I think there are many people who are nervous or uncertain about joining a small group. What does the group actually do? What will be expected of me? Why give up an afternoon or evening any way? Will it make any real difference? Well, the short answer is come along and find out. Over the summer, the Wednesday evening group is continuing to meet, and the Thursday afternoon group meets again on 10th September. We are finding that week by week the Lord is speaking to us, and we have seen all kinds of answered prayer, and we would love to welcome newcomers, even if you are only coming to see what it’s really like!
But to help you understand exactly how we approach Scripture and why we place such importance on reading it, I have produced the following eight step guide which shows what might happen during a typical session. We begin in prayer, recognising the presence of the Lord, and we end in prayer, asking that the Lord will help us put all we have learnt into practice. The steps in between are designed that we read the Scriptures, faithfully, openly and honestly, so that the same Holy Spirit which caused the Bible to be written might apply that same word to our hearts.
These eight steps are, however, not rigidly set in stone. Sometimes we will spend most of the evening looking at a direct application, or particuarly focusing on how God’s word speaks to the situation a particular individual is facing. Sometimes we will come across something that is hard to understand, and although it may seem like hard work seeking to work out what the Bible is saying, by the end we usually find that we have all grown a little in our faith and understanding. Really what happens is up to Christ speaking through His Spirit (providing we don’t get distracted!)
One thing we have learnt is not to worry so much about the parts of Scripture we don’t understand, as the parts of Scripture we do understand! Because it’s often the most obvious commands or warnings we struggle most to put into practice … which is exactly where the support and fellowship of the other small group members come into play. The Bible was never meant to be read purely in isolation or on a Sunday morning. The early church was made up of small groups who shared their lives together – not as a tight clique, but as an outward looking network of people seeking to live out their faith in an often dangerous and hostile world, like us today.
So here are the eight steps:
Pray Take a moment to be still, to recognise the presence of the Lord, and to leave your cares and concerns at the foot of the cross. What is it that you are expecting the Lord to do tonight? Are you ready to listen to His voice?
Read the passage If members of the group are using different versions, where are they similar? Where do they differ?
Set the scene No passage of the Bible stands on its own. How does it connect with what we read last time? How does it point forward to what we will be looking at next week? Where does this passage fit into the whole storyline of the Bible?
Interpret What type of passage are we looking at? Are we to take what we read literally, or are there figures of speech we need to understand?
Respond Is there anything about this passage that immediately strikes you? Are there any words or phrases you don’t understand? What questions would you like to ask the author of this passage?
Discuss What is or are the main point(s) of the passage? Could you express it in your own words? What does this passage tell us about God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit? Is the passage addressed to us as individuals or to the people of God? What are we called to do in response to His word?
Apply How does what we have just read apply to our own daily lives? How does it apply to the life of the church?
Pray that the Lord would write His words on our hearts, and that we would return with a testimony of how we have seen the Lord at work through all that we have learnt tonight.