Allow the Word of God to dwell richly in your people
By Kris Dolberry
Imagine for a minute the kind of church you dream of leading. What does it look like?
The answer to that question could take many forms. Some leaders may describe a specific worship style or gathering. Others may desire a certain type of programming or organizational structure. Or maybe you imagined a budget large enough to accomplish the vision God has given you.
These are all good things, but that’s not what I’m asking. I’m wondering about the people. What would characterize the people in this dream church?
Most pastors would agree their dream church is one where people are growing in their faith, leading their friends and neighbors to Christ and discipling them, and living on mission with God.
Imagine people excited about gathering to worship, who sing passionately and worship God authentically, and who genuinely love one another and express patience when conflicts and disagreements occur.
Imagine a church unified around a vision and strategy, a church where people are generous with their money and resources because they recognize and passionately pursue the mission of God.
Who wouldn’t want to lead a church like that? Experts have written scores of books, led numerous conferences, and created endless campaigns to help leaders achieve this picture of church health. Many have tried changing worship style, moving Bible study groups off campus, or even changing the name of the church to something with more of a “cool factor,” and yet kingdom results remain the same or even get worse.
So, what’s the secret? I believe Paul tells us in his letter to the church at Colossae when he simply says, “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Colossians 3:16).
In the verses surrounding that powerful command, Paul describes the traits that characterize our dream church. He is saying if you want that kind of church, then do whatever you can to get the Word of Christ to live deeply and richly in your people.
How does that happen? The answer, I believe, lies in the way we study God’s Word.
D. A. Carson says, “A text without a context is a pretext for a proof text.” If we don’t know the context, we will fall victim to the temptation to find verses that support our feelings, our opinions, and our desires. If we study passages without their context, we won’t truly understand the Bible.
And if we aren’t careful, we will produce believers who grab passages to justify their behaviors and their decisions instead of allowing the Word to direct and develop them. Throughout history, people have wrongly taken Scriptures out of context to justify and validate evil actions and used them as weapons to destroy lives.
We want to study the Word in context because that is how God has chosen to reveal Himself to us. If we want people to know Him, we must help them know His Word as He has given it to us. If people don’t understand the Word of God, they won’t fully know the God of the Word.
For this reason, Explore the Bible is a book-by-book study of Scripture that takes participants deep into the context of God’s Word and challenges them to live it out in their own context. The goal of Explore the Bible is to plant the Word of God deep into the heart of all people and have them better understand individual passages and books of the Bible in light of the larger biblical context.
George Mueller, the 19th-century evangelist, said, “The vigor of our spiritual life will be in direct proportion to the place held by our Bible in our life and thoughts.” The reason so many churches don’t look more like our dream church is not because they are missing the latest and greatest church growth model—it’s because the Word of God is only superficially dwelling in them.
What’s the secret to building a dream church—one that is healthy, strong, and full of people passionate about loving God, living on mission, and serving others? Simple: engaging with, devouring, and dwelling in the Word of God. Study the Word of God in its context so you can live the Word of God in your context. The only way to experience long-term, lasting church health is by helping people dwell in the Word.