Reading Group Guide
1. Have you ever heard the expression toxic church? What do you think it means? Were the Elect a toxic church? Have you yourself ever been involved with a toxic church? If so, what was your experience?
2. First Corinthians 13 tells us that without charity, no matter how eloquent a person may be, he or she becomes like a sounding brass or a crashing cymbal. Did Luke Fisher convince the Elect that he was a "real" evangelist possessing the love of God? Or does he? If so, how did he do it? Were the people simply starstruck?
3. When he introduced Luke to the congregation, Owen Blanchard urged them to "try the spirits and see if they are of God." With their history, were the Elect able to do this? How might you yourself do so?
4. Claire Montoya struggled with self-image issues. In a toxic church, many women find that decisions are made for them under the guise of a "womanly example." Do you think such practices are valid? What are the advantages and disadvantages of such an example?
5. The toxic church can impose restrictions on its members in any aspect of their lives. Would you allow such restrictions in your own church? Do you think it was reasonable for Claire to stay in Hamilton Falls at the Shepherd's request when she wanted to move away? If you had had her background, what would you have done?
6. At what point did Claire realize she had let the Elect leadership make all of her decisions for her? Do you consider the needs of your church before making your own life decisions?
7. Claire's relationship with her parents was strained because their views on living up to the church's expectations differed from hers. Is this reasonable or realistic? Do your own views on behavior and dress differ from those of your parents' generation?
8. One of the themes of A Sounding Brass is that "faith comes by hearing." Investigator Ray Harper was an auditory learner, as opposed to a visual learner. In what way do you learn the best? Was Ray's experience realistic?
9. Have you ever heard the voice of God audibly? If so, what was it like? Do you think God speaks to people in this day and age?