“It can’t help but be a time of bonding for the congregation.”
“If the church is an important part of your life, you will want to invest your time participating in this congregational study.”
What experience are these people talking about? The times their congregation got together to study the Bible and practice discernment.
“How does the faithful church discern the way of Jesus as we engage the culture in which we find ourselves?” This is the question that motivated us in Central Plains Mennonite Conference to create a congregational study on communal biblical discernment.
Seeking God’s Will Together teaches congregations how to read and interpret the Bible together and apply it to their daily lives. Each session begins and ends with a prayerful ritual in which participants “lay down” their own hopes and desires while inviting God to reveal God’s will. Each unit includes a time of teaching on video and a time of practice.
Depending on the congregation’s format, the unit can be split into two sessions: the first with the teaching, the second with the practice. A congregation can do the study in six 90-minute sessions or 12 45-minute sessions.
Seeking God’s will together: Why do we do it? David Boshart teaches why we practice discernment. The practice session teaches a method of Bible study.
By whose authority? Nick Detweiler-Stoddard teaches about the role of the Bible in our discernment. The practice session offers two more methods of communal Bible study.
Can we agree? Matt Troyer-Miller and Nathan Ramer teach how the steps Jesus gives us in Matthew 18 apply to the church today. The practice portion teaches speaking and listening skills that equip us to carry out Jesus’ instructions.
When we don’t agree. David B. Miller of Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary, Elkhart, Indiana, teaches from Romans 14 and 15, and Elizabeth Troyer-Miller teaches about congregational dynamics regarding conflict. The practice session combines reflection on your own congregation’s history with further study of Romans 14 and 15.
Inviting the Spirit to lead us. The final session is given over to practicing your new skills on a topic for discernment chosen by your congregation. The topic should be chosen carefully so that the congregation can practice on a topic that matters but isn’t divisive.
Some who participated in the study had this to say:
“There is a lot of very good information about discernment and how to work at it. Good opening and closing rituals, with readings, scripture, singing. There are good video presentations followed by an appropriate activity.”
“This study is both a scholarly and practical presentation of sound Anabaptist biblical interpretation principles directed to the lay person who truly desires to participate in biblical discernment.”
Shana Peachey Boshart is conference minister for Christian formation for Central Plains Mennonite Conference and curator of www.AnabaptistFaithFormation.org, your one-stop hub for formation resources for all ages.