And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself… They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” Luke 24:27, 32
I am struck by the change that took place in Cleopas as a result of Jesus’ teaching of scripture. It was not just Jesus conveying information about God’s Word. It was a life-changing encounter with the Word become flesh. It gives us all cause to re-examine how that process of teaching scripture happens in our own churches.
At my home church, we call it Re:Verse. It is not just a method of studying scripture…for many of us, it is a lifestyle. The pattern is simple: we all read through the same passage all week long, meditating on it daily. Our Sunday morning Bible Study groups all teach it and discuss it. Our sermons in all our Sunday morning worship services are from that passage as well. Our small groups (we call them “Circles of 6″) meet during the following week and discuss the same passage even further, pressing practical applications into one another. In the end, there is not just an understanding of what the passage says, there is actual, measurable change in our lives.
So, as a believer in this system, I offer you these reasons why you might want to consider some similar type of approach in your own church:
1. Gathered worship is much more “gathered” when every participant has spent the week studying the same passage. There is just a common frame of reference, which makes the worship all the more special.
2. The scripture becomes central to my day…it becomes the lens through which I see and understand my life, rather than my life being the lens through which I see and understand the scripture. It just makes a huge difference when I allow God’s Word to set the agenda for my day, rather than bringing my own agenda to my study of God’s Word. And knowing my closest friends are doing the same thing with the same passage is encouraging.
3. The pastor is much less likely to be accused of “shooting at people” from the pulpit, because he is no longer choosing the passage…he is just using the same passage everyone else is using. In a healthy church, where trust is high, this is not a big deal. But in a church where trust is damaged and leadership is under constant scrutiny, this is a big advantage.
4. For speakers, teachers, writers and other communicators, the weekly passage becomes the automatic source for lessons throughout the week…no more writer’s block! All of my Thursday blog posts, as well as my Monday night bible studies and Tuesday night committee meeting devotionals and weekend speaking engagements are informed by the same scripture passage for that week. There is a strong sense that God is providing the topic, and all I have to do is teach it.
5. It can transform Sunday lunches with the family. Think about it. Every family member has just been through both a Sunday morning bible study and a sermon and worship experience built around the same scriptural truths. Suddenly, there is something for us all to talk about together, even though we went to separate Bible studies and worship services.
I know, I know. There are a hundred or so reasons why moving to a unified curriculum would be a real challenge for your church. You may even argue it is altogether impossible. Believe me when I tell you, it was no walk in the park for my church to get there either. It took years. But, my, how it was worth the journey!
For now, maybe stressing about HOW is not what matters…maybe what matters is whether your church is creating an environment where people’s encounter with scripture leaves them saying, “Were not our hearts burning within us?”