Scripture-Centered, not Sermon-Centered

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  • April 13, 2011

SoulCare Leaders, every week our SoulCare Communities look at the Scriptures. We take the passage that we preached on the week prior and we talk through it. We discuss it. We think about how to believe and obey it. All of that is good because we want the Scriptures to be central to life and life in community. Yet one of the odd things that can happen during our time together is that the conversation is centered more on the sermon than the Scriptures. As flattering as it is for me to think that dozens of people are sitting around talking about words that I said, the words we want to consider primarily are God’s and not mine. What He said, and not what I said about what He said, comes first. I’m not trying to split hairs here but there is a difference and the difference is important.

I’ll give you an example. Last night, my SoulCare Community gathered. Of the 9 people in our group, about 6 of them had not heard the sermon. When that has happened before, I’ve been tempted to think that we might as well skip considering the Scriptures for that evening because no one will have anything to say. It’s like we’re doomed to have blank stares and awkward silence because people have not heard the sermon. But why does that need to be?

We have the Bible in front of us, the Spirit of God among us, the people of God around us. Why would we believe that we have little to talk about or think about because we didn’t hear the sermon? As SoulCare leaders we are leading people to the Scriptures and not to a sermon. Sure there is a mysterious nature to preaching where the Word of God and the word of man are beautifully intertwined. We hear from God when we hear a faithful preacher preach. But let us be sure that our time is centered on the Scripture over and above the sermon.

Here are some thoughts for what that will mean for SoulCare Leaders:

Read the text: Come to the night having read the passage that you will be looking at together. Be familiar with it. Here is the schedule for our preaching from now through June. Read the text as a part of your devotions throughout the week before we preach on it. Not only will this help you to lead SoulCare, it will help you come to Sunday better prepared to hear the Word preached.

Talk about the text: If your people haven’t heard the sermon, you don’t get a free pass for the night. As SoulCare Leaders, you have been entrusted with shepherding people and pastoring them. Part of this entails that you will lead them to a right understanding of the text. You are doing more than facilitating a discussion. You are helping with the instruction, application, and obedience of a passage of Scripture. You’ve been chosen to lead because you get the gospel and your leaders have confidence that you can lead people to a faithful and orthodox understanding of Biblical truth.

Pray and prepare: Hopefully, the preceding paragraph humbles you. You have been entrusted with a great task. If you come to SoulCare with no prayer or preparation, ready to wing it, ready to lead off the cuff – it reveals an inordinate amount of confidence in yourself. I know. I’ve been there. My prayerless, unprepared leading means that I expect to be able to carry the night off of my own giftings and abilities. I am settled for what I can accomplish or manufacture through my flesh; rather than seeking what only the Spirit can accomplish. We want manifestations of the Spirit, not manufacturings of the flesh. Pray for your people. Pray over your gathering. Ask the Spirit to guide the study of the Scripture. Ask the Spirit to guide as you talk about your week and seek to apply the gospel together. Pray. Prepare.

Yesterday, six people had not heard the sermon. Yet we had one of the best times in God’s Word than all the weeks prior. A lively conversation. Sin confession. Gospel application. And we didn’t mention the sermon once. Was that good for my ego? No. (But in reality, yes!) Does it have to happen that way every week? No. Was it Spirit-led and great this week? Absolutely.

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About Ajay Thomas

Ajay lives in Philadelphia with his wife Shainu and their kids Hannah and Micah. He is responsible for preaching and vision as a pastor at Seven Mile Road.

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