Wednesday, March 4, 2009

God's Word is getting us past "nice"

I met with the leaders of our six home Bible groups last night. We are now in month seven of eight, and not a single person has dropped out of the groups.

What touched me last night were group leader reports of deepening relationships. Group members are starting to pray with and for one another. People are getting together between group meetings.

One of my favorite reports came from a woman who said, "I'm really getting to know NNN - actually, I've known him for years but now we're really starting to know each other."

Churches can be places where people are comfy and nice with one another. We can "go to services" and have coffee while talking about the weather or whatever.

But studying the Bible opens up hearts to deeper things. Talking about insights, doubts, hopes, fears and all of life's serious matters, with Holy Scripture to guide and inform the discussion, is transformative.

I'm not talking about a "forum" where "Father" blathers on and people snooze. Nor am I describing an open gab fest where people share their pre-formed opinions and are not challenged by the Word. My part is to conform my life to Biblical truth, then equip the group leaders with detailed insight into the passages under study. I also coach them in leadership and pastoral issues emerging in their groups. Then, with faith in Christ, I turn them loose to open up the Word of God with their people.

Along with depth, we are getting passion. Several of the leaders have come to me (actually nagged me in a most rewarding way) to open up "what's next" after the current study ends.

Glory to God. I give thanks today for "The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, the Word of God containing all things necessary to salvation." And I give thanks to God for giving me these wonderful group leaders, and for giving them their wonderful groups, finding deeper and more passionate life in God's Word.


The Archer of the Forest said...

Interesting. How did you go about instituting that from a parish administrative level?

TLF+ said...

There was quite a bit of ground work, over a couple of years, actually. Much "leadership from the pulpit". Much demonstration, throught preaching, that the Bible has a coherent and relevant message - in fact, THE message.

Then, I did a summer "outline of the Bible" as the sermon series. I gave them the high points, main characters and events, and unifying themes of the whole Bible over the course of a summer. This was very, very well received - people who were travelling came in to get the outlines from the church office.

Then we began a series of announcements, setting up the home groups as the next step up from the "outlines." We have used Mark, with the theme, "Ever read a Gospel?" Face it, many of our folks have never read an entire Gospel (or much else in the Bible).

I recruited hosts - folks who had been asking for this kind of deeper study, folks who had been regular in attending parish classes, folks who would make good hosts.

We met and made a big decision - the group meetings would be monthly instead of weekly. I know, that flies in the face of all kinds of "here's how it must be done" nostrums, but it has been key to the success of these first groups.

Sign ups were voluntary. We had coffee hour clip-boards with the hosts, locations, and days and times of the groups. We have a nice variety - most meet in homes in the evenings, but we have one lunch time group and one that meets at a retirement community.

I meet with the leaders during the first week of each month, to give them resources and a walk-through of the chapters to be covered (we did two chapters a month for 8 mos.)

I will stop typing now - just end by saying that God has done things with the people that we never could have planned or programmed. The main thing is getting people together to get into God's Word.