I want to draw your attention to a small but important addition to our website, “www.hopefellowship.ca.” On the On-Line Sermons page, just below the title of last Sunday’s message, you will now find a new feature called “Sermon Discussion Questions.”
At Hope Fellowship we have a number of different small groups where you can enjoy the “one another” experience that both Jesus and the disciples promoted. There are interest groups like the church hockey team, the Run and Walk group, and the gardening group. There are discussion groups that focus on a book or a video series. There are support groups like the Saturday morning men’s group and Celebrate Recovery. There are affinity groups like the Wednesday morning Blast program for moms and tots, and the monthly Tabletalks For Seasoned Souls. The classes that I lead – the New Members class and the Leadership Traits and Traps class that will begin next week– are also meant to provide a small group experience in our church.
But there is one kind of group that we would like to see more of at Hope Fellowship, and that is sermon based discussion groups. As far as I know, right now there are three. We would like to see that number grow. The first step towards making that happen is to provide sermon based study questions that these groups can use.
Until now, the leaders of the sermon based small groups have always prepared their own questions. They were very happy to hear that sermon discussion questions will now be provided on a regular basis. Group members can now go to the website and get the study guide and also listen to the on-line sermon if they missed church or if they want to hear it again.
What’s the goal? Spiritual formation. Becoming mature in our faith. Gaining a deeper understanding of the Bible and a closer relationship with Christ. Enjoying a conversation about the sermon that was preached. Sharpening each other’s Christian views and values by comparing what we think about what is preached and taught from the pulpit. In the words of St. Paul, becoming “fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ” (The Message, Ephesians 4:13).
In his book, Sticky Church, Larry Osborne explains how sermon based study groups made North Coast Church in San Diego a better church. People were more attentive and took more notes. People thought about the messages longer and looked forward to spirited discussions. People who missed church were motivated to listen to the sermons on-line. Both new believers and mature believers grew in their knowledge of God’s Word. With the aid of notes and questions, the sermons became more memorable and accessible. “Once we started tying our small group questions to the weekend message, everything changed,” Larry Osborne writes. “Nearly everyone took time to review their notes and think back over the message. The stuff we’d talked about on Sunday morning was no longer buried in the recesses of their minds. For a few short hours it was once again front and center. Better yet, they not only reviewed it; they also discussed it, often with something close to the level of spirited dialogue I’d always dreamed of igniting” (Sticky Church, p. 62)
A sermon worth listening to takes fifteen to twenty hours to complete. What a waste if it is heard and quickly filed away. Imagine, instead, the weekly sermon as a conversation starter with others. That’s my hope and my dream for Hope Fellowship. That’s why I am so willing to provide Getting Started and Going Deeper questions for any small group that wants to get even more out of the Sunday message.
- Pastor Peter