“You’re always doing curls for the girls.” When I was a high school football player, that is something we would say to a teammate in the weight room in jest. The comment was for a guy who was consistent with his arm curl weightlifting routine but not-so consistent with his lower body and legs exercises. The result would be impressive vein-popping biceps, but little-to-no-development in the calves and thighs. They would have huge arms and pencil-thin legs. Their bodies and muscle were disproportioned and uneven.
There can be a similar dynamic that occurs as disciples when it comes to our spiritual development with the Word of God.
Being whole-hearted learners of scripture is a calling-card of a healthy disciple. Jesus said in John 8:31, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.” Again, he says in John 15:7-8, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”
The first discipleship communities of the early church were also branded with this attribute in Acts 2:42 as they met from house-to-house, “…they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine…” The apostles’ doctrine is now our modern-day New Testament.
When we see the Jerusalem church in Acts eating together from house-to-house (Acts 2:46), we must remember that among Jewish people, the standard topic of discussion at a meal was Torah. Early Christians did more to grow in the Word of God than just listen to good preaching (although they did a lot of that too).
How do we make sure we are fully-developed through the Word of God? How do we avoid disproportionate results?
In Courage and Calling by Gordon T. Smith, there are Four Learning Styles that are outlined…
In American church ministry, we are very effective at creating settings for Cognitive Learning and Action Learning. Through preaching and serving activities we help people intentionally grow in the Word. We leave the Social and Observational Learning up to chance however, when we have little or no emphasis on gathering in circles for further empowerment. In small groups, believers are afforded the opportunity to discuss the Word of God and observe the quality of other believers’ lives in close-quarters.
Unfortunately, we have many Christians today that are disproportionately growing in the Word of God. They can read their Bible on their own but they cannot talk about their faith to others. They can take notes and listen to a sermon but they can’t sit down and listen to a brother or sister in Christ share their own thoughts and discoveries.
This is why it’s so important that a Group Host see themselves as a Facilitator, not a Sunday School Teacher.
Even in modern research we see the value of group discussion for spiritual growth. Check out this excerpt from Transformational Groups by Stetzer and Geiger…
“From a research vantage point we can say there is a significant relationship between a believer engaged in personal evangelism and a believer engaged in a small group. The people in your church who are plugged into a group are much more likely to be articulating the gospel this week. Why is this? …those in a group learn to discuss spiritual truth. Those believers in a church who only attend a weekend worship service or large gatherings where they listen to a primary teacher are never in environments where they speak. They only listen. Thus, they don’t grow more and more comfortable discussing the faith. Those connected to a small group are in an environment where they share, they verbalize, and they speak about spiritual matters. Thus, they are much more comfortable telling the guy in the next cubicle about Jesus and His gracious work.”
There is a different dimension to growing in the Word of God when it comes to group study and discussion. Compared to weekend services, classes and outreach; it’s not an issue of “either/or”, it’s an exhortation towards “Both/And.” We need both great teaching, serving opportunities and relational settings for biblical discussion in order to be well-rounded disciples of Christ in the Word of truth.
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