This is article ten of a ten part series. Click here to view the previous article.
Principle Seven: Application
The lesson had gone well. The class seemed to be engaged in the Bible study, and the teams have demonstrated creatively their understanding of the biblical truth in their passages. Several of the prospects the care groups had been cultivating had come and had participated in the discussion. Some had even shared an interest in knowing more about the gospel. Then it happened; the grand exodus! Just as the teacher was bringing the lesson to a meaningful time of application, choir members got up, gathered their Bibles, coats, purses, etc. and started leaving the room. All eyes followed them. The guests didn’t know what was happening. It was evident that the session was over even though the teacher was still talking.
This is a tragedy that repeats itself Sunday after Sunday in Baptist churches. Allow me a personal privilege: I have been a worship leader in many churches both large and small. I have always told my choir, “Don’t you dare leave Sunday School early to get to choir!” Think about it; when is the Holy Spirit doing his greatest work…, During the application stage of the lesson. That’s when the grand choir exodus takes place. When the choir leaves so do the minds of those left behind. If there is a lost person attending with whom God is working, his mind is taken off the focus of the lesson and off the biblical truth and the Holy Spirit’s work is hindered. I always told my choirs, If we don’t have it by Wednesday night rehearsal, we won’t get it 5 minutes before the worship service. Stay in Sunday School to the end, then come and God will bless our music. Choir can wait. That Sunday School hour is sacred unto God for Bible study.
The principle of application is critical to transformational small group Bible study. Biblical knowledge or content is not enough for transformation to happen. Learners need to discover Bible truths that are transformational and then understand ways to apply them into their life style…so they will take it home! The aim of any Bible study session is to guide the learner to discover Bible truths that are life changing and to apply the truths learned.
Application grows out of the teaching aim of the session and should answer these three questions:
- What do I need to learn from this study?
- What do I plan to do with what I will learn?
- What change should take place in my life as a result of this study?
Application activities should help learners accomplish the teaching aimed during the session and apply it beyond the session. The application stage should progress from general to specific:
- General application to LEARNERS: What are some ways LEARNERS can apply this truth to life?
- Specific application to YOU: What is one way YOU will apply this truth this week?
This past Sunday as we studied Joshua 1:1-18 and Joshua as the new leader for Israel after Moses, I asked my class to brainstorm: (General) What can we all learn from Joshua’s leadership? I wrote their answers on a tear sheet on the wall. Then I handed each a “Post it Note” and said, (Specific) What is one way you will put into practice this week what you’ve learned from God’s Word about leadership? I encouraged them to put this note in their Bible at Joshua 1 to serve as a reminder. If they do this on a regular basis, soon they will have their Bible
populated with notes reminding them of how they might be applying biblical truths they’ve learned in small group Bible study.
Let’s take it a step further. Transformational strategies must reach beyond the Bible study time as leaders help learners appropriate biblical truths into a missional lifestyle. Good relationships are developed through regular fellowships, ball games, retreats and ministry actions to members, but nothing beats a missional ministry to the community and to the lost. This helps members move the biblical truths discovered into a missional lifestyle. Quarterly Missional Projects in the community help learners appropriate biblical truths into life. The best appropriation actions are those that emerge from the Bible study. For example, our Sunday School class, following a unit of study about the Annunciation and Birth of Jesus decided to have a Baby Shower for the “Son of the Most High”. They collected baby gifts during the unit and gave them to a needy family in the community.
Jesus understood that knowledge was not enough. After telling the religious scholar the story of the Good Samaritan about how to treat your neighbor, Jesus told him to Go and do the same. Jesus knew that truth must always be applied and appropriated into real life if it is to be truly transformational.
For a compilation of this information and these principles plus a Bible Study Session Plan Sheet go to:
www.leaderesource.org – click on Sunday School and choose General Leaders. Select module 2: Transformational Bible Study – Resource.
Phil Stone is the State Sunday School Director for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.