From Rev Andrew Smith - Presbytery Minister for Congregation Futures
Last week in this article space we began to consider what worship in a fresh expression might look like. Sure, the worship life of a fresh expression is a long way down the road after getting started. Still, through fresh expressions there will be people who the Holy Spirit draws to gather around Christ, and it is worthwhile at the outset beginning to imagine what gathering around Christ in worship might look like. The article last week included suggestions for sets of questions in a Discovery Bible Study method that worship might be centred around. These are questions that would be asked of a Bible story about something Jesus did or said. Here’s a reminder about one of those sets of questions:
Here are a few handy hints for how you might use these questions in a fresh expressions group.
First, note that no-one needs to be an expert on the Bible or theology to be able to offer their answers to the questions. This is important for a couple of reasons. One reason is that people in your fresh expression group may not have much previous experience with the Bible. The other reason is that many of us church folk feel like we would need to go off to Bible College or do some course before we could help start a group like this. For these questions, no-one needs to have a wider knowledge of the Bible or theology in order to contribute to the conversation.
This leads to another handy hint: Don’t keep the leadership to yourself. Rather, share it around the group. No-one needs to be an expert on the Bible or theology to ask the questions. This shared leadership is an important step in the life of the worship of the group to help the group in growing to understand that worship is not something that is done to them or for them, rather it is something done together toward God.
Despite what has been said so far about no-one needing to be an expert to lead worship centred around discovery Bible study, there is probably still some fear about what the leader might do with questions that are asked by group members. Here are some helpful ways to respond to questions that mean the leader doesn’t need to be the expert.
If the question is one about facts, for example, “who is John the Baptist?”, rather than the leader having an answer, the leader suggests to the group that they all get out their phones and search for information about John the Baptist. That way the whole group takes responsibility for answering the question, and it doesn’t lead to dependency on just one person. Many people are already used to using their phones for gathering information about all kinds of things. So, it will probably feel quite natural to them to also search for this kind of information. In fact, it would probably feel strange to them not to do this kind of searching.
If the question is one that involves opinion, for example, “I have a friend who did ….., what do you think about that?”, rather than the leader having an answer, the response could be: “From what you know about Jesus so far, what do you think Jesus’ response would be?”
The importance of shared leadership and these responses to questions is not just limited to taking the “heat” off the leader. They also help shift the group dynamics from a position where the church folk are the hosts and everyone else is a guest – what I as a church person might call “my house”. The shift is toward a position where everyone else feels at home and feels a belonging – what we might call “your house”. The further shift helped by the response to the above question of opinion leads people into more relationship with God – what we might call “God’s house”. Mike Moynagh passed on these ideas about my house, your house and God’s house. It is a useful way of seeing the group grow toward worshipping in “God’s house”.