A couple of years ago I did some work on the life of Martyn Lloyd-Jones to be presented to the Oxford Training Partnership. At some point I may write it up in a series of posts. But, for the moment, I want to reflect on one aspect of his life that intrigued me. It comes from the early years of his ministry when he was pastor of the church at Sandfields, near Aberavon. There were two midweek meetings for the whole church- a prayer meeting on a Monday and then a fellowship meeting on the Wednesday evening.
It is the Wednesday evening that particularly interested me. The first part of Iain Murray’s biography provides the details. The meeting would not be prepared as such. Lloyd-Jones would invite people to come with a question connected with Christian living. There would be the opportunity to present these questions and Lloyd-Jones would choose one to be the basis of discussion for the evening. The group as a whole (not just Lloyd-Jones) would then discuss the question- bringing in relevant Scriptures and their application. In a sense, it meant that the whole group was counselling each other with the Scriptures through some of the difficulties in the Christian life.
I have always been drawn to the idea of a meeting like that. I saw it operate last year at the South Central Ministry Training Course. Peter Comont chaired a session with some of the second years on the course reflecting on how forgiveness should happen in the Christian life and talking through various pastoral scenarios. I led a discussion on why Christians sometimes struggle with assurance. These were good times- matching real situations with deep reflection on the Scriptures.
I do think it is generally right to preach through a book of the Bible (as Lloyd-Jones himself did) so that God sets the agenda. It is probably easier for young Christians if homegroup Bible Studies follow a similar path. However, the reality is that all of us face questions as we go through life as Christians and it is good to find some outlet occasionally for those to be asked and explored together.
My reason for writing this now is that I am hoping to run the two homegroups that I help to lead in this manner this week. I might add a postscript to this post later in the week to say how they have gone (“They were great” or “Don’t ever try this again”!). I’ll resist the temptation to suggest that we dress in 1920s clothing to get into the mood. There are so many potential questions that could be asked: How do we handle temptation? What can I do about my struggles to be joyful? What do you do when Bible reading feels dry? Of all the good things I could do how should I prioritise my time? How should I answer this question from my colleague? Or- if you want to stick to reflecting on a recent sermon- how do we know when to submit to and when to disobey the authorities? Of course those are just the tip of an iceberg of questions that could be asked.
Here is my suggestion of how an evening might work. Perhaps you could spend five or ten minutes raising questions and deciding which one to work on for the evening. Then around ten minutes exploring the issue- why is this a relevant question? In what ways do we encounter this in our experience? Then you could spend twenty minutes or so considering relevant Scriptures and Biblical principles that might apply. Truth be told, with most questions there is not a single answer so there could be a range of issues to mention. Then for the last ten minutes or so it would be good to get practical and work through some applications. There should be time to pray in response. Of course those timings are just suggestions- and the balance could be different.
We all face questions about our lives. This is just an attempt to give us a way of exploring them in the light of Scripture and with the help of God’s people. I’ll let you know how it goes…