Small Group Etiquette

I think Small Group Bible studies are one of the best ways for Christians to grow in Christ. It is an opportunity to listen, share, and learn from others who may be further along in their Christian walk. However, if Small Groups are going be productive for everyone in attendance, then there are a few simple rules that should be followed. If not, then discussion can disintegrate into prideful arguments which do more damage than good.

Randall Chase gives some helpful advice to ensure that Christ is glorified by all during biblical discussions.

Chase writes:

Point One: Remember true relationship building is going to have the greatest lasting impact. This means that it’s not about how well you argue a point if the person that you’re speaking to doesn’t respect you as an individual enough to receive what you’re saying. While you may get the point across, chances are he will not develop a lasting, life-altering outcome. The old saying “they don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” holds true even in the world of apologetics. This is the case too in the event of large debates, where two speakers are standing in front of an audience. The two speakers must have enough respect for one another to remain calm and collected, otherwise it simply becomes an argument. Not much is usually gained through simple argument. 

Point Two: Don’t speak beyond your knowledge base. Nothing kills an argument or discussion quicker than when you throw out a piece of information that you simply looked up online or pulled from a blog and you can’t verify it. And NEVER make something up. There is nothing wrong with saying “I don’t know, but I will find out and get back to you.” This not only builds your credibility as a researcher but it also opens the door for follow-up conversations. Just remember that true research requires honest research. The following quote speaks volumes:

One of the most disastrous illusions of the internet age is that an amateur plus Google is equivalent to a scholar. A search engine offers information, more or less relevant according to the skill of the searcher. But it does not sift that information; it does not sort fact from fancy, wheat from chaff… A bright amateur armed with the internet may at best be better informed than he would otherwise have been, and he may occasionally catch a real scholar in a factual error. But it will not turn him into a scholar himself. There is no such thing as effortless erudition. —Dr. Timothy McGrew

Point Three: Always be willing to learn. There is a great need for learning and growing in the field of apologetics, before you ever get to the point that you can share what you have learned with others. You need to grow in your personal understanding of the truth claims in Scripture. Partly because at this point most aren’t on the level of public debating, but rather we’re just beginning to understand what it means to teach and how to organize an apologetics program. Everyone has to start somewhere, from C.S. Lewis, William Lane Craig, Ravi Zacharias, and even Thomas Aquinas. They all began learning and growing at some point in their relationship with God. Likewise, they all started attaining to be more educated and learned in apologetics. The goal isn’t to be a better arguer, but rather the goal is to first grow more in our personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Then with this we can share the truth.

We see clearly that Jesus calls us to Love him with our entire mind. When He was talking to an Expert in the Law in Luke, one can see that there is just as much importance placed on Loving God with his Heart, as there is with loving Him with his Mind.

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” He answered: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” Luke 10:25-29

If your ultimate goal is simply to learn how to debate well and win an argument there’s other classes for that. This class should be the edifying and building up of fellow believers with the encouragement of the Holy Spirit within our life, and eventually to share the truth of the gospel with those around us. Each person has a different reason for desiring to grow apologetically. My personal desire was to be able to build up and edify in the mission field. Now understand: mission fields are not always some far off overseas place but they may be your neighborhood, school, or place of business. Start in your own backyard this is where God calls us first; it is our Jerusalem as in referencing to Acts 1:8.

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Point Four: Listen first, respond second. Understand that when you do learn about your faith and the faith of others that you are maintaining a solid grasp on truth. This type of training isn’t done so you can dominate the debate. Remember the key is compassion. When you speak to someone of a different faith or lack thereof, you must make sure they see first your compassion and then they are more likely to hear you. You must also learn the art of listening—this is one of the greatest lost art forms. So often if you watch debates with others or listen to conversations, people are so focused on getting their point out there that they neglect to listen and respond to the others concerns. This will immediately put you a leg up if you are willing to listen before you respond and then respond appropriately to the concerns laid out before you.

Sometimes its just takes a person verbalizing a concern or hurt they have to begin a healing process for them, or to help them to understand the truth. Along with this know that when you do present something that is different from what they have thought and believed it may come as a shock to them. Oftentimes when I am speaking on the subject of the historicity of Christ, I am met with disdain and repugnance; once I am able to clearly elucidate the truth of the historical claims to Christ I am met with positive questions rather than smart retorts. Remember above all else you are representing Christ in all things, therefore do not get sucked into the trap of the quips and snide comebacks. These will shut the open mind of the genuine seeker quicker than anything. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Ephesians 4:2

You can change the mind quickly, but changing the heart takes time.

“The Keeper of the Springs” by Chuck Swindoll

Read Matthew 5:13–14

The late Peter Marshall, an eloquent speaker and for several years  the chaplain of the United States Senate, used to love to tell the story of “The Keeper of the Spring,”¹ a quiet forest dweller who lived high  above an Austrian village along the eastern slopes of the Alps.

The old gentle man had been hired many years earlier by a young town  council to clear away the debris from Continue reading

I Want That One!

I heard a story once about a farmer who had some puppies for sale. He made a sign advertising the pups and nailed it to a post on the edge of his yard. As he was nailing the sign to the post, he felt a tug on his overalls. He looked down to see a little boy with a big grin and something in his hand.

“Mister,” he said, “I want to buy one of your puppies.”

“Well, said the farmer, “these puppies come from fine parents and cost a good deal.”

The boy dropped his head for a moment, then looked back up at the farmer and said, “I’ve got thirty-nine cents. Is that enough to take a look?”

“Sure,” said the farmer, and with that he whistled and called out, “Dolly. Here, Dolly!” Out from the doghouse and down the ramp ran Dolly followed by four little balls of fur. The little boy’s eyes danced with delight.

Then out from the doghouse peeked another little ball; this one noticeably smaller. Down the ramp it slid and began hobbling in an unrewarded attempt to catch up with the others. The pup was clearly the runt of the litter.

The little boy pressed his face to the fence and cried out, “I want that one,” pointing to the runt.

The farmer knelt down as said, “Son, you don’t want that puppy. He will never be able to run and play with you the way you would like.”

With that the boy reached down and slowly pulled up one leg of his trousers. In doing so he revealed a steel brace running down both sides of his leg attaching itself to a specially made shoe. Looking up at the farmer, he said, “You see, sir, I don’t run too well myself, and he will need someone who understands.”

As told by Charles Stanley

Why Do I Worship?

Graceway MediaNot long ago I was reading from Matthew 15:7-9. Jesus was addressing the Pharisees and said, “You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men’” (ESV). After reading these verses, I spent most of the day examining my own worship to see if there were any part of me that was merely honoring God with my words, but my heart was far from Him.

When I arrived home from work that evening, the first words out of my wife’s mouth were, “You didn’t call me today!” She was not angry, but surprised. You see, after years of marriage she is accustomed to my calling, emailing, or texting her several times a day to see how she is doing, say “I love you,” and just to talk for a few minutes. So, it was very unusual for me not to contact her in any way for a whole day.

Without any explanation I quickly replied, “Do you want me to call you because I love and miss you, or because I feel guilty for not calling you all day?” Understandably, she was shocked at first, then hurt, and finally a bit concerned. She asked, “Do you ever call me out of guilt and not out of love?” I quickly assured her that it is because of my love that I call her almost every day, and that it had just been one crazy, eventful day at work. Then I talked with her about my Bible study that morning (Matt. 15:7-9). I had asked her the question, not to be a jerk, but to see her reaction to the thought that I might just be honoring her with my lips and not my heart. We want our spouse to love us, long for us, and be honest with us. My comment left her wondering, “Is he faking his love for me, and if so, for how long?”

Shirley’s reaction and the following conversation made both of us stop and reconsider our daily acts of worshipping God. Is my quiet time, which consists of prayer and Bible study, just something I cross off the list each day to feel better about myself spiritually? Do I listen for God during quiet time or just hurry through it? When attending a worship service, am I more concerned about how long it takes, what I have to do after church, or how it affects me more than lifting up praise, adoration, and thanksgiving to the One who died for me? Am I just going through the motions of what is expected? Is my spirituality a mask I put on to play a certain part when I am around my Christian friends or at church?

None of these “spiritual activities” are true worship. Jesus has commanded us, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). Just as we would be offended at someone faking their feelings for us to get something they wanted, so is God! Worship, Bible study, church, living a righteous life, and obeying God’s commands are not things we do to keep from angering God. These good things are not to be practiced so that He will give us everything on our wish list of wants, needs, and desires. Worship is giving to God what He deserves. As the moon reflects the light of the sun, so Christians should reflect the character, attributes, love, and holiness of God. We don’t do it because of what we might get, but because the Spirit of God resides in us and that is who we are in Christ.

I don’t want to live a hypocritical life. I don’t want worship to be out of guilt or something I do for my benefit.  I want my worship driven by an insatiable thirst for God’s glory, honor, and praise. I want my worship to be the direct result of who I am in Christ. I want my worship to be something I live out every minute of every day. I want my worship to be sincere, honest, and from a heart of love!

Take time today to read Matthew 15:7-9 and examine your motives for worship.

God, Can You Hear Me?

Many years ago during a worship service, I noticed William was singing very loudly during the song “At the Cross.” I listened carefully as he sang, “At the cross I bow my knee, where Your blood was shed for me, there’s no greater love than this…” As he stood there with his arm around me singing as loud as he could, the smile on my face could not possibly have been any bigger. There we were, father and son, worshipping our Savior together.

Later that night as I was tucking William into bed, I remarked, “You sure did like the song, ‘At the Cross’ we sang at church this morning.” To which he replied, “Yes, I did, dad, but how did you know?” “Well,” I answered, “I could hear you singing and normally I can’t hear you. What made you decide to sing that song so loudly?” He said, “I was singing loud because I was wondering if God could hear me with so many other people singing.” The depth of his remark surprised me. I never expected a seven year old to think about such things. The unified voices singing praises was so great that William wanted to make sure his voice was heard by Jesus. I reassured him that even if a million people are praying or singing at the same time God is able to hear each and every voice. Everyone is important to God.

I know there have been times in my life when I didn’t feel like my prayers were making it past the ceiling, much less up to God in heaven. Nevertheless, our Father in heaven is always ready to talk with us; all we have to do is call out to Him. The Bible tells us that one of Jesus’ roles in heaven is as our intercessor between us and the Father. There are times we want to shout, to whisper, to cry, to sigh, and other times to sit in silence not knowing what to say. Regardless of how we approach Him, God hears us. He hears the pain, fear, sorrow, anxiety, concern, passion, longing, hope, joy, excitement, curiosity, and trust in our prayers. He loves us and longs to not only hear from us, but to share His plan for our lives. He loves to spend time with us—He created us to fellowship with Him. Don’t let the noise around you keep you from the most important conversation of the day. God can hear you, so take time to sit down with Him to talk, listen, and enjoy the familial relationship you have with your Father in Heaven!