Though, most Christian churches would say that their ministries are Bible-based, the idea of what that means should come with some thoughtful explanation.
Restoration is first of all a biblical church. This means more to us than we source the Bible for wisdom or inspiration. Our sequence for discipleship begins with Knowing God’s Story—which is the Story of scripture defining all of life. Our denomination, The Evangelical Covenant Church says it this way, “We believe the Bible is the only perfect rule for faith, doctrine, and conduct.” The idea of the Bible being the “rule” means that we are measured by it and our reality is bordered within The Story.
Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. (1 Timothy 4:13-16)
We not only value the Word, we practically want to have help you have a relationship with God framed by the Word. Just about every Sunday, I invite everyone to have a face-to-face encounter with God through His Word. This means that you’d have a Bible in your hand and read it as I lead us through it. There’s something about the tactile experience of holding God’s Word that can make the spiritual experience of being with God more real.
And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. (Colossians 1:9-10)
We take the “whole” Word of God as the “whole Word of God.” Let’s face it. The Bible has some parts that are hard to read. I mean not only are there parts that hard to understand, but also there are parts that are hard to accept. The temptation with these stories and passages is to sort of skip over them or act like they aren’t there.
I look back my own story and there are definitely parts that I’d rather not have happened—stuff that even my wife prefers I not remember—but those stories are there and part of my whole story. At Restoration, we accept the whole Word and deal (pretty well, I think) with the hard stuff. The point is, the whole word of God is given to us and preserved exactly the way God wants is and that’s how we take it.
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)
We approach the Word in context of the larger Story of the scriptures. There’s often a distinction made between topical (by subject) and expository (exploring the text) preaching. Topical teaching is arguably the most engaging and “relevant,” because it is able to stay focused on a single sequence (say, “Anger Management” or “Having a Healthy Marriage”). Expository preaching is perhaps less used in fast-growing communities because it, honestly, is harder to track for new and less confident believers.
A majority of our teaching calendar carries us through whole books of the Bible. We don’t tend to go verse-by-verse but more story-by-story. Our hope is that you would have a better understanding of God’s truth in a way that you yourself are able to go back into the book and retain a relationship with Him through His Word.
Generally, we dig into a gospel in the winter/spring, talk relationships in the spring, walk through an Old Testament book in the summer and something out of the New Testament in the fall.
And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. (Luke 24:27)
We think the Bible is a gift best shared among friends. Deep in the history of our denomination (The Evangelical Covenant Church) there are stories of groups of friends who would gather together around the Bible (which had first been translated and printed in their own language) and just read it together.
Now this might seem kind of strange in our culture which often prefers to gather in small groups usually around a resource that is (hopefully) Bible-based. And there’s nothing wrong with topical group studies! Of course, Restoration offers those too. We’re very excited about our Love & Respect marriage group, Spiritually Uneven and relationship studies. But there’s just something “centering” about picking up the book and reading it.
While I advocate and make a practice of regular private devotional reading of scripture, I’ve also learned that the Bible isn’t really a private book. Much of it is intended to be read out in a community of faith.
And when this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea. (Colossians 4:16)
Recently, I was talking with my friend Nancy, who is our Connections Minister. We were thankful that we have Know It Groups gathering for men, women and even youth. I mentioned how cool it would be if we had kids—young reader—carve out a specific time to open the Word, read it together in the round, discuss what what says then pray for each other. Within that same week, we had a 5th grader decide to do just that! We know have a Kids’ Know It Group that is meeting at 9:30a on Sunday’s before church.