Having come to faith as a teen, this single grandma had seldom been nurtured and had yet to make a public profession of her faith in Christ. And although Nelda had been attending our church for a dozen years, we had never been able to pull her into our small-group community.
Then she heard about "Read the Bible for Life," a nine-week small group study that would be followed by a year of walking and worshipping through the pages of the world's greatest book. Nelda thought, "I've never read through the Bible before; I probably should do that."
She got hooked.
The nine-week study, which focuses on how to read the Bible better, drew Nelda into the small group experience and gave her a compelling vision for reading the Bible in a fresh life-altering way. Then, through the following year, our small groups read through the Bible chronologically. Each week small group leaders helped the participants explore discussion questions, and the week culminated in a whole-church worship service with a sermon focused on a key passage from that week's reading.
The combination of individual reading, small-group discussion and worship was powerful and brought great changes to Nelda's life. She made a public profession of her faith and was baptized. Last summer she and her teenage grandson went on a mission trip to Romania. As a result of that trip, her grandson has come to faith in Christ and was baptized a few weeks ago. And Nelda is ministering to Kathy, who has yet to make a profession of faith but has gotten involved in Nelda's small group.
As Nelda has engaged God's Word in the past year, two dynamics have been vitally important.
First, she has learned how to read the parts of Scripture well. Too often we hand people a Bible, this ancient, sometimes complex book, and say, "Here. You should read this." Learning how to hear God speak variously through a psalm, or a parable, or a letter from Paul, and learning how to apply the Bible's truths to life responsibly can make all the difference. It has made a big difference for Nelda as she has met the Living God in the pages of His living Word (Hebrews 4:12).
Second, Nelda has gotten drawn into the Bible's grand story. When I asked her about the main impact reading through the Bible has had on her life she replied, "I never knew how all the stories fit together to make sense." She woke up one morning and realized that the stories of the Bible are one story, and that big, beautiful story is her story. As she understood how the Bible's story fits together, she saw more clearly the purpose of her own life.
So how about you? Do you and your community have a plan for reading, walking and worshiping through the Word in 2012?
Check out the tools at www.readthebibleforlife.com. Among other things you will find downloadable reading plans, a chronological Bible called Reading God's Story, and a Reader's Guide to the Bible that will coach you day-by-day through the year.
In the final week of 2011, we will release a free audio podcast of the chronological reading plan, which you can access through apps, Facebook or Twitter.
Frank Cooke, a British Baptist leader in the 20th century, once said, "The foundation of every reformation of the Holy Spirit is the Word of God made plain to the people." We need reformation; we need to read the Word in the coming year. This could change everything in our lives, our families and our churches.
Nelda still sits in the back during worship each Sunday, but now she has a big smile on her face and her HCSB Study Bible tucked under her arm. She lingers after the service, enjoying the people and presence of God. Her life and the lives of those around her will never be the same.
George H. Guthrie is the Benjamin W. Perry Professor of Bible at Union University in Jackson, Tenn., and author of "Read the Bible for Life: Your Guide to Understanding and Living God's Word," published by the B&H Publishing Group of LifeWay Christian Resources. For more information, visit www.readthebibleforlife.com.
Copyright (c) 2011 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net