The power of the word

Do you believe in the power of the word? These guys do.

I wish we’d taken his name and number, or asked him to write up his story.

It started as a pretty standard enquiry from a guy looking for one of our tried and true Interactive Bible Studies. Here (as best as we can re-construct it from memory) is how the conversation went:

“I’m just wondering whether you have any new titles in your Interactive Bible Studies series.”

“Well, when you say ‘new’, what was the most recent one that your group has done?”

“We’ve done them all.”

“Sorry, all of them? All 35 of them?”

“Yes, including the new Proverbs one that came out in February.”

“Well that’s fantastic. But I’m sorry to disappoint you—Proverbs was the most recent one we published. Have you tried the Pathway Bible Guides? They’re a bit shorter and simpler…”

“The Pathway guides are good, but we like the IBS. They really push our thinking. They’re meatier. There’s more depth to them.”

“Yes, that’s the difference between them. What sort of group do you have?”

“Oh we’re in South Australia. Been meeting for about 20 years now. We’re just a group of men—different backgrounds and education.”

“I’ve got to ask: how do you go getting through the IBS studies in one evening? Some people give us feedback that they’re often too long to do in one session.”

“Can’t say we have a problem. We all do the study in advance, like it says to in the intro, and we find we can then discuss our answers and get through everything pretty comfortably.”

Of course, this was a very encouraging conversation for us here at Matthias Media. It’s always nice to chat with someone who uses our resources and appreciates them!

But it was an another aspect of the conversation that was particularly heart-warming—the commitment these men had made to studying the word of God consistently, persistently and intensively over two decades.

We all believe in the power of the word of God, or at least we say we do. But these guys have put that faith into action over 20 years. They have built their small group around deep engagement with the Bible. One can only wonder at what the effects have been on their Christian understanding, on their maturity and godliness, on their faithfulness in serving God and others.

They have showed their faith in the power of the word not only by sticking at the Bible together over time, but by deliberately choosing Bible study resources that would push them and stimulate them to dig deeply into the word. They didn’t want a take-away meal that was quick and easy to digest; they wanted solid food that would lead to substantial growth. This is the kind of wisdom we want our teenagers to understand with respect to fast food, but which we often neglect ourselves when it comes to spiritual food.

However, perhaps the most impressive thing was that the group’s members were willing to put in the hard yards of preparation each week to make the IBS resources really work for them. In order to function well as a one-hour Bible study, the IBS series really requires the group to work through the study in advance (as it says in the introduction entitled ‘How to use these studies in a small group’).

This is not a massive commitment—say an hour’s personal preparation at home during the week—but it takes effort and discipline to make it a group norm. If we do, it makes a huge difference to the quality of the group discussion. After all, this is what Bible study groups are for: they are occasions for us to speak the word to each other; to exhort and encourage one another as we delve into the Bible together. For most of us, a little preparation before we get to the group helps enormously in being able to speak and contribute helpfully for the benefit of others.

Like I said, I’m a little sorry we didn’t capture our South Australian Bible study leader’s name. We should give his group a lifetime achievement award, and feature them on the cover of our next catalogue! But then again, as they would already know from studying Matthew 6 using The Good Living Guide, receiving public praise for your good works is not the point. It is God who sees in secret who will reward.

One thought on “The power of the word

  1. Very encouraging Tony. Now that’s the kind of response to the gospel we want to see as people gather around God’s word. Much more helpful than cultic responses based on a flawed understanding of ‘worship’ (see my comment on the relevant post: Church Architecture).

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