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May 2017

Applying God's Word

Last month I taught a seminar in a church familiar with small groups which had even dabbled with the G12 movement at one time, but now had zero adult groups. One of the reasons for not moving forward was fear of false teaching. A former small group leader had spread a hyper prosperity teaching in his group, and the church was hesitant to relaunch the groups. When I talked about how most cell churches used the same lesson material based on the pastor's Sunday message or mid-week teaching, the leadership really got excited. They felt relieved that all the small groups would cover the same Bible passage and hopefully avoid false doctrine.  

It makes sense for small group facilitators to get a head-start on the lesson as they hear the pastor's message, take notes, and prepare their questions. I encourage churches to send the lesson to the leaders in advance of the Sunday preaching to give them plenty of time to prepare. I tell small group facilitators not to mention "what the pastor said" during their lesson, but rather to talk about what the Bible teaches. 

But I've also noticed that many sermon-based lessons are too complicated and have too many questions. The lesson gets bogged down in closed observation questions that don't apply God's Word to daily living. It's easy for facilitators to forget that the main principle of an effective lesson (Word time) is how the Bible passage applies to daily life. 

Learning application lessons from T4T

T4T was started by an Asian-American missionary named Ying Kai. In less than a decade, T4T has multiplied a small band of disciples into a movement of more than 80,000 new churches with more than 2 million baptisms.

T4T is a very simple method of applying God's Word and can be based on the Sunday Bible passage or mid-week teaching. Here's the simple T4T method:

Read and discuss today's Bible study passage

  • What did you like about the passage?
  • What was difficult about the passage?

Read the Bible passage again

  • What does this passage teach us about people?
  • What does this passage teach us about God?

What are we going to do with what we just learned?
Give a quiet moment for everyone to pray in order for the Holy Spirit to guide them in answering the following questions.

  • How are you going to obey this passage?
  • With whom are you going to share this passage?
  • With whom are you going to share you testimony or God's story?

The objective of T4T is to transform lives, develop future leaders, and reach the lost.

Learning from DMM (Disciple-Making Movement)

There's another movement called The Disciple-Making Movement (DMM), which is very similar to T4T. It started in India and is sweeping across the globe (read more here). Leaders can use the Sunday or mid-week Bible passage from which the pastor preached. Here's the simple lesson format:

  • Read the passage several times together, perhaps in different translations. Then answer these questions.
  • What does it say?
  • How would I say that? (Each person tries to retell the passage or Bible story in their own words.)
  • What must I do to obey what I have learned? "I will..." (Each person crafts an "I will" statement or two to tell how they will obey the passage this week.)
  • Optional Questions if You Have Time
    • o   What does the passage say about humanity?
    • o   What does this passage say about God? 

The following week, the lesson begins with:

  • With whom did you share what you learned last week?
  • How did it go with your "I will" statements?

Both the T4T and DMM are exceedingly simple and based on obedience to Scripture. I like these two methods because they help prevent the small group lesson time (Word time) from becoming overly complicated and based on knowledge, rather than obedience.  

I've been experimenting with the  DMM questions in my own group, and they work well.  Starting the next group with the accountability questions ( "I will" statements) is an effective way to determine whether obedience is actually taking place. 

The Randall Neighbour Lesson Plan

Randall Neighbour likes to use three simple questions in his cell lessons. They are:

  1. What's the main point of the passage?
  2. Can someone share something from your past or what you're going through at the moment that makes this passage powerful or timely?
  3. What is this passage challenging you to do personally (and how can we support you)? 

I love the simplicity and application in Randall's three questions. 

Obeying God's Word

Notice that all three approaches base the lesson on applying God's Word and obeying it. If your lessons are overly complicated, I encourage you to simplify and zero in on obedience to God's Word. Start the next week's lesson with "how have you obeyed the teaching from last week?" Remember your groups can still use the Sunday or mid-week Bible text to ensure that everyone is on the same page doctrinally. In the month of May, we'll explore this topic more in-depth. If you'd like to receive these twenty blogs in your inbox, press here. We'll cover: 

  • May 07-13: The biblical base for using a similar cell lesson as the local church teaching. We'll talk about why most cell churches do this. While it's important not to fall into a legalistic trap (all groups must do this), it's good to help leaders understand why this is important. 
  • May 14-20: Creativity with the cell lesson. Many cell lessons are too knowledge oriented and based on closed application questions. It's important that small group leaders are able to apply the lesson to people's lives.    
  • May 21-27: The dangers of the cell discussion. We'll cover how to keep the group from getting off track and into heady theological discussion or politics. It's always best to point back to lesson theme and how the Bible transforms our lives. 
  • May 28-June 03: The obedience test. It's a good idea to start the following week's lesson with follow-up on whether the members obeyed the teaching from the previous week. This will help the group to remember the importance of accountability each week. 

Are you satisfied with the lesson time in your group? What do you need to improve it?

Joel Comiskey

Resources

Joel Comiskey and Jim Egli's 2017 book, Groups that Thrive: 7 Surprising Discoveries about Life-Giving Small Groups will be available in November.

Spirit-special. For only 10.95 (and free U.S. shipping), get two books: The Spirit-filled Small Group and Discover ($21.00 retail price).

Youth in Cell Ministry, is available now for purchase. Read introduction and chapters here

Free articles and resources here

Free shipping for all books shipped in U.S.

Read parts of Joel Comiskey's book, Children in Cell Ministry, here.  

Ebook for  2000 Years of Small Groups 

All books here.

JCG news

2017 JCG Event in Reseda, California

  • We will have our annual JCG event in the Elim Reseda Church, on March 09-11, 2018 (notice the extended schedule). Mario Vega and Joel Comiskey will be ministering in Spanish and simultaneous English translation will be available. Additional guest speakers will minister on Friday night and Saturday night.  Sign up now for $39.00.

2017 JCG Event in Falls Church, Virginia 

  • We will be holding our second JCG conference in Virgina/Washington D.C. area at the Elim Church Virginia area on September 02, 2017. You can register here.

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