The Bible – is it changing you and your community?

Throughout the month, we engage with over 100 leaders in coaching huddles. We have the opportunity to discuss and thrash out many of the practicalities of growing a culture of discipleship and mission. Many of these conversations are about issues relevant to the wider movement. So each month, we’ll  share with you something that has come up in our coaching huddles and merits a wider audience and discussion. This week, its back to basics and looking at the scriptures…

One of the things we’re really passionate about here at 3dm is the bible. We’re also passionate about Missional Communities being vibrant communities reflecting a balanced life of “Up” “In” and “Out”.

So how do we ensure that as communities we grow together in the scriptures, without our time together just becoming another bible study?

Our emphasis over the years has been to ensure that our approach in reading the bible is always aiming towards orthopraxy rather than orthodoxy; the intersection of truth and application. As James says in James 1:22-25 we are not aiming at merely listening to the word: “not forgetting what  [we] have heard, but doing it”.   Jesus consistently told his followers to “Go and Do”. But we need to be “Going” and “Doing” from a place of knowing God’s word and truth.

So how can we become communities of people who encourage this kind of attitude to the word, looking for transformation and action not merely observation and reflection? How can we achieve a 3 dimensional balance when reading the scriptures so that we don’t just remain in a default of “Up” and “In”?

One approach can be to use a simple tool when looking at the scriptures together. We read a passage together with the aim of processing:

What does it say about God? (UP)

How does it apply to me/us? (IN)

Who am I/we  going to share it with? (OUT)

The “who am I/we going to share it with” is often absent when looking at the bible together and yet this is a key component if we are to go out and make disciples. Small groups and Missional Communities provide an environment to process what God is saying to us individually and corporately, but also give a framework of accountability. We can ask each other the following week who we have shared God’s word with (a non-believer) , and we can pray for each other as that word is scattered. This means as we read scripture we are also ‘going’.

This approach can be framed using the learning circle as a tool together as we look at a particular passage. The concept of the learning circle is based on Mark 1. 14-15  where Jesus said “The time has come, the kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” When taking this approach we ask the Holy Spirit to speak to us as we read the scriptures together, asking God to “expand the way we think” as we engage with His truth. But we don’t just stop at good observations, an increase in knowledge or a deep reflection. We use these insights to help us process how this will change our life. The second half of the learning circle helps us to engage with the ‘do’ side of our response to scripture. Together we encourage, and process with one another, how we will live a life more defined by scripture. Support, encouragement and accountability comes from the community to live out who God is calling us to be, and what He is calling us to do.

Another simple method can be for a few members of the group to read out key scriptures they’ve been reading since the group last met, sharing what God has been saying to them through the scripture and any breakthrough they’ve experienced as a result.

Missional communities can also provide a context of accountability for reading scriptures individually or in smaller groups (2’s or 3’s). In a similar post over on the Missional Communities blog  Ben Askew said “One of the things we’ve found most helpful, is to focus effort on getting core members of the community excited about studying the same bits of the bible on their own or in twos and threes. When this works it means that the whole community is reading and thinking about the same things, and so you have natural things to talk about and wrestle through when you get together. We’ve found that it is far easier to get people into reading God’s book when you approach it as a community.”

Most importantly Missional Communities provide the context for the scriptures to shape, transform and live out who and what God challenges us to be and do through His word. This is a personal process but is made more powerful & more potent as people journey together.

So perhaps next time you are together with your team, have a think:

How do you study scripture personally?

How do you make sure there is an application?

Do you study scripture as a community? What works and why?

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