The new year is always a perfect time to review our priorities - personal, professional, family, and community - and make a renewed commitment to those things which we determine, with careful deliberation, to be the most fruitful paths toward growth and fulfillment.
Sometimes the most profound opportunities are right in front of us and yet go unnoticed because of their proximity and accessibility! One of these is the most powerful, life-changing opportunity I personally have ever encountered. I have had four decades of adventures of all kinds, but the one I want to suggest to you is unquestionably the most exciting and fruitful of all.
It is the home Bible study fellowship. A small group, meeting informally, but regularly, to explore the Word of God in the home. It is astonishing what God will do with a small, intimate, sincere group of believers, unencumbered with traditions and committed to embrace and become immersed in His Inerrant Word.
So shall my Word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. - Isaiah 55:11
The church in the house of Philemon grew into the church of Colossae (Philemon 2). The church in the house of Nymphas became the church of Laodicea (Colossians 4:15). The churches in the house of Aquila and Priscilla, who seem to have made it their primary commitment, became the churches of both Ephesus and Rome (1 Corinthians 16:19; Romans 16:5).
[The growth of the Calvary Chapel movement was largely through emergent home Bible studies.]
The intimacy, the family atmosphere, and the personal accountability all combine to create an environment of spiritual growth unequaled in more formal settings. We, first of all, want to encourage you to explore your own community and find one that you would feel comfortable participating in.
A Broader Challenge
If you can't seem to find a convenient one in your neighborhood, pray about starting one yourself! It is easier than you might think, and we would like to help you. Do pray about it.
Now's the time: since the tragic events of September 11, people are open, inquiring, and anxious to learn what the Bible has to say. And there are some very easy ways to get started, using prepackaged sets of materials to share among a small group. Some groups simply gather and listen to an audio tape or video, and then discuss it among themselves. Some leaders use the materials beforehand to prepare their own notes, etc.
Our recent publication, Prophecy 101, on CD-ROM, audio tape or video, is intended to be an introductory primer for the uninitiated or new believer. With four sessions, it is an easy way for a group to begin.
Alternatively, our series, Learn the Bible in 24 Hours, is also being used by many groups to gain a strategic perspective on the "whole counsel of God." These 24 sessions are accompanied by 1,500 computer-animated diagrams that can be adapted to a leader's own personal style. We hope to develop text versions and workbooks to accompany these materials over the coming months.
After one of these basic studies, we suggest that you pick a book of the Bible - any book - and take it verse by verse, at a pace of about a chapter a week. Use some time on the weekend to "bone up" with a commentary or two, explore any specifics with a Bible encyclopedia or dictionary, and you'll discover that it is easy to stay ahead of the group, a chapter at a time. Then watch what the Holy Spirit will do in your group!
Our expositional tape series are also accompanied with extensive notes that are basically an compilation from a number of the leading commentaries available. (I've been collecting them for 40 years!) Most of these studies are also available on MP3 CD-ROM.
A New Wave?
We have noticed that across the country, more and more believers are gathering in homes every week for this very purpose. Some are doing it to supplement their church's teaching programs; others have chosen to make this their primary form of fellowship. And we are anxious to be as supportive as possible to any and all such groups.
A number of commentators have suggested that eventually the real Body of Christ will have to go "underground." Biblical Christianity is becoming increasingly "politically incorrect." Most of us are grateful for the change in our administration since the previous eight years - and we should pray for our leadership daily!
But we also need to realize that our current leaders will eventually be replaced by others. Remember, King Hezekiah was succeeded by Manassah.
Most of the Body of Christ, in most of the world, for most of the past 20 centuries has been under persecution, and our freedoms - even in America - are always under attack from the pagan left.
Sharpening our skills at stimulating, encouraging, and facilitating home Bible study groups has been our focus since we began our ministry. And we solicit your prayers and counsel as to what else we should be doing to support this mission. It is a warfare, after all.
* * *