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Pursuing Robust Spiritual Conversations – Part II

We’ve likely been there. Perhaps we’ve been the leader dragging others right into the disaster zone. Twelve people collected in a living room, Bibles splayed open, and awkward, awkward silence or a cacophony of “Well, this passage reminds of a Dr. Phil show I saw last week …”

Exploring Scripture with others can be clunky. Yet …

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We’ve likely been there. Perhaps we’ve been the leader dragging others right into the disaster zone. Twelve people collected in a living room, Bibles splayed open, and awkward, awkward silence or a cacophony of “Well, this passage reminds of a Dr. Phil show I saw last week …”

Exploring Scripture with others can be clunky. Yet, Scripture emerged out of communities and I believe we are invited to move through it in community. With that being so, how do we discuss Scripture in our small groups in ways that don’t engender formulaic answers or mere opinions?

We can meaningfully approach Scripture in a multiplicity of ways. However, I can’t resist encouraging groups to try to uncover the original context of a passage, as well as chase down insights that disrupt and transform their current day dilemmas and hopes.

Here are a few questions and resources that I’ve found helpful:

See Also

  • Scouting out the original context of the passage. A Grand Canyon of millennia, culture, geography and language exists between the original context and us. Yet, we live in a remarkable age that gives us access to understanding our ancient past. Here are a few of my favorite resources:
    • For cultural backgrounds, The IVP Bible Background Commentary is stellar. (There’s a volume for the Old Testament and the New Testament.) It is also available on Accordance Bible software.
    • For visual aids on biblical settings, go to www.bibleplaces.com.
    • If you’re curious about Jewish backgrounds, here’s a fabulous site with articles by both Jews and Christians studying Jesus’ words www.jerusalemperspective.com. And, for a straight-up Jewish take, go to: www.jewishencyclopedia.com.
    • Here are a few questions I ask to dig at the context: What’s going on before and after the certain passage? Where’s the location? Who are the characters? What cultural clues need attention? What doesn’t make sense to me? What metaphors or allusions might be at play?
  • Press for integration. While it’s important to try to get at the original meaning, we ultimately read Scripture to encounter God and be transformed. It’s not for information acquisition but rather for intimacy. So, we explore how the text may challenge our assumptions about who we think God is, and how we view ourselves and our neighbor. How does the passage intersect with what we’re desiring, what we’re angry about, where we feel violated and how we long to be transformed?
  • I encourage my leaders to consider the implications of the passage for their small group as a whole as well as for each individual (communal and personal). To get a greater sense of how a passage relates to a community I often read the Africa Bible Commentary edited by Tokunboh Adeyemo. African cultural tends to lean toward a more collective application of Scripture.

Here’s a sample of the weekly curriculum I send our small group leaders (the passage correlates with the Sunday message given at Warehouse 242): www.warehouse242.org/downloads/sistine_two.pdf

I’d love to hear how you and your leaders are approaching Scripture. What creates robust conversations about Scripture in your setting? What tends to shut them down?

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