Sunday School, small groups, and even discipling groups exist for more than studying a book called the Bible. But when the group opens God’s Word together, relationships (with God and each other) can be the medium for encouragement and change of heart, words, and steps. Keep in mind that life-change is more likely to occur in groups where there is greater trust and transparency.
But heart, words, and steps don’t necessarily change simply because of being together–during group time or between group times. For the three to be impacted, I believe that five ingredients are needed. Life-change without all five is not likely. Consider the following:
Heart, Words, and Steps
- The Word. God in His Word has the power to change lives. When we open the Bible, God speaks. As in any conversation, listening is key to understanding and responding. Listening is also key for God’s Word to impact our heart, words, and steps. A relationship with God plus listening to Him will naturally result in life-change. When life-change is not the result, relationship, listening, or both are weak or missing.
- Prayer. When we open God’s Word, God speaks. When He speaks, He expects a response. While prayer and life-change are two responses, prayer is the conversational portion of response (talking to Him). If group leaders open God’s Word desiring for members to experience life-change, then time for prayer should be planned. Prayer should be as closely connected in time to the group Bible study time as possible, or participants may forget what God said and not respond appropriately. Prayer in this context usually includes agreeing with God and committing to respond obediently.
- Good Questions. Jesus asked many question, many good questions. In a group Bible study, not every question is helpful. Questions demanding yes or no, or one-word response often do not require much thinking. The best questions for impacting life-change focus on the truth of God’s Word and its application to life. External thinkers immediately think aloud. Internal thinkers need time to process before responding. Both types of thinkers benefit from time to process–so give the group time to think before responding. Questions can be asked between group meetings or during your time together.
- Discussion. When a person participates verbally in discussion about God’s Word, change of mindset and direction is possible. This happens best when relationships are trusting. Discussion opens individuals to examining his/her own points of view as well as considering the points of view of others–including God. Think about the discussion of Jesus and the Samaritan woman. Remember that discussion takes more time than lecture, but it has life-changing potential.
- The Holy Spirit. Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit will teach His disciples all things and remind us of everything Jesus said (John 14:26). Remembering what Jesus said helps us live out and share what we heard in God’s Word. I have experienced this many times in lessons, sermons, and interactions. Sometimes the Spirit brought to my mind verses that I have memorized, and at other times He has used passages that I have not studied in a while.
What proceeds from our mouths and actions comes from the heart. Heart, words, and steps are connected. When we help those in our groups to spend time in God’s Word listening to Him, prayerfully respond to Him, consider some thought-provoking questions about God’s Word and its application, discuss it together, and allow the Holy Spirit to teach us, we have the right ingredients for life-change.
Teacher, how do you need to adjust your preparation and your presentation of God’s Word in order to ensure these five ingredients are included? Christian, are you in a Bible study group? If not, I want to encourage you to ask a pastor to recommend one. Gather together to study God’s Word. Include these ingredients. Make disciples. Be revolutionary!