1. What was your initial response when Samantha Cohen reveals what she planned to do to the church (convert it into a restaurant/nightclub)? Do you think Oliver should have walked away from the project at the outset? Would you? Why or why not?
2. What struck you about Pastor Han’s story? Were you comfortable with him sharing his secrets with Samantha? Explain.
3. How would you describe the relationship between Oliver and Taller, as brothers? In what ways does their perception of each other affect that relationship? Are there ways in which you can relate, with your own siblings?
4. What’s the first hint that Oliver has some “issues” with his mother, and her expectations of him? How are these hints confirmed as the story develops?
5. In what ways has Oliver been affected by his father’s death when he was a young boy? How was the Barnett family dynamic affected? Look back on your own childhood. What issues have influenced the way your family interacts, even now?
6. In what ways has Samantha been affected by her mother’s death—and the manner of her death—when she was a teenager? How was the Cohen family dynamic affected? Looking back on your teen years, do you remember words spoken that you wish had never been spoken? If so, how have those words altered your perspective of that person? Of yourself?
7. How did you feel about Oliver hiring the Pratt brothers as carpenters on the project? If it was your decision, would you have hired them? Is it easy for you to give people “second chances”? Why or why not? What was your reaction when Oliver receives conflicting advice about his decision from Pastor Mosco and Barth? Whose view was closest to your own? Explain.
8. Would you call Paula’s faith “authentic”? Why or why not? What clues can you give as proof of your theory? Do you think Oliver believed her faith was authentic? What would make him think so—or wonder? What, to you, are signs of true Christian belief?
9. How is Oliver different from all of the other men with whom Samantha has had relationships? How did the way he refused to compromise his moral beliefs impact their relationship? Have you ever been in a situation where you had to stick to your guns, morally, and it cost you something? What happened as a result?
10. Besides Oliver’s influence, what other factors came into play to cause Samantha to think about her relationship to God? How did Sarah—a fellow and “completed Jew,” someone more like Samantha than Oliver or Cameron—make a difference in her understanding of Christian belief? In what way(s) can you reach out to those who are similar or different from you in faith and/or background?
11. What’s the difference between law and grace? Explain, using a couple of examples from the book. What do you tend to lean most toward—law or grace? What factors in your background have led you to respond that way?
12. What was your response to Barth’s opinion on how God views suicide? In what way(s) do Barth’s words influence situations you may have faced with hurting people in the past?
13. Do you think there was something special about the church building? The windows? Is there such a thing as “sacred space”? Why or why not?
14. What did you think was going to happen when Paula discovers she’s pregnant? Were you surprised by the outcome? Explain.
15. How did God use Oliver to fulfill His plan for “the church,” even when he struggled with transforming a church building into something else? How might you use your current circumstances and stresses to help touch others’ lives and build “the church”?