Seeking truth and accepting opinion as truth are not the same thing. In fact, when a small group leader allows an individual’s concept of truth to trump God’s truth, false teaching has just occurred. It is extremely important that small groups, when studying the Bible, maintain their search for God’s perspective.
A group leader who accepts opinion as truth:
- Utilizes a worldview other than a biblical worldview as a starting point for the conversation.
- Doesn’t realize the importance of knowing the context of a passage when studying it.
- Doesn’t realize the responsibility of guiding the group to search for absolute truth.
- Doesn’t know what absolute truth is or hasn’t yet embraced absolute truth as reality.
- Allows the final word of the conversation to be someone’s opinion of truth rather than ending the conversation by proclaiming God’s truth as the final word.
A group leader who seeks God’s truth:
- Utilizes a biblical worldview as the starting point for the conversation.
- Prepares and understands the context of the passage being studied before arriving at the small group meeting.
- Understands the role and the responsibility of guiding the group to find God’s absolute truth.
- Knows what absolute truth is and has embraced absolute truth as reality.
- Allows honest conversation but knows when a red flag has been raised.
- Makes sure that the final word of the conversation is God’s truth, not someone else’s opinion. Whatever is left hanging at the end of the discussion is what most group members will perceive as the truth the leader is embracing.
Most of the time, small group leaders will know when opinion is about to override God’s truth. They will know because group members will lead off their statement with phrases like one of the following:
- “In my opinion…”
- “I think this means…”
- “My experience has led me to believe…”
- “A friend of mine once told me…”
- “Based on what we know about psychology/philosophy/science, God can’t be saying…”
- “The world has changed so much since the Bible was written, so we can adapt this to what it means for us today…”
These statements can provide for interesting discussion, but if group leaders allow these statements to stand as unquestioned truth or as the final word on the subject, they have done a disservice to both their group members and to the Word of God.
Bottom line: a lot of opinions are going to circle the runway when your small group meets. As small group leaders, we need to make sure that only God’s truth lands.
Rick Howerton is the Small Groups and Discipleship Specialist at Lifeway Christian Resources. He has authored many small group studies, is a highly sought after trainer and speaker, and is the author of Destination Community: Small Group Ministry Manual as well as A Different Kind of Tribe: Embracing the New Small Group Dynamic. He is also the co-author of Disciples Path: A Practical Guide to Disciple Making and Countdown: Launching and Leading Transformational Groups. But Rick’s deepest passion and his goal in life is to see “a biblical small group within walking distance of every person on the planet making disciples that make disciples.”