“Dj’ever wonder?” why we make such a strong appeal for Lifegroups to use the study materials we provide that go along with Sunday’s message? Why do we ask Lifegroup leaders not to lead their groups through alternate studies, even good ones, that they might pull together themselves or buy off the shelf?
You’ll be pleased to know that there is actually a fairly strong rationale, and more importantly – theology – behind the practice. But as is not uncommon when churches grow and as time passes, the purposes and values behind the practices gets lost.
Here are three reasons that we strongly encourage the use of our Sermon Application materials in Lifegroups.
1. A unique Word from God
We firmly believe that although ones can and do individually hear from God and should strive to, the Pastor is responsible to hear from God on behalf of the entire congregation. The Pastor’s message is not simply a compelling message or a responsible handling of the Word, but that it is uniquely given for the corporate benefit and discipleship of the whole church. If that is the case, what would anyone expect the church leadership community to do with that Word? Of course, work hard and prayerfully for those within their God-given sphere of influence to be more than hearers, but to be doers of that Word.
Leaders are responsible to help others apply the Word of God brought to bear through the Pastor. And the job of message application is no less challenging than the Pastors message preparation. Each person and each grouping in the church is unique and facing a distinct set of circumstances and life dynamics. Helping others to see how the Word of God applies specifically and uniquely to their lives is not only challenging but it is an interpersonal endeavor, that is, an endeavor best done in the context and with the input of other trusted friends.
Now, this does not mean that a particular study addressing a certain felt need in the group must be avoided. In fact, part of the rationale for bi-weekly rather than weekly Lifegroup gatherings is to create space for other forms of discipleship to occur.
So, to sum up #1, let’s make sure that whatever Word God brings to us corporately on Sunday is processed and applied more particularly through the smaller gatherings and communities that form in the church. That way, in a deeply significant way, the church will corporately stay (as best we can) in alignment with God’s spiritual direction for us.
A side note: For those of you that are gifted and talented in study and teaching and feel that this value limits your opportunities to apply your resources within the church, let me encourage you to consider another way to understand and apply your teaching talents.
In addition to bringing “new” material and “teaching” to a person, help people learn…teach people to…apply the Word of God that he has and already brought into their life through various means.
Let me hit these other two rationale quickly.
2. Theological responsibility
We agree that common study materials derived from Pastoral teaching is maybe the best means to fulfill our duty and responsibility to ensure corporately and historically sound Biblical theology, while not unnecessarily restricting the growth and expansion of various and varied groups, facilitators and teachers in the church.
3. Application vs. Knowledge
This one may have been implied above, but it is our general conclusion that most Christians access and know more than enough Bible knowledge, but fail to apply it. Jesus needs people (and teachers) that are committed to effecting life application and real transformation in their lives and those around them. In an age of an overabundance of information and a high value of knowledge, application is the key.