How to Teach the Bible Through Discussion Without Missing the Point, Part 1

sm-grp-bible-study-LOWResThis is the first part of a two-part series on how to teach the Bible through discussion without missing the point of the lesson.

We have all sat through our share of boring lectures.  You’ve probably been lectured by your parents when you were growing up, maybe more than once.  Odds are, you’ve also been lectured by a teacher in school or your supervisor at work.  And if you’ve attended a small group Bible study at your church for any length of time, you’ve probably been lectured there too.

Most people seem content with one-way communication when it comes to the pastor’s sermon.  But when it comes to a small group Bible study, one-way communication is often not enough.  When people gather for a Sunday school class or an in-home community group they are usually looking for an opportunity to interact with one another and ask questions about the lesson.  Even if the comments or questions are off topic, they are proof that the participants expect to participate in the lesson.

In my next post I will suggest 5 tips for teaching the Bible through discussion without missing the point.  In this post I will point out 4 major challenges to leading an effective and interactive small group.

1. Distractions

Depending on the format and location of your gathering you may have to deal with noise from other groups, young children, or others passing by.  You may also have to deal with those who misunderstand the nature of study or the point of the lesson by repeatedly steering the discussion off topic.

2. Dominant Personalities

Some people feel the need to be the center of attention everywhere they go.  Even though they may not realize it, they dominate the discussion and make others feel uncomfortable.

3. Disinterested people

People come to a small group Bible study for different reasons.  Some come on their own because they are genuinely interested. Others come because they have been forced to come or manipulated into coming by someone else.  Even people who have the best intentions sometimes struggle to express themselves or connect with certain topics or discussions.

4. Delicate egos

Meaningful Bibles studies are bound to touch on sensitive issues from time to time.  Even when handled delicately, some people are still offended or hurt.  They may be carrying excessive emotional baggage or have an agenda, but these people allow their thin skin to spoil the group’s atmosphere.

What have I left out? What challenges have you come across while leading an effective and interactive small group Bible study?

Five Reasons Churches Struggle with Conflict

Conflict_Resolution_00It is sad to say, but church and conflict seem to go together like peanut butter and jelly.  The long running joke is that churches split over anything and everything, including something as insignificant to God’s kingdom as the color of the carpet.   But have you ever stopped to wonder why?  Here are five reasons why churches struggle with conflict:

1. Church members and leaders aren’t equipped to resolve conflict in a healthy way.

Disagreements are inevitable in ministry, but seminaries provide little training on conflict resolution.  Since church leaders are not equipped to handle conflict effectively they don’t teach church members those skills.  The conflict resolution skills that do exist in the church are either unintentionally brought in from some outside experience or sought out after failed attempts at handling conflict successfully.

2.  Church members and leaders would rather ignore conflict than acknowledge it.

Everyone has their own personality.  When it comes to conflict, many people would rather pretend that conflict doesn’t exist rather than do something about it.  This approach might seem easy at first, but it always seems to make things more difficult and destructive in the end.

3.  Church members and leaders bring years of unresolved conflict along with them.

The two previous reasons are compounded by the way church members and leaders move from church to church. When a new pastor or a new church member joins a church, they can bring their unresolved struggles. When these old struggles are layered over and combined with new conflicts it can be difficult to find solid emotional ground.

4.  Poor leadership development and placement systems allow immature people positions of power.

Churches that have lost people through poorly managed conflict can be eager for “new recruits.”  If these new members are talented or charming they can be thrust into positions of authority or influence without the proper preparation.  The same can be true for members who have been around for a long time.  These “veterans” can be given similar positions in the church with little thought to their spiritual maturity, giftedness, or character.  Both scenarios perpetuate conflict by placing people who are unable to handle conflict in a situation where they are sure to encounter it.

5.  Satan is the father of deception and he works to sow conflict in the church.

From the very beginning, Satan has been working to divide and conquer.  The half-truths that he told in the Garden of Eden left Adam and Eve in conflict with God and with each other.  Satan is still alive and well, sowing dissension and division among God’s people.  If you look carefully, you can find dishonesty, distrust, and pride at the root of most church conflicts today.

The Gospel is a message of reconciliation.  It tells us how sinful humans can be reconciled to a holy God and through that restored relationship, reconciled to each other.  As we train new leaders and equip more people to follow Jesus Christ, we need to help them acknowledge conflict in the church and resolve it effectively.  We also need to be aware of Satan’s corrupting influence.

What about you?  Have you noticed any others reasons why churches struggle with conflict?


Why Does the Church Exist?


“Why did God create and choose this institution called ‘church’?  What is this gift that God has given us, and how does it impact our lives?  The church is one of the few organizations in the world that does not exist for the benefit of its members.  The church exists because God in his infinite wisdom and infinite mercy, chose the church as his instrument to make known his manifold wisdom in the world.”

Ed Stetzer and David Putman, Breaking the Missional Code: Your Chuch Can Become a Missionary in Your Community (Nashville: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 2006), 200.

Are You Called?

5-Phone-Calls-That-Saved-Me-100I think one of the reasons that believers fail to live like missionaries is because they don’t feel “called.”  Pastors and missionaries are the ones who are called, everyone is else is just along for the ride.  That is simply not true.  God has called all of his children to salvation in Christ.  He has called everyone so they might walk in “good works” (Ephesians 2:10).

In Ephesians 3:1-13, Paul reflects on his calling to ministry as an apostle to Gentiles and in doing so gives us some very helpful instructions for understanding and fulfilling our own calling.  In Paul’s reflection we learn that God’s call is always personal.  He has a place for you to serve that only you can fill.  We also learn that God’s call is always timely, His plan for you may be redirected or refined over time, but his timing is always right.  Finally we learn that God’s call is always clear.   Not only will He show you what He has called you to, He will also show you how to fullfulling your calling.

Where has God called you to serve?