By Bill Tenny-Brittian

Over the past couple of decades there’s been a lot of talk about being relevant in our churches, especially in our worship. There’s been a move toward contemporary music, modern instruments, high-end technology, and even talk about what it means to deliver a relevant sermon.

But we don’t hear much about being relevant in our discipling groups. I mean, what’s to change? It’s not like we need to haul out the LCD projector so we can follow along! The Bible is still the Bible and prayer is the cornerstone of every small group gathering, right? Like I said, what’s to change?

Let me make a radical statement. Before I do, I’m asking you to just for a moment presume that what I’m about to say is indeed true. Put aside your experience, your training, your past. Live with the statement, hear me out, and then, if you disagree, you can pick up your reality again and move along unscathed.

Here’s the statement: If at the end of the Bible study, you have to ask, “How can we apply this to our lives?” the Bible study was neither relative nor relevant.

Let’s be honest for a moment. If your marriage is crumbling and someone offers you not just sage advice, but a potential solution, you don’t have to wonder how to apply what they said. It’s 100 percent relative and relevant to your life right here and right now.

Sure, the Bible has lots of awe inspiring stories, moving hymns and prayers, and thought-provoking theologies and philosophies. And I don’t want to detract from how important those may be. But in today’s church, the average visitor isn’t looking to be wowed by the Bible. They’re looking for real-life answers for their real lives. It’s good for them to know about David and Goliath. Or about the unchristian systems that perpetuate poverty. However, perhaps it’s even better to know that letting their anger smolder overnight is destroying their relationships. Or that the way they treat their employees or customers has a direct bearing on their relationship with God and their inner peace…or lack thereof. Or that their relationship with money….

So, here’s the leadership tip. Instead of starting the Bible study with the Bible, start it with real life. What decisions are the small group participants facing? What ethical dilemmas loom before them? How’s their heart? Their prayer life? Their walk with Jesus? Their relationships? Once there’s an issue on the table, spend time in quiet reflection. Only then, open the Bible to find the answers.

And in the end you won’t be asking anybody, “How can we apply this to our lives?” The application will be the Bible study.