The Big Listen

We’re really excited to be hosting a small group this year at our house – after a few years of missing them completely. But there’s another big reason we’re so excited about it. This year at my church we’re totally changing the way we do ‘small groups’. After decades probably of bible ‘studies’ that follow the preaching program, we’re departing from tradition. No more sitting with our heads buried in a sheet of questions. Rather, we’re trying to get back to properly reading the Bible, or should I say 'listening' to the Bible. We want not only to get back to reading the books of the bible as books, but also listening to the authors as they meant for us to listen.

It’s of course as ancient as it comes; after all the books of the bible were each originally written as a unit to be read, not section by section, but in their entirety. Also they were written to groups of people, to be read to groups of people, out loud. Today, we’ve largely lost the focus on public reading, and much less the art of corporate listening.

But it follows that what may be most needed for us today, is to cultivate a new love of listening direct from the Bible; listening right through the text of God’s word itself.

So this year at my church we’re going to begin the year by just spending a couple of months reading through (one of) Romans, Hebrews, or Mark’s Gospel, every week. We’re just opening it up and read it aloud to one another, in as big-a-slabs as we can manage; then we just see what discussion comes up. We’ve calling it the ‘big read’, after Pete Woodcock’s inspiration from this briefing article, The Big Read:
“I think our practice of reading a minimal bit of the Bible in a service, that the preacher will then preach on, is weird and probably wrong,” he says.

“We’re supposed to read it as books. When Paul wrote a letter and encouraged the people he was writing to read it as a whole church, do you think they said: “We’re going to read verses 1-4 today—come back next week for a bit more”, and that was it? I imagine they read the whole letter. That’s how the Bible’s written to be read—in big chunks, out loud, together.

“And I think we’ve lost that idea. Somewhere, we’ve forgotten about it.”

“We’re Bible illiterate. I assume 100 years ago people knew the Scriptures more—but now they just don’t. And the great thing about the Bible is most of it is narrative. People love stories, and the Bible’s got stories. So let’s use them!”

That’s exactly what they’re doing. Based on an idea Pete got from Steve Levy, pastor of Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Swansea, Cornerstone have embarked on ‘The Big Read’.

“It’s not exactly revolutionary!” Pete says. “It’s just reading big chunks of Scripture, out loud, together. It’s reading the Bible as it was written to be read. So each month, we’ll read a book of the Bible in our midweek small groups. So far we’ve done Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, and then we did Luke and Acts. Then we tackled Hebrews, which just comes alive if you’ve already read the Pentateuch.

The ‘big read’ is a great idea. But only one person does the reading. The focus is really on the listener. It’s actually about practicing the old art of corporate [Bible] listening. We should actually call it the ‘big listen’, I reckon. Because as Christians, we are principally those who listen to God’s word, and listening of course is much more than reading; it’s about ‘hearing’ what God has said, what God is saying.

I hope it catches on; would be great to see a new culture spread around the globe of a return of the large Bible read to our church meetings, big and small.

No comments: