Small Group: Interpretation

If your Small Group has done high-quality Observation, what do you do next?

Some Small Group leaders jump straight to Application.  That application is usually something along the lines of "Have more faith and be more obedient."  Have you ever walked out of a Small Group Bible study thinking "So all God cares about is me trying harder?" 

But the Bible actually rarely prompts us to just try harder, to try harder to believe, to try harder to obey.  One of the big failures of the Christian movement in the 20th century is that - without compromising a faith-grace soteriology - many pastors pushed for an abstract-Pelagian praxis.  But that's another story.

Peter jumps out of the boat: What's your boat?
Daniel gets thrown into the lion's den: Where's your lion's den?
Jonah gets swallowed by a whale: What's your whale?
Abraham sacrifices Isaac: Who's your Isaac?
David kills Goliath: Who are your giants? (metaphorically: no killing expected)

But why?  Why does he jump?  Why is he in the den?  Why is he in the water in the first place?  Why sacrifice Isaac?  Why kill the giant?

We skim over these questions in Small Group to our detriment.

As with Observation, here's a more thorough list of the costs of failure to do quality Interpretation:
  • A Small Group may miss the main point (main points are very important)
  • A Small Group may encourage unwise imitation of cautionary tales
  • A Small Group may grow into a faulty view of God, people, the church or the world
  • A Small Group may miss a challenge to the culture we live in
  • A Small Group may waste quality Observation
  • A Small Group may lack the foundation for quality Application
  • A Small Group may miss opportunities to grow in love for God
  • A Small Group may lose a chance to connect emotionally with a passage
  • A Small Group may squander a chance to engage someone new to Bible study with the depth of God's word
  • A Small Group may become repetitious
  • A Small Group may become repetitious
What does it all mean?  Data without interpretation rattle uselessly inside the human heart.  Knowledge puffs up.  Interpretation provides us with structure, perspective, stability.  We interpret all the time.  Let's take the time to do it well.

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