I was asked recently to speak at a church gathering of people recovering from drug and alcohol additions.
The safe thing to do would have been to pull out one of my well worn messages. Instead I took a risk. I broke people into groups of three to five and told them to read the story of Jesus and the woman at the well (John 4:1-42). Then I asked them to close their bibles and see how much of the story they could remember.
Over the next thirty minutes I fed the groups a series of questions to help them engage with the scriptures and apply it to their lives. The room was full of energy. Finally we came back together and I had the groups tell me what the story meant and how they were going to obey what they had learned.
I could have preached a good message on this passage and told them what to do. We would have arrived at the same place, the same essential truths. But now they had a simple method of learning from the scriptures that could be easily passed on to others. Now they owned for themselves the insights they had gained. Now they had a group of people who could asked them the following week, “How did you go obeying what you learned?” “Who did you tell the story to?”
I enjoy preaching and teaching. I normally get encouraging responses to my messages. I have a calling to preach and to teach. But no movement can spread in breadth and depth by relying on guys like me with theological degrees. Jesus made sure his message was memorable and would be passed on by ordinary people to others. The word of God is a dynamic force that changes lives. It cannot be confined a Sunday morning sermon or a carefully controlled bible study. Somehow the word will break out and find its way to where people are in their homes, in the streets, in cafes and colleges, in workplaces.
At the heart of lifelong discipleship must be a simple method of discovery bible study that leads to obedience. The method must be simple enough that a new disciple can quickly pick it up and pass it on.