By Justin Rossow
Often, but not always, our Sunday morning bible class shares the same theme as the Sunday sermon. I like to teach and preach on the same content for several reasons. First, it helps the hearers encounter the primary message of the day in multiple formats. Second, it allows people to process out loud what they have heard. Finally, it also gives me a way to use the stuff I had to cut from my sermon or only mention in passing. The first two are about pedagogy; the third simply helps me deal with the heartache of editing down my sermons …
Our 42 Seconds Series followed that same pattern. I preached four sermons based on the four sections of the book by Carl Medearis. Then, in bible class, I expanded the content of the sermon and broadened the scope of the discussion. You can download the master copy of the handouts I used and adapt them for your own congregational use:
There are 5 handouts for a 4-week series. Math has never been my best subject. In this case, the first class is intended as an introduction. We handed out the book in worship for a few weeks, then pointed people to an intro bible class where we got to know each other and laid a foundation, then we walked week by week with the sermon series.
If you are thinking about using this material in your ministry setting, here are a few other things you might want to know:
It’s Pretty Lutheran
If you’re in a Lutheran context, you’re going to recognize a bunch of the names on the book list. People like John Kleinig, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Martin Luther are pretty darn Lutheran! There’s even a few places where some technical Lutheran jargon creeps in to the teaching (on purpose) like when I am talking about Jesus as an example and relate that to the Third Use of the Law.
On the other hand, people like Mike Breen, Brene Brown, and Carl Medearis are pretty much NOT Lutheran. So depending on your context, this stuff might be way too Lutheran for you, or not nearly Lutheran enough.
Know this: I am trying to get people within my tribe to hear something really important from a guy who is not inside my tribe. That can be a tricky dance. Fundamentally, I believe what Carl is writing in 42 Seconds aligns well with Lutheran theology, piety, and mission. Since the content of the bible study supports and extends the teaching of the book, I actually hope you like both, no matter what tribe you are from!
It’s Calibrated to St. Luke–Ann Arbor
At my local congregation, we have chosen four values that help us express the kind of church we are trying to be. At St. Luke we value Openness to people and expression, Faithfulness to complex truth, Connection through authentic relationships, and Dependence on Jesus. Those values find an echo in the four sections of the book: Be Kind (Openness), Be Present (Connection), Be Brave (Faithfulness), and Be Jesus (Dependence). In fact, that’s a main reason I wanted to preach and teach this series in the first place!
So you’ll notice St. Luke language cropping up occasionally. Feel free to cut it, adopt it, or modify it for your context.
We’ve also identified three growth areas: My Church Home, My Discipling Relationships, and My Everyday Communities. Again, take it or leave it. Just recognize that in some ways all theology gets done at the local level. If you wouldn’t say it like we do, how would you say it? Can you say it consistently? Can others say it that way, too?
This study is calibrated to fit the way we talk at St. Luke. I don’t think the language is so unique or pervasive that you can’t use this content for your context. But if the language does sound off here or there, take the opportunity to wonder how you say things around your place, and what your local way of talking means for your values and mission.
Presentation and Conversation are Equally Mixed
I actually do appreciate a lecture format bible class once in awhile. And I kind of love a rambling, verse-by-verse, dig deep and ask lots of questions study. This isn’t either of those.
On any given Sunday, we’ll have between 80 and 120 adults seated at tables of 6-8. I encourage them to sit at the same table for the whole five weeks, and someone at every table always volunteers to bring breakfast goodies to share. (And a few tables always forgets, and several tables always have way too much, and it somehow gets sorted in the end.)
The point of this organization is to create space for conversation. We learn differently if we engage verbally. So you will find an opening discussion time in each of the weekly studies. After people have had a chance to connect, I then present new content for a chunk of 15-20 minutes. Then I ask them to discuss something a little deeper at their tables, and I actually give them time to process together. That’s one reason to limit the table size to no more than 9: get too big and not everyone can share in the time allotted. After that discussion, I present again, and then usually leave them with more time to talk at the end.
I often field questions, but not too many, because the focus is on the relational learning at the tables. Mostly, the rhythm is: talk, present, talk, present, talk. And if that feels weighted on the talk side of the scale, I know I have them as a captive audience for the sermon in worship!
The Bible Class Doesn’t Stand Alone
This set of 5 hour-long bible studies is designed to go along with a 4-part sermon series. It works best if people are actually reading along in the 42 Seconds book. And we also provided weekly Taking Worship Home resources that our people use in small groups or in their families. You can find all of these resources on the justinrossow.com 42 Seconds Resource Page.
Not everyone will resonate with all of these options. But the more possibilities they have to engage this content, the more opportunity they will have to receive what Jesus wants to give them, and to be shaped the way he intends. Good luck, and let me know how it goes!
Whether you use the bible class handouts provided or not, you mind find a helpful addition to your library in the bibliography, below. Sources listed in order of appearance.