If You Want to Walk on Water, You've Got to Get Out of the Boat Participant's Guide

If You Want to Walk on Water, You've Got to Get Out of the Boat Participant's Guide

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In this six-session small group Bible study, If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve got to Get Out of the Boat, by John Ortberg, you’ll learn how to move beyond fear to discover God’s unique calling for your life!

Peter may have been the first one out of the boat, but Jesus’ invitation to walk on water is for you as well. But walk on water? What does that mean?

If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat helps you answer helps you answer Christ’s call to greater faith, power-filled deeds, and a new way of knowing how to discern God’s call, transcend fear, risk faith, manage failure, and trust God. Relating to the story in Matthew 14 to life today, teacher and bestselling author John Ortberg invites you to consider the incredible potential that awaits you outside your comfort zone.

This Participant Guide is designed for use with the companion DVD (sold separately). It’s filled with insights, questions for discussion, and applications that will help you connect a new way of thinking to actual deeds and a different approach to life. Out on the risky waters of faith, Jesus is waiting to meet you in ways that will change your forever, deepening your character and your trust in God.

Sessions include:

  1. What’s Water Walking?
  2. The Tragedy of the Unopened Gift
  3. Find Your Calling and Get Your Feet Wet!
  4. Facing Our Challenges, Conquering Our Fears
  5. Good News for Cave Dwellers
  6. Learning to Wait on Our Big God

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780310823353
Publisher: Zondervan
Publication date: 05/27/2014
Edition description: Participant's Guide ed.
Pages: 128
Sales rank: 543,315
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.80(h) x 0.40(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

John Ortberg is the senior pastor of Menlo Park Presbyterian Church (MPPC) in the San Francisco Bay Area. His bestselling books include Soul Keeping, Who Is This Man?, and If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get out of the Boat. John teaches around the world at conferences and churches, writes articles for Christianity Today and Leadership Journal, and is on the board of the Dallas Willard Center and Fuller Seminary. He has preached sermons on Abraham Lincoln, The LEGO Movie, and The Gospel According to Les Miserables. John and his wife Nancy enjoy spending time with their three adult children, dog Baxter, and surfing the Pacific. You can follow John on twitter @johnortberg or check out the latest news/blogs on his website at www.johnortberg.com.

Stephen and Amanda Sorenson are founders of Sorenson Communications and have co-written many small group curriculum guidebooks, including the entire Faith Lessons series.

Read an Excerpt

If You Want to Walk on Water, You've Got to Get Out of the Boat Participant's Guide

By John Ortberg, Stephen Sorenson, Amanda Sorenson


Copyright © 2003 John Ortberg
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-310-82335-3


What's Water-Walking?


There is something — Someone — inside us who tells us there is more to life than sitting in the boat. You were made for something more.... There is something inside you that wants to walk on the water — to leave the comfort of routine existence and abandon yourself to the high adventure of following God.

— John Ortberg

Questions to think About

1. What kinds of things do you trust in, especially when life gets stormy, that help you feel comfortable and secure rather than fearful? Be honest!

2. Explain why you do or do not believe that God calls everyone who follows him to step out in faith and do something extraordinary. What does "stepping out in faith" look like?

3. How would you define failure?

4. Thus far in life, what has been your experience with failure ? What has failure kept you from doing? What has failure done for you?

Video Observations

Images of a balloon ride

Following Jesus: choosing between comfort and growth

Did Peter fail — or succeed?

Discovering the power of Jesus

Video Highlights

1. When John Ortberg and his wife took their hot-air balloon ride, the competence of their pilot became very important to them. Why is it so important for us to know the competence and trustworthiness of whoever pilots our lives?

2. Jesus invited Peter to step out of the boat and walk with him — to do something Peter could not do on his own — and Peter couldn't resist the opportunity. Jesus is still looking for people who love and trust him enough to step out of the boat. What do you find intriguing about stepping out of the boat?

3. What are your thoughts on John Ortberg's comments about failure, particularly that failure has more to do with the way we view the outcome of an event than what actually happened?

Large Group Exploration

An Adventure in the Dark

Let's take a closer look at what happened when Jesus revealed himself to his disciples as they sailed across the stormy Sea of Galilee, because that event matters a great deal to us today. We too have the opportunity to walk with Jesus in places we wouldn't dream of going on our own. Like each of the disciples, we must choose how we will respond to God. Will we sit in the boat, like the eleven disciples? Or will we, like Peter, leave the security of the boat and give God the opportunity to use us in extraordinary ways?

1. When Jesus told the disciples to sail to the other side of the Sea of Galilee without him, they obeyed. But what happened as they sailed? (See Matthew 14:22 – 26; Mark 6:45 – 50.)

2. What did Jesus say to them, and why is this significant today? (See Matthew 14:27.)

3. From Peter's perspective, recap what happened after Jesus told the disciples who he was. What is significant about Peter's response to Jesus? (See Matthew 14:28 – 32.)

4. What impact did this event have on the disciples? (See Matthew 14:33; Mark 6:51.)

5. What impact do you think this event had on Peter?

Small Group Exploration

Topic A

Where Do We Place Our Trust When We Are Afraid?

God knows how fearful we are, and he sometimes uses uncomfortable, real-world challenges to cause us to choose where we will place our trust. John Ortberg explains it this way: "The decision to grow [spiritually] always involves a choice between risk and comfort. This means that to be a follower of Jesus you must renounce comfort as the ultimate value of your life." Let's explore what God says about fear and choosing where we place our trust.

1. What happens when we place our trust in "boats" of our own making instead of placing our trust in God? (See Psalm 49:1 – 13.)

2. What did David realize about finding security in God rather than in things? (See Psalm 20:6 – 7; 118:6 – 9.)

3. What do the following verses reveal about God?

a. Psalm 18:1 – 3

b. Psalm 56:3 – 4

c. Jeremiah 17:7 – 8

4. What has God said to his people over and over again, and why do you think he repeated it? (See Genesis 15:1; 21:17; Joshua 8:1; Daniel 10:12.)

Topic B

What Happened When These People Got Out of Their Boats?

The Bible records the stories of many people who had to choose whether to trust God and step out in faith. Let's explore what happened to two men who, like Peter, decided to trust God and leave behind the security, comfort, and safety they had tried to provide for themselves.


1. What happened when Moses — the adopted son of the Pharaoh's daughter — took matters into his own hands when he saw an Israelite being mistreated by an Egyptian? (See Exodus 2:10 – 15; 3:1.)

2. How did God appear to Moses, and what did he want Moses to do? (See Exodus 3:1 – 4, 9 – 10.)

3. How did Moses respond when God presented the invitation to step out of the boat? (See Exodus 3:11 – 13; 4:13.)

4. Finally Moses took the plunge and returned to Egypt to urge Pharaoh to let the Israelites go. What happened as a result of God's power and the shepherd's water-walking obedience? (See Exodus 12:31 – 37.)


5. Where was Gideon trying to find comfort and safety when God approached him? (See Judges 6:11.)

6. Gideon was afraid to take the challenge the angel of the Lord presented to him. How did God respond to his fears? (See Judges 6:12 – 18; 7:9 – 15.)

7. How did God use this "insignificant" farmer who finally decided to obey and trust him? (See Judges 7:16 – 24.)

Group Discussion

1. Fear of failure is one reason many of us don't step out of the boat. Some people view Peter's walk on the water as a failure, but John Ortberg points out that there were eleven bigger failures sitting in the boat. In what ways does our perception of failure affect our willingness to start water-walking?

2. How much does our view of God's character and competence influence the degree to which we are willing to trust him and, in faith, to accept his calling and take risks?

3. Would you agree that sometimes the "boats" we create — whatever gives us an illusion of control, whatever or whomever (besides God) we are tempted to put our trust in when life is stormy — might actually be more dangerous than water-walking with Jesus? Why or why not?

4. If we keep choosing not to step out of our boats, what happens to us? To people around us? To our relationship with God?

Personal Journey: To Do Now

1. In If You Want to Walk on Water, You've Got to Get Out of the Boat, John Ortberg writes, "I believe that there is some aspect of your life in which God is calling you to walk with and to him, and that when we say yes to his calling, it sets in motion a divine dynamic far beyond merely human power." In what ways might God be calling you to get out of your "boat" and step out in faith?

2. Usually anyone who begins water-walking has to face personal fear. What deep fears keep you from really walking with and obeying God, from stepping out in faith and with his help doing what you could never do on your own? List fears that are specific to the calling you wrote down for question 1.

3. Looking back on your life so far, when have you said no to God's call? When have you said yes? Why? What happened as a result of those choices?

4. Which small or large steps can you begin taking this week to get out of your boat a little each day?

Personal Journey: To Do on Your Own

You've learned a few basics about water-walking and have been encouraged to think about your choices, your boats, and the opportunity to water-walk. It's easy to seek comfort and create boats, isn't it? That's why so many people choose that path. But God is calling you, as he calls every believer, to put your faith in him and start getting out of your boat a little more each day.

Set aside some quiet time to think about the following questions. There are no right or wrong answers, and nobody needs to know your responses, unless you choose to discuss them with someone. What's important is that you take time to reflect on some issues that you explored today, issues that may cause you to become uncomfortable or even a bit angry—at yourself, God, or someone else. By their nature, some of the boats people create are pretty ugly and secretive. Remember, though, that God loves you just the way you are. Whenever you are willing to get out of the boat, he is ready to help you do things you could never accomplish on your own. One of the first steps in the process of water-walking is assessing honestly where you are right now—and where you want to be.

1. Look back on your life. When have you stepped up to the plate, to use a baseball analogy, and tried to hit the ball? When have you refused to get out of the dugout when your name was called? Why? How have those decisions influenced your life — for better or worse?

2. Are you excited about your relationship with God right now? Is it dynamic and growing, or pretty stale? Why? How might what you've learned about water-walking start making a difference in your relationship with God?

3. Do you think you are a risk taker or a comfort seeker? Why? Write out some ways in which you have taken risks in your walk with God and ways you have deliberately chosen to seek comfort rather than take the risk of what God was calling you to do.

4. Ask God to make your heart and mind open to what he wants to reveal to you through this study and to give you the courage to face whatever issues come up in the remaining sessions.


Excerpted from If You Want to Walk on Water, You've Got to Get Out of the Boat Participant's Guide by John Ortberg, Stephen Sorenson, Amanda Sorenson. Copyright © 2003 John Ortberg. Excerpted by permission of ZONDERVAN.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Preface, 7,
Session 1: What's Water-Walking?, 9,
Session 2: The Tragedy of the Unopened Gift, 27,
Session 3: Find Your Calling and Get Your Feet Wet!, 43,
Session 4: Facing Our Challenges, Conquering Our Fears, 61,
Session 5: Good News for Cave Dwellers, 79,
Session 6: Learning to Wait on Our Big God, 97,

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