Last night we had the first gathering our new Bible Study & Disucssion group. A dozen people came along, with apologies from another two or three - so very encouraging. People seemed to enter into the discussions with great energy and there was a good feel about the group. But! I am bewildered. The Lyfe material, which I had been naive enough to take on trust and adapt minimally, seems disjointed and the choice of passages (especially for the first study) a little odd.
We are using Big-hearted Lyfe, which I chose on the basis, pure and simple, it was by BUGB President Chris Duffett, who strikes me as an all around good-egg. This means that, unusually, I did not examine the book before buying it, or spend ages with it ahead of time. Rather, yesterday morning I sat down with it and worked out a way of delivering what it offered.
OK, so the first meeting of a brand new Bible study group looks at Matthew 13:36 - 52, the explanation of the parable of the tares, and then a series of other Kingdom parables. The emphasis on 'in/out' and dividing up at the end of time seems an odd place to start if we are thinking about a God who has a huge loving heart, and whose will is that none be lost. Never mind how we understand references to burning, and gehenna, and so forth. The 'nicer' buried treasure and valuable pearl parables were lost as people recoiled from the image of fish being cast this way and that on the basis that some were 'good' and others 'bad'. Whilst we did have an interesting discussion both on just how 'good/evil' is defined and conditioned culturally, it was not the most helpful starting point with a new group, some of whom did not know one another very well. Ho hum.
One of the interesting explorations suggested in the material, and which I used as a 'warm up' was to consider an area of life inwhich we have some influence - work, home, clubs, etc - and to think about the values that shape our exercise of that influence. Unfortunately, I could not find a way to relate that to these eschatology passages without severe mental gymnastics.
Lastly, the study guide suggested three 'challenges' for participants to take away. I thought these were actually quite good in their own right, and offered things that might appeal or speak to different people. But again, no clue as to how they related to, or arose from, what we had been working with.
On Thursday I am using the same material with another, established, and very, very different group. Between now and then I will be writing some completely new material with less emphasis on the dualism and eschatology, and more on the present day inbreaking of the Kingdom inaugurated by Christ.
So, reserving judgement on Lyfe in general and this booklet in particular. I am led to understand that Chris occasionally reads this blog, so if he does, and wants to respond (comment facility permitting!) I'd be pleased to know hear his views. [failing that I'd happily post a response sent by other means]