HB News Training

The Unbitted Scholar

This homiletic post is inspired by a recent post I saw on my twitter feed: “Alexander Graham Bell had to make a second telephone before he could use the first telephone he built”. Meant to be an inspiration to entrepreneurial leaders, it struck me that as disciples we should all keep this in mind.

Alexander_Graham_Telephone_in_NewyorkJesus’ promise to the Church is that the gates and powers of hell itself will not overcome her (Mt 16:18 Msg). Yet it seems that many have lost heart and thought less of her glorious calling, and posture. Individually and so corporately, though not overcome, the Church often feels bereft, as member after member is bamboozled into thinking they are sackless to the temporal snares and spiritual powers at work around us.

It should not be so. The Gospel yields in the heart of the unbitted scholar an unwept tranquility, slant force, and enduring love (my paraphrase of 2 Tim 1:7). Thank goodness that we worship an intervenient God who’s mercy and grace match His desire – that we all partake and participate in His eternal kingdom.

As we continue our study through the Harmony of the Gospels and are now well into phase 5b, Jesus has already recognized twelve of his disciples, apostles, and commissioned them to begin their ministry. He has begun preparing them for the chief sacrifice of hemic proportions, which will result in a justiciable reality and inflorescence within every disciple for generations to come.

This is the Good News that is to stir an implicitly palpable unction in the heart of disciples today. As disciples we find that on our own there is little effect, but when two or three gather, even better when two or three respond to the call and go forth as did the apostles, the world will be forever changed.  

Fear not. Be disciples who make disciples – unbitted scholars with unwept tranquility, slant force, and enduring love.
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What it takes

What does it take to live a meaningful life? To answer that you’ll have to decide what matters most, here and now, for eternity and in the minds of those you care about. As you read that did you think about the spiritual quality of your life and its effect and impact on all others you care about?

In today’s busy world, statistics show that even the faithful church members attend church less often. There are those who don’t find value in attending church, others who aren’t believers, and millions more who aren’t seekers, but we all have friends and acquaintances with whom we like to enjoy life and share our innermost thoughts.  Everyone is trying to add qualitative value and capacity to their daily life.

For decades we’ve read that small groups are an essential element to cultivating congregational vitality. As such they are also an essential aspect to cultivating spiritual vitality in the life of the individual. Spiritual vitality creates a capacity for regeneration, resiliency, reconciliation, and reproduction. Christian Schwartz’ landmark survey in the 1990’s summed that there are eight essential elements, one of which is “holistic small groups”. He wrote, “Groups are to go beyond study and discussion to applying God’s message to daily life. Small groups are the place where Christianity can really be practiced.” We’re convinced that we need to enfold five principles into our daily routines and ministry: incarnational, relational, experiential, intentional, and missional. Once-a-week worship, if it is that, will not sufficiently nurture these qualities, but joining (or leading) a small group will be transformative and lead to such vitality.

Harmony Bible Coop serves to strengthen, train, and help you develop a vibrant small group ministry. Quite simply, small groups are a growing group of friends who regularly gather together and provide a venue to study the scriptures together in an open, loving community. Our methodology strengthens every member as the group progresses through the Harmony of the Gospels. Each group includes people from any phase of discipleship. Each member, learning to abide in Christ, is becoming a disciple who makes disciples.

Top Three Benefits of Small Groups:

  • • they make churches of any size personal, and accessible to all
  • • they are an authentic community which expresses love – helping inform, console, heal, and encourage one another as we follow and learn from Christ together
  • • they help increase the organizational capacity of the church – as member’s faith in Christ is strengthened they are able to engage in ministry according to their vocation, gifts and strengths

This happens organically when the small group leaders:

  • • have a rich, courageous, and contagious Christian faith lived out in prayer, study, and ministry that deepens their dependency on God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit
  • • are respectful of others, listening and learning together, being winsome, apt and gracious to all as we are interdependently dependent upon Christ
  • • prepare and engage themselves the entire week in the Scripture, prayer, and relationships with their group members and their community

If you’re yearning for more spiritual vitality, stamina, resiliency then you’re going to have to take action. Prioritize what matters most: your family, work, hobbies. Set aside non-essentials and unproductive attitudes: discrimination, busyness, debt, sin., etc..  Join a small group, or if you feel God is urging you to gather a your friends to begin a small group, we invite you to contact us for training and coaching, and encourage you to make the most of the resources we have created.

Romans 12:3-8 
3 God has given me this gift. So I say this to every one of you. Do not think you are better than you really are. But think of yourself as you are. You are what you are because God has given you something when you believed. 4 In a body there are many parts, but all the parts do not do the same thing. 5 In the same way, we are many people. But we are one body because we are all joined together in Christ. Each one of us is a part of all the others. 6 We have different gifts because God has blessed us in different ways. If a person can speak words from God, he must say what he believes he should say. 7 If a person can help others, he must help others. If a person can teach, he must teach. 8 If a person can talk to others, he must talk to others. If a person can give something, he must give it gladly. If a person can be a leader, he must try to be a good leader. If a person can help someone, he must do it gladly. (Worldwide English Bible)


We all need Jesus

Photographer - Mike Smith
Photographer – Mike Smith

There are those walking among us in everyday life who are searching, struggling, and lonely. There are others who vainly fight one vice and the next while never finding a base of stability. Then there are others who are blissfully content with the life and success they have achieved thus far in life.  While just a little more than 20% of the American population attends church on any given Sunday, we think most are seeking God, or as some choose to say, a higher power. For the sake of the church lets just say, “we all need Jesus”. But as Ed Stetzer wrote, “the problem with the harvest is not the harvest”.

So many people (those who attend church and those who don’t) never know the blessed hope, contentment and joy that is given those who are in Christ. Why? One reason is that they have not yet really heard and accepted the Gospel and they have not known grace.  Why? One reason is that they have not be discipled; another is that they get taught obedience before grace; and many have simply not let go of world views which run contrary to the grace and truth of God.  Hebrews 5:12 speaks of this malaise and, in one way, is a charter passage for us.

Week after week, as we read through the Harmony of the Gospels, we see how Jesus preached and lived among the people. In the synagogue and throughout the villages, cities and countrysides, his hope and expectation was that all those who would hear would become disciples; and as disciples that they would bring others and make more disciples, teaching them the precepts of the abundant life while answering their concerns and needs. Statistics show that nearly 6o million attend church, and that few are making disciples in or beyond the doors of the church.

If those who are believers don’t learn such principles and teach others, something is wrong. The writer of the book of Hebrews made it plain that every Christian needs to grow up and become a disciple-maker. Are you there yet? If not, why not? Is it that you feel that you’ve not learned enough to teach? If so, then begin learning more today, and then begin sharing with your friends what you have learned for your own sake rather than teach what you think others need to know. That’s perfectly acceptable, even commendable! In time (probably within 1-3 years) you will be equipped and moved to begin making disciples.

Having discipled hundreds, many who are now disciple-makers, we know that our strategy and use of the Harmony works. We’re here to help and we hope you’ll use our free resources, dwell on the words of Christ, and graciously share them with those you know and love. As the lyrics of Amy Grants song said,  “we believe in God, and we all need Jesus“.


In the Zone – Ha-Makom

We want to impress on Harmony Bible group leaders the importance of disciple-making friends and the skill of listening, asking powerful questions, and provoking a faith-filled response. This article is an introduction which we would be glad to explore further during a training workshop. 

Rabbis call it Ha-Makom which means ‘the Place’. They’re not talking about ‘basketball’ or ‘flow’ but the “inter-subjective space” in which the reality of our communion dissolves the boundaries of what is yours and what is mine, the haves and have-not’s, the teacher and the learner (John 17:21).

On Thursday of the Passion Week, Jesus say to his disciples John records an intimate moment between Jesus and his disciples writing, “I have called you friends” (John 15:15). The greek word for used here for friend is philos (φίλος). The modern Hebrew word for friend, haver (f. havera) and Rachel Adler explains that the root of the word means means “to join together at the boundaries.” Elizheva Hurvich writes that the Aramaic word hebruta, which coincides with haver, refers to the “practice of learning in pairs”.

C.T.Studd Quote
To whom are you called to share the Gospel?

Isn’t this the reality also of our experiences. Friends who follow Jesus together learn more, encourage and strengthen one another. Spiritual abuse emerges in communities that fail to respect and value each person.  In the company of true friends we find belonging and its lateral dependencies shown in the Emotivational Spectrum which are: connection, and value. The practice of being a friend eliminates false barriers, covetousness, and fears, while fostering harmony, love and mercy. As illustrated in the Emotivational Spectrum the polar compound of Connection is Interdependency (and its lateral dependencies are intimacy and freedom).  With this understanding we see essential facets of such friendship and can begin to comprehend why making disciples requires us to engage in relational ministry.

As iron sharpens iron (Prov 27:17), Elizaheva explains “‘Two scholars sharpen one another’, through discussion and debate, forming each other’s insight into the text (Ta’anit 7a)”. We would emphasis listening and dialog more than debate or discourse, just as we would emphasize friendship and discipleship over authority and dogma.  If you want to get a head start on learning these skills and values I suggest you read up on “Appreciative Inquiry” and “Powerful Questions“.

The Harmony of the Gospels reveals 138 questions which Jesus answered. Taylor Holmes reports that 52 were questions Jesus posed while teaching; and 61 questions were asked by others (25 of these by the disciples).  One of the questions the pharisees asked Jesus was on Tuesday during Holy Week in their final effort to ensnare him, rather than learn or hear the Good News. It is recorded in Section 135 of the Harmony of the Gospels (Mt 22:34-40 / Mark 12:28-34) – “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” And Jesus answered quoting from Deut 6:5 and Lev 19:18. His reply in the Gospel according to Mark began with the word “hear” (shamah) translated listen, heed‘ and “thou shalt love” (agapaō). I am sure that if we would employ these two commandments we would experience an evangelistic explosion!

To wrap up this lesson, disciple-makers elicit the spiritual aspirations as they engage in disciple-making friendships.  They explore the scriptures together, learning from one another, making room for questions, connection, and prayer in that sacred space (Ha-Makom) where our communion strengthens our friendship (haver). In that moment, in that context, we fulfill the first and the second greatest commandments, honoring both our covenant with God and our covenant with our community of faith.