It happened one Thursday night

This is a series of posts where small group experts share how group life has impacted them personally.  The entire series can be found HERE.
This is a guest post from Mark Howell, founder of SmallGroupResources.net, and Community Life Pastor at Parkview Christian Church. You should read Mark’s blog HERE, and follow him on twitter and Facebook.

_____________________________________________________

Ever read the Gospels and find yourself thinking, “Would have loved to be a fly on that wall!  What an amazing conversation! Wish I could’ve been there!”

One of those stories actually came to life for me not long ago.  We were studying the 10 commandments using The Ten by Liquid.  We were working our way through the session on “You shall not murder (Exodus 20:13).”  The way the study works is that it doesn’t stop with a look at the commandment itself.  It flows right into what Jesus had to say about the commandment in Matthew 5:21-22 and then what John had to say in 1 John 3:11-24.

In order to fully get the scene, you need to know a couple things about my group.

  1. My wife and I agreed to help some friends of ours get a group started to do 40 Days of Purpose.  But the thing is, they live about 35 minutes away.  We really weren’t in it for the long haul.  Just to help them get it started.
  2. As our group members went around and introduced themselves on that first night…we were amazed to find out that something like 9 of the 12 who were there had religious backgrounds where they really knew very little about the Bible.

Two things have been going on since we started in October.

  1. I dread that drive every week.  Just sayin’.
  2. Some amazing things happen almost every week.

Now back to the night we were talking about “you shall not murder.”  We were  wrestling with phrases like “anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment (Matthew 5:22)” and “anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him (1 John 3:15).

It was already quite a discussion.  And then…without warning three different group members blurted out the equivalent of “if that’s really the way it is then am I going to hell?”

Oh.  My.

It was seriously amazing.  I said, “That is a great question, you guys!  Let’s take a minute to clear up something right now.  If you have your Bible, turn over to 1 John 1:9 and let’s get something in concrete right now.”  And we spent the next few minutes making sure my new friends got the idea that we’re all human, that all of us have fallen short, and that God’s forgiveness is always only a moment away.  And not only that, but that our relationship with God is always secure.

What a night!  Easily one of the top 10 spiritual experiences of my life.  My friends left the group that night knowing a very big thing.  Their faith was strengthened.  And you know what?  So was mine!  I’ll never look at that commandment the same way again.  And neither will my friends.

Have you ever had a small group discussion that really clarified some part of the Christian life for you?

Have you ever had a “spiritual experience” in a small group?

 

The problem with Bible stories for children

The problem with many Bible stories that we share with children on Sundays is that they’re not really for children.

I mean, the ones we share on Sundays are for children…but the ones found in Scripture aren’t.  These are stories for adults.  And if you made a movie out of them, they’d probably be rated R.

Take, for example, Noah and the flood.  We like to share it with children because it has animals in it.  And animals are cute.  And kids like boats.  But you know what really happened?

God killed the entire human race.

We also like to share the story of Moses, and the parting of the Red Sea.  Pretty cool thinking about Pharaoh charging after Moses and the Israelites, Moses stretching his staff out, the waters parting, and the Israelites walking across on dry ground.  Until we realize that thousands upon thousands of Egyptians died that day in the Red Sea.  “Ok, kids…color that picture!”

Speaking of Moses, it sounds like a good idea to make a movie (or two or three) about the events leading up to the 10 commandments, right?  Pretty cool to see the magicians trying to perform the plagues that Moses uses his staff to accomplish.  Cute, no?  Try ending your bedtime story with your children with, “And then all of the firstborn children died…”  “Goodnight, my firstborn son…sleep tight!”

And it’s not that we shouldn’t tell our children the stories of the Bible.  It’s just that we often rip out the parts that make the story what it is.  I’m not all for sharing the gory details of these stories with my 2 year old.  But the problem comes in when we as adults forget that there’s more to these stories.

Instead of engaging and true stories, we can easily equate them with the realm of Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings.  Great, well-told stories, but ultimately no more than a fantasy novel for children.  And if we use that logic with Noah and Moses, what’s to stop us from using the same logic with the rest of Scripture?  The adventures of Paul and the early church seem pretty far-fetched…speaking in tongues, healing people, the church growing by thousands when Peter and John would preach.  The resurrection of Jesus?  Fairy tale stuff.  Jesus coming back to Earth to claim His Church?  Nah…

I’m not against telling children the stories of the Bible.  But I am against crafting a god that is safe, tame, half-hearted, and weak.

Let’s not let The Children’s Bible lull us, as adults, into sleep, thinking the Bible is full of fairy tales for children.  The Bible is an intellectually robust, compelling story of God’s relentless pursuit of you.

Not just a fantasy novel.