A recent guest speaker encouraged my congregation to take Christ out of the church and into the community. I wondered which of my friends would respond. I knew I wouldn't. I'm not exactly a theological go-getter. What I am is a minivan driving, over-programmed mother of three who spends summers at the pool slathered in SPF 45. But whenever I thought about the speaker's words (always in the context of how his message would work through other folks), I had a crazy vision of seeing the women of my neighborhood reading their Bibles at the pool.
This wasn't the first time I'd felt a nudge from the Holy Spirit. And if I chose to ignore this nudge, well, that wouldn't be the first time either.
But I couldn't shake that crazy vision. And the idea took hold: I could invite the women in my neighborhood to read the Bible during the summer. But not just a book or two. The whole Bible in 90 days.
Because it was such an ambitious plan, I thought maybe six or seven women would agree. And half of us might finish. Regardless of the number, I told myself that if even one woman did it (and that one woman was me), it would be worth it.
I quietly asked a couple of my friendliest neighbors what they thought of my idea.
"Love it!" was the consensus.
That boost gave me the confidence to push myself out of my comfort zone and reach out to others I didn't know as well. After e-mailing neighborhood friends and encouraging them to invite others, I was blown away when 20 women took the plunge!
All the Details
We all know it's easier to get a group of busy women to agree to start something than it is to get them to finish it. How could I ensure that the women kept reading from Genesis through Revelation?
Because I'd been faithful in listening to the Holy Spirit in the first place, I had to trust that he wouldn't run from me now. And I had to believe there was a reason this idea had been placed on my heart, not someone else's. In retrospect, I think the Holy Spirit nudged me because of who I am. And perhaps more so, because of who I'm not.
I'm not a Bible study leader. There was no way I'd be able to explain the relevance of Obadiah when I barely understood it myself.
But I am an organizer. Plus I'd attended many Bible studies and knew that the successful groups met regularly, had time for fellowship and prayer, and included in-depth Bible study.
So I picked up The Bible in 90 Days DVD to do the teaching. I made sure coffee, cold drinks, and some type of brunch-y bread was on hand. (Sharing food and coffee is a great way to develop deeper bonds of friendship.) And I invited the women to my home for one hour each week.
We began on time and we always ended on time. Sometimes that meant I cut off people when they were chatting about the latest swim team crisis. But they knew I was doing it because I wanted to respect their time.
I loved when others volunteered to help, since I knew it would increase their commitment to our group. One woman offered to coordinate the weekly babysitters for our collective brood (up to 25 children). Other moms brought juice boxes and snacks for the kids.
Halfway through the study, one neighbor asked if it was okay to organize a ministry outreach. Together, we provided lunch to more than 150 underprivileged children in our community. Simultaneously, we sealed our commitment to one another through this act of group service.
Reaching the Goal
I'm a talker. I don't mind praying out loud or making an outrageous comment just to get conversation started. But I knew I had to use my gift strategically. While I was always happy to open and close our meetings with prayer, I knew involving others would draw them in. I purposefully asked for others to speak up in prayer and usually held my tongue until they did.
Several women surfaced who truly did have a gift of teaching. One woman, a former journalist, used her investigative skills to search the internet or biblical commentaries to find answers to questions that arose in her reading.
When we wanted to know about an ephod and what it looked like, she brought in color pictures. When we wondered how end times prophecy in the Old Testament parallels that in Revelation, she found out and told us.
I held back in the general conversations to allow time for the quieter people to have a voice and also to give a platform to the Bible scholars in the neighborhood.
The women were committed because we had a great deal of accountability going on. Since we all live close to one another, there was always a chance of running into a fellow reader—at the grocery store, the mailbox, and of course, the pool. And I encouraged the women to support one another. So a reader never knew when she'd bump into another study member at the checkout line at Target who'd ask, "How's your reading going?"
Over the next several weeks and then months, enthusiasm for our reading grew. Others in the neighborhood learned what we were doing and offered words of encouragement. A visitor asked if there was a revival underway in our neighborhood; everywhere she looked, ladies were reading their Bibles.
As much as any group of people can read as a team, we did. Through individual efforts, we reached our goal, and 16 readers finished reading the Bible in 90 days.
We commemorated our achievement with a two-hour brunch. I awarded certificates and homemade bookmarks to all the readers who completed their Bible reading. The group continues to meet each summer, sometimes using a curriculum, sometimes not. Last summer we watched the NOOMA videos and spent our time together in lively discussion.
I'm proud that doing something as simple as heeding God's call in my life could have such an amazing and lasting impact. It's made me more likely to listen when God speaks to me because I know he's only calling me to do what he's already equipped me for, and he'll hold my hand on the journey.
I'm so glad I listened to the speaker—and the Holy Spirit—that night. Taking my faith into my neighborhood has transformed my relationships. Women I've known for years on a "Hi, how are you? Can you pass the sunscreen?" level have become true sisters in Christ to me. Stepping out of my Christian comfort zone helped my neighbors and me "son" bathe in a whole new way.
Teisha Moseley's community Bible study is gearing up for its fifth summer together. She continues to provide snacks and press play on her DVD player. Teisha also recruits new members at the pool.
Copyright © 2011 by the author or Christianity Today/Kyria.com.
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