One the biggest challenges in the process of making disciples is helping people move beyond head knowledge to heart knowledge. Transformation happens at the point where the truth of God’s Word intersects with the reality of an individual’s life. We know that happens best in the context of biblical community—believers living in authentic relationships with each other, mutually committed to pursuing God’s best for them. And yet there are still some obstacles to seeing whole-life transformation take place through your group study. Let’s look at two of the most common obstacles. Evaluate which of these obstacles are affecting your group study and begin to make some changes!
Obstacle #1: Studying the Bible just to accumulate knowledge
Those who can rattle off chapter and verse but never become more like Christ may not truly believe that the God of the universe is addressing them personally. They see the Bible as an ancient document with interesting and wise information, but not “living and active.” They see no need to apply it to their lives. This person comes to the Scriptures with an analytical eye rather than by humbly asking God to transform their lives. They take pride in mastering the text, but they don’t know how to let the text master them. They want to study Jesus, but don’t really want to know him.
Is our group studying the Bible just to accumulate knowledge? Do some simple evaluation now:
Evidence that we are:
Evidence that we aren’t:
Solution: Make Sure It’s a Discussion, Not a Lecture
When you’ve spent a good amount of time and energy preparing for your group study, the temptation can sometimes be to do all the talking and to answer your own questions. While there are times you may need to do the bulk of the talking, the way people learn and really digest truth is when they’re able to interact with it, rather than just hearing it. So in your preparation, focus on developing great discussion questions that invite your group into a discussion. Don’t be afraid of a few moments of silence while people formulate their answers. And don’t feel like you need to have all the answers.
Obstacle #2: Coming to the Bible with arrogance
The person who is not being transformed by the Word of God may come to it to prove his or her point. This person may have decided what he or she thinks or wants the Bible to teach. They may have been taught such ideas as a child, been drawn to the Bible because it preserves the lifestyle they want, or because it gives them power in certain choices. This person doesn’t come to the Word of God to let it transform them. Instead they use the Bible as a proof text, to gain ammunition for selfish battles.
Is our group coming to the Bible with arrogance? Do some simple evaluation now:
Evidence that we are:
Evidence that we aren’t:
Solution: Be the Model
As the leader you set the tone for what your group will expect from your group time. You have to model the attitude and the process you expect from your group members.
What’s your attitude toward that group meeting’s study? Don’t ever begin one of these statements (or even thoughts): “[sigh] Well, we’re on week 7 of this study, so let’s see what this section is going to say.” Or, “I’m not really sure what the point of this week’s passage is, but let’s look at it anyway.” If you’re not excited about the study, your group members certainly won’t be! In order to come to your group time with joy and excitement requires that you have appropriately prepared—not just collecting the content to share, but genuinely wrestling with how God’s truth impacts your life. Only then can you come to your group honestly fired up about what He wants to do in and through you, and see this enthusiasm shared by those in your group. As leader, you establish the tone of your group. Model an attitude of expecting God to show up!
You must also model the facilitation process you expect from the group. By “facilitation process” we mean the way by which you as a group interact and learn during your study time. A combination of structured learning and experience learning is best, but will be limited by the willingness of the group members to be involved. Setting ground rules is an important first step. By establishing a Group Covenant early on in the life of your group you can lay out a unified, cohesive set of expectations for the group process. You must then make those expectations a reality by modeling what it looks like to live out that process in your group time through self-disclosure, acceptance, transparent sharing, mutual support, affirmation, and speaking the truth in love. If it’s going to happen in your group, you’re going to have to lead the way!
For Further Growth:
-Portions of outline and descriptions adapted from author JoHannah Reardon.