The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it. – Mark 11 (please read the rest of the story)
There’s something about a person reading the Bible for themselves. That is, as opposed to having someone else reading it to them. There is a difference.
This last week, we were invited to run church at the Northcott Housing Commission on Saturday evening, before cooking a bbq. We have been a few times. The expectation was established from the beginning; we were there to teach, and we had an audience. Imagine then, the surprise when we announced, “tonight we would like to do something a little different…”
Tonight, there would be no preacher or teacher, other than Christ through his Spirit, ever present. Tonight, everyone would read, everyone discuss and everyone have an opportunity to layout what the passage means to them. From a few simple questions – ‘what does this passage tell us about Jesus’ or ‘what example does this give us to follow?’ people began to share what the passage spoke to them.
Want to know what was the best thing about it all? The change in people’s demeanour.
From the outset, doubt was replaced by a lighting up of people’s face as they realised they could contribute. For years, all we have been taught to do – ever, is listen to somebody else, a priest perhaps. They read the Bible, and then tell us what it says and what we should think about it. Have you ever watched someone who isn’t used to reading the Bible, a believer or non-believer, actually read it out loud? Their physical features change, as their Spirit radiates.
By the end of the evening, people weren’t asleep, they were wide awake, discussing, sharing thinking. At the end, all of us were challenged by this one question, “who will we share this with this week?” We went around the table, and each of us had to nominate somebody we would share the Fig Tree story with this week. Next week, when we come back again, we will all be held accountable for sharing the Gospel. Have we been obedient? A Gospel not just of knowledge, but of obedience.
This is the third Discovery Group I’ve been part of this week. All the groups have been small, ad hoc, in a local setting. All we need is a Bible, prayer, and the Holy Spirit. At least half the people have not been believers. Picture that, agnostics, Muslims, uncertain’s – all of them discovering Christ by reading the Bible.
There is a paradigm shift happening around the World. Discovery Bible studies everywhere are transforming the way people discover Christ. Are they everything? No. Are we to worship them, or make a doctrine out of them? No, of course not. Years ago, when I grew up, it went something like this; we invite someone to church, they get saved by saying a prayer, and then they go through a disciple making programme to become a disciple. They learn mostly information, doctrine, what we believe.
Today, as shown up largely in developing countries it goes more like this; believers, that is ordinary people like you and me, are walking into a community and beginning to show others how to discover Jesus through a Discovery Bible Study. As they begin to discover Jesus, so along the journey they become a disciple and perhaps eventually get saved. Learning obedience from the outset, they then go out and begin to reproduce the model, looking for others in their community or another community, who will become, and then make disciples. We never take people out of their community, but rather take Christ into it.
So Jesus is taken into a community, where he can be discovered by all, without the need of anyone – a priest, one that is ordained, a theologian, anybody except someone willing to obey the simple command of Christ, Go and make disciples.
How beautiful, how unpretentious Christ is. We should follow him.