Four years ago, everyone at Hope Fellowship was given a One Year Bible for Christmas. That got many people reading their Bibles as part of their daily devotions. Since then, many more One Year Bibles have been given out to anyone who requested one.
Seizing an opportunity to connect personal devotions at home and Sunday sermons at church, I began basing my messages on the One Year Bible. In the first year, we focused on New Testament passages. In our second year we focused on Old Testament passages. Last year we concentrated on all the readings from the book of Proverbs, calling 2010 “The Year of Wisdom”. And this year we’re back to the New Testament, referring to 2011 as “A Year At Jesus’ Feet.” Today, in every worship service, you can expect to hear me preach on a scripture passage that you read at home the previous week.
There is one more connection we want to make for an even stronger spiritual life. And that is the link between our personal devotions, the weekly message and our small group discussions. Therefore, starting Sunday, September 18, the opportunity will be provided to join or become a “Sermon Application” group. Existing small groups don’t have to do this, especially if they are already committed to other topics or formats. But a “Sermon App” discussion will be available this fall as an option.
We want to keep things simple enough so that a sermon discussion group can continue even with a guest preacher. For that reason, we are suggesting a discussion format that is very familiar to English teachers and book club leaders: Retell, Relate and Reflect.
Let’s take last Sunday’s message “Making Room At the Table” as an example. In this sermon I used baptism as a current example of a debatable issue that requires us to “accept each other as Christ accepted you.”
In the “retelling” of that sermon, small group participants could remind each other of the different views of baptism that I identified among the people Hope Fellowship. They could then remind each other of the seven principles that Paul taught the Christians in Corinth to help them retain a spirit of unity despite various “disputable matters”. Finally, they could retell the way Hope Fellowship accommodates differing views of baptism while still celebrating the Reformed practice of infant baptism and covenant theology.
In the “relating” part of the discussion, small group participants could share their own experience of baptism. The personal story of my own baptism by my Dad when I was three days old and my Mom was still recovering next door in the parsonage could prompt everyone to share an account of his or her own baptism. The story of the young couple who left the CRC to be re-baptized in a non-denominational church could prime the pump for a discussion about family members or friends who have been re-baptized.
Finally, in the “reflecting” part of the discussion, everyone could discuss the impact of Paul’s teaching on the way they deal with people who love the Lord but think differently about non-salvation issues. How did the text change the way they think? Did the sermon raise questions? What will they do with what you heard? Were they inspired or comforted? What did God say to them through the preaching of the Word?
Right now, we’re identifying small group leaders who are comfortable leading a group through this “Retell, Relate and Reflect” format. Between now and September 18, as we look for more leaders, prayerfully consider adding a “Sermon App” to your life this fall.
- Pastor Peter