any thoughts, creative ideas, or feedback on this coming week’s Practice?
What do you think will be the most difficult part for you?
Do you feel guilty exposing the sins and brokenness of your parents and grandparents? If so, what’s a healthy way to deal with that?