Are you sick of reading the resource talk column each month?
I know I’m sick of writing it. Here we are again with another 800 upbeat, encouraging words on some aspect of Christian ministry and the resources we produce to support it. It’s tiresome to write and (I feel sure) a bit of a drag to read.
And while I’m at it, let me say that I’m pretty tired of writing Matthias Media resources as well. And I’m tired of editing them and going to meetings and sitting in an office all day and choosing covers and having to make decisions about all the boring minutiae of the publishing process. It just gets so … tedious!
I suppose this is where I say, “Hang on, that was supposed to be my inside voice!” If we’re honest, that’s what our ‘inside voice’ says from time to time. We just get tired of showing up—showing up to do ministry, showing up as a member of church or Bible study, carrying out our role as a parent or spouse, or simply being a Christian. We grow weary of doing it all again, even though we know in our hearts that it is the good and right and only thing to do—the thing, in fact, we want to do.
This is why I’ve always loved the words of the Apostle in Galatians 6:9: “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up”.
I remember David Jackman once saying something very similar when I asked him what new challenges and directions The Proclamation Trust in the UK was facing. In his quiet wise way, David said, “Oh, I think the biggest challenge for us in the next few years is to keep doing what we’ve been doing for the past 15 years. It’s so hard to keep doing the same thing.”
All of which brings me with a renewed sense of determination to the subject of this month’s column: Matthias Media’s tried and true Interactive Bible Studies (IBS) series. For the past 19 years, we’ve been steadily turning out these Bible studies, which are mainly for small group use. There are 38 in the series now, with one or two new ones added each year (most years, anyway).
The need that launched the IBS series was simple and obvious. Small group Bible studies often fail in two ways: they can be rambling, directionless discussions in which multiple opinions are shared, but no satisfying conclusion reached, or they can be thinly disguised sermons in which the group leader effectively tells everybody what the passage is about. Wouldn’t it be great, we thought, if we could produce a resource for small groups that offered some direction and ‘through line’ based on the passage, and that provided some helpful background and context, but which then set groups free within that framework to explore, discover and arrive at the conclusion the text itself led them to?
We haven’t (yet!) grown weary of the good work of producing and distributing the Interactive Bible Study series. In fact, Gordon Cheng’s third and final instalment in his IBS mini-series on Romans has just become available (The Freedom of Christian Living). And there are more IBSs in the pipeline. Small groups need to keep focusing on God’s word, and as long as the IBS series keeps assisting them to do that, we’ll keep turning the handle.
In fact, over the past 18 months or so, we’ve started migrating the IBS series across to a new design and format. It’s mainly a cosmetic facelift; the old From Shadow to Reality looked like this:
While the new version looks like this:
But there are also some minor changes under the hood. In response to feedback from our army of IBS users, we’ve streamlined the way the questions flow through the study, taken some of the background text to sidebars, and done some judicious slicing and dicing on some studies that were notoriously long. The overall result is an improvement in the freshness and usability of the studies. (To see what I mean, go to our Australian store or our US store and download one of the sample studies in the new format.) After you’ve given one of these new-look editions a try, we’d love to hear your feedback.
The final point is: don’t grow weary of studying the Bible in your small group. It’s hard work at times, and we get sick of it easily. But where else have we to go? He alone has the words of eternal life (John 6:68).