Leaders: Though classical, westernized teaching has an important function in the church, Home Groups must be more than just lecture.
As the shepherd of the group, you are rightly concerned about leading with and teaching right theology and doctrine. But that is not the only end to which we labor as group leaders. We long to see the stories, broken or incomplete, changed by the power of the gospel.
You are a steward of stories.
Instead of constantly thinking about the most effective way you can occupy the “big chair” in the group and dispense wisdom that will wow them, think instead about what questions you might ask to help someone in your group open up and effectively tell their story. Let the significant actions and events of their life relate God’s truth and doctrine in your group.
As a leader you can guide and guard the discussion by asking story questions. Some examples:
- What was your early image of God? What stories – from the Bible, church or family – contributed to that image?
- What is your present image of God? What stories – from any source – have contributed to the change?
- Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” How was your heart sick and deceitful? What internal pains and sins made or are making your story a broken story?
- What is your present image of Jesus Christ? What informs this?
- Where do you see Jesus impacting your story, past and present?
- What were your favorite stories from the Bible at various times in your life? Why do you think you liked these best?
In these, truth and doctrine are personified right in front of your eyes. Theology takes on flesh and blood and speaks right before us. Opportunity is given to testify to the greatness of God and, possibly, to questions we have about Him and His nature.
Sharing stories through asking questions is not a new fad. Indeed, we often see Jesus Christ, the Rabbi and Master Teacher, asking questions of those whom He met and taught. He did so to engage their minds, urge them to personalize the information or consider why they asked the question in the first place. This method also avoided just giving them an answer to push them further away or granting a wayward heart ammunition for an argument.
Story questions engage our hearts. Jesus was and is pre-eminently concerned with engaging our hearts. Our group leadership should model our Master Teacher and His art of asking questions that get to the heart. We are to be constantly praying for evangelism opportunities in our Home Groups, both to share Christ’s invitation to salvation with the nonbeliever and support the faith of the believer.
Here is one way this discussion might go:
Your group is studying John’s gospel and encounters John 14:6, where Jesus claims that “no one comes to the Father except through me.”
You know that one of your group members, Dinah, has a Buddhist friend whom she loves dearly. Dinah believes Christianity is personally good for her, but maybe not for everyone – like her Buddhist friend. You know that this verse will start Dinah’s mind racing and probably produce a question before the group.
It does: “So are followers of other religions going to hell?”
You feel your stomach plummet. You knew conflict was coming.
Your first thought is to simply read the verse again and say, “It means what it says.”
But you take a different approach – one that may be risky, but more rewarding, for all the souls and hearts in that small group meeting.
You respond to Dinah’s question with a question: “Do you believe in hell, Dinah?”
Her response is surprise. Perhaps she feels she’s being challenged when she had already put herself in the seat of challenger. She settles in for a few seconds to seriously consider.
Then Dinah answers: “No, I actually don’t think there is a hell. It’s silly to think that a loving God would send people to such a place.”
Now your mind is racing, and the group just got tense. Your heresy alarms are going off, and you’re ready to respond with text and verse, to display your Bible drill mettle in a battle of rhetoric and theology. But the Holy Spirit calms you in your heart. He leads you quickly to humility.
You respond with another question: “If hell is such a silly idea (your words), why ask your first question?”
There is no attitude behind this: You simply want Dinah to honestly examine her own heart and assumptions.
Another group member and professing believer, Roy, chimes in: “Well, I do believe in hell. Do you think everyone who doesn’t claim Christianity is going there?”
You ask, “Do you think anyone goes to hell? Is Hitler in hell?”
The group reaches consensus that Hitler is in hell.
So you ask a follow-up: “How do you think God decides who goes to heaven and who goes to hell? Does He grade on a curve?”
What follows is an opportunity for civil and respectful discussion about God’s holiness, man’s rebellion against Him and Jesus’ work of atonement.
This is where and how our high-minded theology becomes real. It isn’t afraid to put itself in the seat of humbly, wisely asking questions. In this the heart is revealed, and stories are told and changed by the power of the gospel.
We long to see significant, prolonged and purposeful action in our lives and in the lives of those in our groups. Being a steward of the stories God brings into your home is an important aspect of your identity as a group leader. Work and pray to this end.