Discover something new about familiar texts.  The diversity of responses to familiar Scripture texts in community brings fresh layers of meaning to your attention.  Together, you all can apply those Bible passages in new ways, as well.

Take on controversial issues.  Don't hesitate to broach conversations with others about biblical topics that generate controversy.  Open and honest dialogue about issues such as homosexuality can help everyone involved wrestle thoughtfully and prayerfully with God's Word.

Give people plenty of opportunities to participate.  Schedule a series of conversation sessions each week to invite everyone in your church community to discuss biblical perspectives on the week's sermon, timely articles, and anything else that's currently impacting your community.  Give people the chance to speak about how their own experiences may relate to the topic you're discussing.  Learn from other people's unique perspectives on Scripture (such as hearing someone who was once abused discuss injustice, or hearing a poor person discuss poverty).  Hold each other accountable to speak in loving ways, and ask thoughtful and respectful questions.

Move beyond ethics to changed lives.  Encourage each other to see how the Bible offers much more than just simple ethical principles to follow.  As you interpret it together, you'll find out how God is working in complex ways in each person's life to transform them from the inside out.

Embrace hospitality.  Read and discuss the Bible over meals at each other's homes whenever possible.  As you open your lives up more to each other, you'll find that you'll be able to open yourself up more to God, as well.  Share each other's stories and how those stories relate to the Scripture you're interpreting.  Your various perspectives will expand the text's meaning for you all.

Learn to give your best to your mission.  When you discuss Scripture with others, you must learn to let go of defensive attitudes and be willing to let others motivate, encourage, and hold you accountable as you live out your God-given mission.  Listen to the call to pursue something more important than your own concerns.  Offer your life to God by serving others in your community and beyond.

Use your imagination.  Encourage each other to discover new perspectives on Scripture texts that pull you into seeing God, each other, and life in fresh ways.  Suspend the rules of rational thought and detach yourselves from cultural norms to free yourselves to be creative when discussing the possible meanings of various passages.  Look forward to what you'll learn together as you use the imagination God gave you to get deeper into the Bible's stories.

Adapted from Free for All: Rediscovering the Bible in Community, copyright 2009 by Tim Conder and Daniel Rhodes.  Published by Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, Mich.,
Tim Conder is a founding member of Emergent Village, the founding pastor of emerging church plant Emmaus Way in Raleigh/Durham, and the author of The Church in Transition. Conder lives in North Carolina. 
Daniel Rhodes is a pastor at Emmaus Way and a ThD student at Duke Divinity School. Rhodes lives in North Carolina. 

Original publication date: January 18, 2010