We are a Christian Bible Study. There are 5 dimensions to our approach to the bible study groups. These 5 dimensions are actually based on 5 spiritual disciplines. That are listed in the following business plan information in the vision section:
The executive summary defines the 5D mission, vision, key distinctives, and the goals that develop the brand identity.
The Mission (Thy Why)
To build Christian community through the study of scripture and the practice of shared spiritual disciplines for personal spiritual development. Aspects include lay leadership and teaching, diversity of participants, conversational prayer, and lay witness for the purpose of equipping and transforming disciples of Christ what are rooted and grounded in the love of Jesus and one another.
The Vision (The How)
A Covenant of Shared Spiritual Disciplines - Each person joining the Study is asked to practice the five disciplines for a semester. This call for a covenant to practice the five disciplines must be made clear at the outset. The 5D Study process is actually based on the practice of the spiritual disciplines by all members of the program. Although the covenant may seem demanding when compared with many other Bible classes, the disciplines are ‘lay friendly’ in that they are designed for everyone, not just spiritual athletes. People know the covenant expires at the end of each semester and seem drawn to a group where all members work at practicing these disciplines. Detailed instructions for each of the five shared spiritual disciplines are found in Part 2, but they can be summarized as follows:
Daily Bible Study and Prayer - Each person in the class is expected to set aside some time each day for personal Bible study and prayer. This regular time of study and prayer includes reading the Scripture passage of the day, reading the related section in the bible commentary and answering three study questions which take approximately twenty to thirty minutes. The daily study discipline not only benefits the individual, but it also helps the members prepare for the small group discussions. Guidelines for effectively using this daily study time are found in Chapter 5.
The Scripture Talk – The name ‘Lay Scripture Teaching Ministry’ tips our hand on the leadership style of the 5D Study. The task of giving the Scripture talk is shared by the Study members. This spiritual discipline is built into the Study at the weekly Scripture class. The person giving the 25-minute Scripture talk each week is selected from the class on a rotating basis, so that no person gives more than one talk each semester. It is important that the lay teachers be trained and equipped to prepare a Scripture talk on the ‘lesson of the week’ that is interesting, inspirational and enlightening. The simple technique developed for effectively preparing to ‘give the talk’ is explained in Chapter 6. When this teaching method is followed, both experienced teachers and those who are teaching for the first time can deliver
scripture talks that are spiritually challenging and interesting, even when compared to Bible classes taught exclusively by clergy and lay ‘Bible experts’.
Weekly Small Group – The third spiritual discipline is participation each week in a small group that meets after the Scripture talk. The small group discussions focus on the daily study questions for the week's Scripture lesson found in the weekly study guide. Class members share insights gained from their individual study and can raise unanswered questions about the passage. The small group is made up of the same people for the entire semester. The goal of the small group discussion is to help each person bring their own views closer to the actual Scriptures, not to force a ‘right answer’ on every participant. The lay leadership concept extends to the small group leaders as well. The 5D Study recruits two Study members to facilitate each small group for a semester. Effective lay small group facilitators must be well prepared and well trained, or people will lose interest in the group and vote with their feet. General principles of lay leadership for the 5D Study small groups and guidelines for being an effective small group facilitator and group member are found in Chapter 7.
Conversational Prayer – The fourth spiritual discipline is conversational prayer which takes place in the weekly discussion groups. The small group facilitator opens the group time each week by leading the members in a time of prayer. A simple conversational prayer outline is found on the inside cover of the Scripture Study workbook. Conversational prayer is an acquired skill, but one that can be easily mastered by anyone willing to practice it. The small group is a safe place to develop the ability to pray aloud. Guidelines for simple, effective conversational prayer are found in Chapter 8.
Work of the Holy Spirit – The final spiritual discipline is development of an understanding of the way the Holy Spirit works to help the Study. Each member is expected to grow in understanding of the Spirit’s work of giving gifts and calling members to ministry inside and outside the Study. This discipline is based on selected sections from the vast theology of the Holy Spirit that explain the specific ways the Spirit helps the 5D Studies. The goal of each Study is to create an environment where the Spirit is free to do its job effectively. The Spirit’s job description includes making the Word of God understandable to us. The Spirit is also tasked with lifting up Jesus Christ so that each person in the study has the opportunity to know Him better and develop their personal relationship with Him. Specific practical ways the Spirit helps the 5D Studies are explored in Chapter 9.
When these five disciplines are put into practice in the Study, the results are transformation of the members’ lives and formation of significant relationships among the members. This is one of the main attractions for ordinary lay Christians. The process is transformational in that God can work in and through the Study to produce spiritual growth for lay leaders. Sam Shoemaker, spiritual architect of the 12-Step programs, said that often the difference between Alcoholics Anonymous and the church is that no one ever went to AA to get ‘a little bit better’. The LSTM Study seeks to learn from this AA principle and create an environment where God can do significant transforming work in human lives. The Spirit plays a crucial role in implementing the distinctive Study feature of being both a relational and transformational experience. Study members are not just ‘People of the Book’ but become, in reality ‘People of the Person’, people who have had a life changing encounter with the person Jesus Christ. The Bible is a book about right relationships, a phrase that accurately translates the Biblical word righteousness. Four ‘right relationships’ clearly stand out in the Biblical story. They are a right relationship with God through Jesus Christ, with myself, with the significant other people in my life and with the world. One goal of an 5D Study is to build up meaningful relationships between members of the small groups and the leadership team. It is the task of the Spirit to take the Word from the head to the heart of members of the body of Christ so that lives are transformed. A quick search on the Internet reveals that you can have a Bible bound in the finest leather from calfskin to ostrich, but the 5D goal is for the Scriptures to be bound in shoe leather. The Scripture message must be transferred from the page to the heart of daily life.
The Mechanics of 5D include the following:
A Bible study class for lay men and women who meet weekly.
The schedule of classes follows the typical ‘school’ calendar: a fall semester and a spring semester with the summer off and specific time-off for special holidays and events.
The class is opened to new members only at the start of each semester’s session. The class is closed to newcomers once a new semester begins.
The class is held at the same time each week, and each study session is 90 minutes long.
The Study time period is designed and structured to fit into the Sunday morning time slot allocated by a church for Christian Education or Sunday School.
The Study can also be used for a home Bible study class.
Participants are expected to attend all the classes for the entire semester unless there are serious conflicts.
All class members are expected to practice the five spiritual disciplines of the LSTM Study and are made aware of this contract before they sign up.
The Key Distinctives (What Makes 5D Different)
This is not just another Bible study focused on a skilled teacher unpacking the Bible to the attenders. The 5D approach places a high priority on all the group participants taking on a teaching role as a part of a weekly rotation for the life of the group.
This is not just another Bible study focused on learning information. The 5D approach places a high priority on spiritual formation. The 5D tool for spiritual formation is very similar to the Alcoholics Anonymous 12-step program that encourages real, honest transparency instead of routine small-talk or theological debates.