Most of the proverbs I have been writing about are aimed at helping you grab hold of some of the simple skills that will make your group just work better. But the core of the issue in this proverb is directed more towards your heart as a leader. So I might ask first:
Just exactly what do you think your job is as a bible study group leader?
Often, we rightly cast ourselves in role of teacher. I have led a number of groups where the members have been young Christians who have known very little. They are hungry, and they just need someone to teach them.
Of course in the middle of that, you always have to maintain a respect for the life experience of adults in your group. I have been privileged to share a living room sofa with people who are at the highest levels of their professions – doctors, businessmen, lawyers, engineers and scientists – but who have been infants in the faith. And they have been humble enough to take instruction and advice from me, as we have opened the Bible together.
But in the end, we must always recognise that it is the Holy Spirit who is our true teacher. He is the one who inspired the Scriptures that we look to as our final authority. He is the one who opens our eyes to its truths, and applies them to our hearts. And it is he who is speaking through anyone in the group who articulates the God’s truth from the scriptures – whether they are young and self taught, or have more theological degrees than Fahrenheit.
And what this proverb is getting at is you and me, if we think that our job as leader is always to have the last word on anything – because we wrongly think that we are the most important authority in the room. You know the scene, and may have acted a starring role in it at some stage. Someone makes a profound and deep comment about something. They have hit the nail on the head, and there is a momentary silence, as people think about it.
And you just can’t help open your mouth to agree with it, and to add some slight technical modification, or to add a rider. And in doing so, you make three terrible mistakes:
- You discourage the person who made the remark. Because by adding to it, you imply it was not complete or quite right.
- You unhelpfully imply that you are “in control” of the group, and the measure of what is right and wrong (you’re not!).
- You reduce everyone’s confidence to speak out for the encouragement of others what God has spoken to them as they look at His word.
Yes, we will often need to be teachers, but more than that we need to be humble leaders, who are prepared to allow the Lord to teach the group through others, and be taught ourselves.