We decided to try out a Bible Study book that I had sitting around. I picked it up years ago on a clearance table in a bookstore. After looking at it, we thought it would make a pretty good study guide and have been going through it since Easter. No we haven't lapsed into a traditional Sunday School class mode or anything. We took it and "simple churched" it! We used some of the object lessons but basically avoided most of the outline discussion guides. We did refer to the book if we needed some help with discussion starters when things got quiet or the conversation wandered but this was not usually necessary.
It's amazing what can happen when you simply let the scripture speak to each person. Even my eight year old finds some pretty profound truth to share (though he often takes a bit more prompting).
This Book went through some pretty basic understanding of relationships that most of us deal with throughout our lives. Using scriptures that tell the story of Jesus and his disciples, David and Jonathan or Paul and Mark, we discussed how Christians are to deal with various areas in the realm of friendships. We talked about what it means to have different degrees of intimacy with friends, what to do if relationships are threatened or are difficult to maintain, and how the Bible tells us to resolve conflict.
We had everyone try to build a house with playing cards (which is surprisingly difficult!) and then talk about how hard it is to build up relationships and how easy it is to tear them down. Another week we played the game "Sorry" and had everyone exaggerate apologies when they sent someone back to start. Then we discussed the importance of repentance and sincere communication with our friends. All in all it was a good framework for our Bible studies and discussions.
It never ceases to amaze me how, even a publication obviously meant for a traditional/institutional Church environment, describes degrees of intimacy that are rarely, if ever, obtained in that setting. After pastoring for five years and then working for a billion dollar manufacturing company, I have seen what similarities exist between the two. They share the corporate model for growth and therefore foster "business" types of relationships. These end up being relationships based on power, manipulation, secrets, and especially, material success in both the traditional church world and corporate world. When we were in a traditional church environment it was always the building that extended to wherever we were. If we visited another member's home, it was as if the building (the organization) followed us there and it overshadowed each and every relationship.We see simple church as a vehicle to develop the kind of intimacy that can foster real discipling and real building up of the Body of Christ. I am watching my family develop relationships in settings where real people live, our home, homeschooling groups, get-togethers at the homes of others and settings out in our community (restaurants, parks, museums, festivals, etc.).