These are exciting times at Bethel! Beginning in September we will undergo a major congregation-wide initiative to read through the Bible together in two years. Now, this means a few things will change around here so I thought I would answer a few common questions in this venue so that you can consider joining us in this life-changing experience.
Why are we doing this?
The concept of GodSpeak traces back to a few realities I observe in and among the people of God today. First, I see Christianity existing in a world that is less than open and accepting of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Second, I see Christians who, for whatever reason, were trained that only a pastor or qualified layperson could really talk about God. As a result I see Christians who are fearful to speak of spiritual matters with others, even with other Christians! I was faced with this question: How can we equip the people of God to be comfortable enough with their faith that they can share the Gospel with their unbelieving friends and relatives?
What is GodSpeak?
I believe GodSpeak could prove to be a major step in the right direction. Here’s the concept. Together as a congregation, each of us will read through the Bible, a few chapters per day (Mon.-Sat.) and gather on Sunday to worship God together and reflect upon the week’s readings. During the week, you will hear God speaking to you through His Word. You will see how God has acted through history to save His people and how He sent His Son to save us.
The next major component is the GodSpeak groups. These are groups that will be formed at various times during the year to meet and discuss the readings. Here you will have the opportunity to ask questions of others who are reading the same passages, comment on how they are impacting your life and build relationships with other Christians as God speaks through you to them and through them to you.
As you gain confidence in what you believe by reading God’s word and get the feel for having God’s words spoken from your lips, I pray you will feel more and more confident to share the Good News of Jesus with the people around you. The ultimate purpose of this entire initiative is that you may have God speak through you to others who do not have faith in Him and salvation through His Son. As you share that Gospel with others, you will then be able to bring those stories back to your brothers and sisters in Christ who are hearing God speak to them and through them as well. And who knows, perhaps by God’s grace brand new Christians will join us in reading God’s word together and sharing it with others.
What if I get behind?
What if? We all have busy lives and certainly there will be times when you miss a reading or two. Even if you’ve missed a month or didn’t start with us at all, we want everybody to feel like they can rejoin the readings wherever they are. I don’t want pride or guilt to keep you from hearing God speak to you and see God speak through you. God willing, we will create a culture of encouragement through this whole process that celebrates when we participate and has nothing but open arms when we get behind.
When does this happen?
GodSpeak begins with an opening celebration service on Sunday, September 13. Reading will begin Monday, September 14 with Genesis 1:1-2:25. The following Sunday I’ll base the service on Genesis 1-12:9. Our GodSpeak groups will begin that week as well. The first week the groups will get acquainted and begin by discussing their hopes and expectations for reading through the Bible. Many of you have never read through the Bible and may have some anxieties. These groups are designed to help you to know that you are not alone.
But GodSpeak will be gaining momentum for a good seven weeks before it starts! I believe it’s important that we prepare to read the Bible, so I’m planning a sermon series called, “How to Read the Bible” beginning July 26th. I pray this will help us learn what to expect from the Bible, where it all comes from and basic tips on how to properly interpret the Bible. It’s easy to twist the Bible to say whatever you want it to say. It’s much more rewarding to read the Bible and listen to hear God speak to you instead. I’ll do my best to teach you how that happens.
How will this happen?
It’s simple, really. “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty.” (Zechariah 4:6) You may notice that I’m not offering “10 Surefire Steps to Confident Faith-Sharing” or “Evangelism Made Easy.” Faith-sharing has never been about being “easy” and those “surefire steps” may work for some but not others. I am a believer in the power of God’s Word for all people. I am a believer that when God speaks to you and His Word interacts with your life, you will be compelled to have God speak through you to others. I am a believer that “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:10-11)
I pray God will bless you and others as we journey together knowing and communicating our faith in friendship.