At the Erickson Covenant Church, we are exploring ten “Vital Signs of Healthy Missional Community.” Vital Sign #2 is that healthy, missional communities are infused with God’s Word, shaping every area of our lives.Communal Bible study is one essential way God’s word is infused in us. Studying Scripture together is a game changer. Little acknowledged fact: we cannot fully understand nor adequately respond to God’s Word alone. Don’t get me wrong—personal Bible study is important. It’s just not enough. The Scriptures are designed to be heard and responded to as a community, and there is something wrong if we only hear God’s corporate Word privately. We need to gather with people who think and respond differently to the Scripture, checking our blind spots, illuminating areas we ignore, and then resolving to respond together as the Spirit leads. Scripture was written by communities for communities, under the inspiration of the Triune Community.
Our study together must be guided by good questions. In the classic passage about the purpose of God’s Word, we read: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that all God’s people may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 TNIV) Based on this insight, we see that our study and discussion of the Bible could be guided by four questions:
What is this passage of Scripture teaching us? As a learning community, Scripture has central authority in our lives, guiding our thoughts, beliefs and actions. As we study, we must always ask: “What is this teaching us about who God is, who we are, and how should we live?”
Where are my assumptions about God and life being challenged? As the Word of God becomes infused into our lives, hidden assumptions about God and life are unmasked. For example, we find our addiction to comfort confronted with Jesus’ call to carry the cross. Or our misconstrued views of God as cosmic grandfather (or bully) overturned by the reality of the fierce, loving God of the Bible.
What is one area of my life that needs to change in response to the Scripture? The Bible corrects areas in our lives that are out of step with his desire for us. Everything from sexual practices, integrity in business, or the tone of our voice when we speak to our children comes under scrutiny as we place ourselves under the authority of Scripture.
How is this passage training me to live in right relationship? The purpose of Scripture is to create righteous communities. “Righteousness” is not about legalistic, grace-killing Pharisaic factions. Righteous communities are loving, flourishing, grace-imbued communities of people who are growing in their relationship with God, with others and with the creation. Righteousness means right-relatedness.
So what’s it all for? What’s the point of all the teaching, the rebuking, the correcting, the training that Scripture offers? Look again at 2 Timothy 3:17. The purpose is clear: Scripture is designed so all of us can be what God has created us to be. As God’s Word-Infused community, we are shaped by the Word and filled by the Spirit, ready, willing and able to get on with his work of reconciling his world back to himself. The goal of being Word Infused is to become a healthy, missional community who pursues Jesus and his priorities in the world.