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The Main Thing is the Main Thing

What kind of home group leader are you? A hippy, an engineer, a gardener or a schoolmaster?

Over the next few weeks I want to unpack (there’s that word again!) some of the different leadership styles we may have, and try to work out what the pros and cons are.

Giving some thought to your style of leadership, and how you relate to others and just “be” with a group of people can be very instructive to working out your blind spots in making your home group go with a zing.

I asked the same question in a parenting seminar I ran with a friend a couple of years ago, and it opened my eyes to some dark truths about myself, and how I influence others.

Let me be up front. I pretty much default to Hippy mode when I’m with groups of people. I just love the journey so much, that I’m tempted to forget the destination. I think people in my homegroup have a great and memorable time, but I need to make sure that I have planned, prepared and have firmly fixed in my mind where we need to get to as we open God’s word together.

Because, as I have written here, the key purpose of a home group is that we encourage one another with the Word of Christ. When we look at a passage of Scripture, it is God speaking to us – and he has something very important to tell us. It’s important for us as leaders to be committed to that, because our social culture is pushing in exactly the opposite direction. Our culture values the  expressing of opinions and ideas and  does not like saying anybody is wrong – especially in matters of morality and spirituality.

But genuine Christian believers are committed to the truth of the Bible as God’s Word. This is the only genuinely Christian position, because our master Jesus was committed to that too –  and a servant is not above his master. John 13:16. So we are committed to the belief that the truth of Scripture is objective. It is not about “what it means to me”, but “what it means.”[full stop]

That’s why the Proverb of the title is so important for you, and for my fellow hippies in particular, as we lead a homegroup. Our job in preparation is to come to a conclusion about the main thing that the passage is saying, and to build our discussion, questions, and programme for the evening around the main thing. The main thing is the destination of our time together. Because it is what God is saying to us right now from the part of scripture we are looking at.

Hippy homegroup leaders may start with a destination in mind – albeit a vague one. But as we set out on the highway in our minibus to visit the doctor, we are intrigued by a sign that says “Museum of curiosities 5 miles” and turn off the road. And after spending some time there, we see a sign for “The world’s best Cajun restaurant, 3 miles” and slide off in that direction for a while. And then we stop by a lake because it has a beautiful view, and we watch the sun set together. We had a great time. But we never made it to the doctor, and our problems remain un-diagnosed, un-treated and unresolved.

It can be the same with homegroups. We move from one interesting and absorbing distraction to another, and everyone has a great time. Except we never get to where we were going… If you are on holiday, that doesn’t especially matter. But when the destination is hearing something really important that the creator of the universe, your saviour and Lord has to say to you, it is shockingly rude and disrespectful. The main thing is the main thing.

Good preparation is always the key here. If you are writing the study yourself, come to a conclusion about the main point, and try to write a summary sentence for what the Bible study is about – your best hit at The Big Idea of the passage.

If you are using a published Bible-study guide, try to choose one that helps you with this. Some studies are just a series of questions that open up the content and logic of the passage, but do not try to focus down onto a single, central idea. The Good Book Guides are a good example of published guides that structure their studies this way.

That’s not to say, of course, that you should deny the opportunity to look elsewhere as you work through a passage, and follow some interesting side roads for a while. Nor is it to say that, as you discuss the passage together, you may begin to see that the big idea is a little different from how your first saw it. But the truth is, that if you start without a destination, it is likely that you will end up going nowhere.