Whisperings of the Word

20 12 2010

BY TONY AND CHARMAINE CHVALA-SMITH, Disciple Formation Ministries

Always seeking our ear, the Living Word whispers to us in the sacred story of scripture. Have you heard the soft, penetrating voice? In venturing to listen together, might a congregation encounter Christ in its midst? Be changed toward each other and God?

Friends in Michigan recently e-mailed us about what is happening in their congregation:
From Kevin Anderson:

I thought you’d be interested to hear the impact serious, honest study and sharing can have on a congregation.

Last fall our pastor, Nan, felt a strong need for us to spend more time studying scripture. So we began with the parables. We set Thursday evening at the church as the time, hoping to have five–six people. Twenty-two people came, and we’ve never had fewer than 13. We completed a study of the parables, and then Luke and Acts. We’ll begin Paul’s letters soon.

But the testimony of this story is not of numbers; it’s of learning how to share, question, and listen. We learned to seek new insights without condemning previously held ones. We learned to sometimes leave discussions open without forcing a conclusion. We learned that debates are best when the goal is not to win, but to be open to new possibilities.

A favorite memory of that class was when a retired gentleman said of the parable of the vineyard, “This story has troubled me for years. It just didn’t seem fair. But now I get it. It’s not about economics, but about God sharing generously with all people whenever they come into his presence.” His joy at new insights was powerful, and I’m grateful to have shared in this experience with him.

The greatest testimony of studying together came in January–March 2010. When President [Steve] Veazey presented the inspired document we decided to take one Thursday each month and review it and the legislation slated to come before Conference. Our approach was similar to our study of the parables. We read, shared, questioned, listened, and did not condemn views. We left some of the difficult questions open for further thought, and even came back to them in later months.

Our time spent studying scripture together had prepared us for this time of discernment. We don’t all have the same social viewpoints, but the manner in which we’ve shared has drawn our congregation closer. I’ve heard several members say we never could have had such an open discussion if we’d not been sharing in scripture study prior to January 2010.

Our approach allowed us to practice opening up to each other, and to question, explore, and gain insights into the deeper places of our brothers and sisters in Christ. We’ve come to know each other on a deeper level, and because of that, we care for each other more deeply, too. We’ve also seen a growing depth in our preaching, which has enhanced worship for the entire congregation.

Deep engagement with scripture plus genuine respect for each other can create avenues of spiritual and relational growth in congregations and the whole church. Christ meets us in the sacred story as we earnestly share, question, and listen in loving community.

Advertisements

Actions

Information

3 responses

20 12 2010
Marvin Kleinau

I have a very strong feeling that one of the tasks the evangelists might undertake is to help set up “Thursday evening” study groups in various communities. They might even set up a pattern for study, and lead the first meeting. Most folks feel so strongly about Jesus they forget it is the words He brings that can make a real difference in understanding how we might become like Him.

20 12 2010
Marvin Kleinau

I have a very strong feeling that one of the tasks the evangelists might undertake is to help set up “Thursday evening” study groups in various communities. They might even set up a patter for study, and lead the first meeting. Most folks feel so strongly about Jesus they forget it is the words He brings that can make a real difference in our lives.

20 12 2010
William L. Raiser

Now I want to hear about how the insights gained have thrust members of this congregational group into more active and effective involvement in transforming their community, their town not their congregation. For me, from a Restoration perspective, that’s the proof that something serious happened in their midst.




%d bloggers like this: