In the quarterfinals of this year’s World Cup, the teams from the Netherlands and Costa Rica played a thrilling game. Both teams gave their all, but neither scored during regulation or extra time. Unlike many other sports where play continues until there is a winner, soccer uses penalty kicks if the game is still tied after the extra time. The Netherlands advanced to the next round, beating Costa Rica 4 to 3 on penalty kicks.
Imagine going to this game and sharing with your friends all the details of missed opportunities, great saves, and strategic substitutions, but never telling them about the final outcome. Identifying the winner would be a must share detail. They would wonder if you stayed to see the end if you failed to include the final outcome.
Since we don’t have unlimited time when we lead a Bible study group, at some point we must move beyond the details and get to the point. The sharing of facts could become the goal of any Bible study group. The distance between cities, the terrain of a region, and the color of the robes worn by priests are all details that help paint the picture, but they are not the picture. We need to move our groups to summarize the truth or truths discovered and then challenge them to act on those truths. The goal is not to transfer but to transform.
In the redesigned Explore the Bible, this movement is identified in the Group Plans as Summarize and Challenge. This step provides ideas for the group to put into words the main point of the study. This is where transformation really begins to take shape. The group has looked at the passage, examined the words used, and defined connections with other passages. The parts must be put together for the study to make sense.
The leader will then want to help the group look for concrete ways of acting on the truth they discovered. Suggestions are provided in the group plans that show how the questions included on the In My Context page of the Personal Study Guide can be used to accomplish this. The questions serve as a means to foster action. We can call on our groups to do more than affirm the truth discovered. They can be challenged to act on that truth, living out the Bible in their daily lives. It is up to us as the leaders to present that challenge.
G. Dwayne McCrary is the team leader for the Adult and Young Adult Explore the Bible teams, leads a weekly Bible study group for his church, an adjunct professor at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and carries 20-plus years of church staff experience.