Getting to the Heart of the Matter

When God’s people humbly come together around God’s Word transformation occurs. Often, we find these transformational groups occurring under the direction of a leader who models humility and contrition. The LORD said in Isaiah 66:2b, “This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.” As small group leaders, our presentation should be done in a way that allows God and His Word to shine through and penetrate the hearts of the group members.

Prayerfully we come to our group times prepared and filled by the Spirit with insights God has taught us throughout the week. However, we forget these insights were God’s ways of transforming us. So we come to our group to give them the answers we have received from the text. In doing this, we have allowed our interpretation and application more authoritative than the Word itself. Rarely do our applications reach to the hearts of our group members because the application was for us not them. This doesn’t mean that we cannot give testimony to God’s work in our lives. God’s Word emphatically encourages our testimony. Yet God has an application  for everyone, and He is best at making that application hit the heart and stick.

A way through which we can move the leadership focus from ourselves to our Father is to approach our group with questions as opposed to answers. This is the primary way Jesus taught and ministered, and He had every right and power to bring forth a direct word and application. Instead, Jesus worked within man’s free will to allow man to come to the realization of God’s truth and take hold of it.

Consider questions that supersede time, place and culture. What do we all long to understand? Questions that come up in the early years continue throughout life. Who am I? It seems that every turn in the road is another time when I wrestle with this question, perhaps in a way which might affirm my identity. Yet, as Tony Evans has so clearly stated, “Knowing Who He is defines who we are.” My question is not simply one of my identity, but God’s. As I approach each passage of Scripture, then, I wonder out loud, “According to this passage, Who is God really?” and “What is this God saying about my identity?” In our groups, we can ask these same questions for our group members to respond. Here, they cannot simply give a good “Sunday School” answer, but they are brought by the question to a place that opens their heart’s true understanding of God and self.

Humanity also struggles to answer the question, “Why am I here?” As leaders we can give trite answers to this question, but it doesn’t go further than a head knowledge if it makes it that far. After reading a passage, we should ask questions like “What does this reveal of God’s purpose?” and “How does this speak to our purpose in life?” Our purpose is also traced throughout our spiritual history. We can open consideration to God’s activity in their lives by asking questions like “How have you seen God working like this passage in your past?”, “Where is God active in your life and community right now?”, and “Where do you believe God is leading you?” It is quite necessary to ask questions like, “How is your prayer life?”, “How are you making space in your life for God to speak?”, and “What are you pursuing to give you a sense of completeness?” Questions like these can only be answered personally, and the heart becomes engaged in the process.

Our desire is that our group members know God and make Him known to others, but we cannot simply force the answers into their hearts. Not only is this often received poorly, but it also breeds an unhealthy dependence upon the leader to provide the application. Rather, we can ask the same questions our hearts ask when we approach Scripture and allow the Spirit to provide the answer for our groups as He did in our personal reading. We encourage all members to a place of humility, contrition, and trembling at God’s mighty Word. So we ask questions like “How does Scripture picture God?” We must then wrestle with our misconceptions about God and infect our hearts and minds with the truth of His Word. Instead of our interpretation of the passage, we also ask questions like “How does this Scripture interpret you?” In this, we rightfully place God’s Word in authority over our group instead of our personal thoughts and opinions. If opinions are primary, then you’ll experience a lively exchange of individual ideas and battle for someone’s most insightful response. If questions are primary, then you’ll experience a humble openness to the truth of the Word and desire for companionship on the journey.

We would do well to take some time to reflect on the last several times our groups have gathered. What is the identity of your group? What is the purpose of you getting together? How have you seen that purpose accomplished? What would someone learn about God by watching your group? What would someone learn about Christianity by watching your group? Where is God taking your group? How can you be more open to His teaching and leadership? Groups that get to the heart of the matter become moldable for the Potter to transform us more and more into the image of His precious Son.

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