From the vicarage June 2011
It’s been a month since we started our new format for small group meetings. I want us to be clear about what the groups are for and what we should expect from the bible studies.
It would be wrong to see the small groups as little classrooms, where we go only learn dry facts about God. Small groups are places of transformation. God is at work in his people through his word by the power of his Holy Spirit, changing us as individuals, groups, the whole of Holy Trinity church and ultimately God will transform the community around the church as his word spreads. I find that prospect really exciting!
The Swedish bible study questions are designed to give everyone the chance to approach God’s word, reflect then find and give answers no matter what our level of Christian maturity. The greatest theologian and the newest Christian can answer all the questions. The first two questions in the study are about facts. The second two about transformation, first in my own life then in the lives of others as we speak the words of God to each other and our neighbours..
So go to your group and expect great things to happen. God will speak and transform. Take a long term view. Change takes time as God works in his people. But imagine what West Bromwich might be like in 5 years, 10 years or 15 years time as more and more people are transformed by reading God’s word together prayerfully in the power of his Holy Spirit. If you think you’ve heard that before, you have! It’s part of our mission statement.
Being soaked in the word of God
There is a danger in the Christian life of reading too much bible. I bet you never thought you’d hear me say that! Let me clarify. We can treat the bible either like a buffet meal or a Sunday lunch. At a buffet we take a little of everything, it’s a collection of snacks, a bit of sausage roll, sandwich, pizza, cake, fruit, biscuits. If we eat enough snacks it can leave us with indigestion. It is easy to treat the bible the same way, dipping in here and there in our quiet times, reading favourite verses, going to small group for another study and hearing a sermon on Sunday from another part of scripture. We can have snack after snack, which leaves us with a shallow faith and biblical indigestion.
If we read the same passage a few times, think about it, pray about it, talk about it with others and listen to a sermon on it, then we dig down deep. It’s like enjoying a main course at Sunday lunch, with all the riches the different flavours on one plate. I now spend all week thinking about one bible passage; I go to three small groups, I pour over the text in sermon prep, and after a week of doing this, God has worked deep in my heart. I often come away from small group with new insight, new challenge, change and transformation, even after doing my sermon prep.
So let’s expect God to do a deep work of transformation in us all. We’ll shape things in the groups as we go along, especially the interaction between small group and Sunday sermon. I don’t know where God will take us there but I am open to change.
May Christ be glorified amongst us as we read the scriptures together.
Your brother. Neil