The study of God is infinite. Solomon, the “wisest” man in the world, said, “Of making many books there is no end, and much study is wearisome to the flesh.” (Ecc. 12:12 NKJ) Yet, studying God’s Word about God and how to please Him is fun and exciting! So questions and comments about deep or difficult theology (the study of God) are lots of fun and many people have opinions that may vary. The question is not, “What does man say?” but, “What does God say?” And that requires looking into God’s Word to understand God’s view.
In any home group there are people in many walks of life and differing stages of spiritual growth. There are some comments or questions that will be way over the head of people and discussion in those areas may be more confusing that clarifying, unless sufficient time is taken. The seasoned home group leader must discern if the topic should be addressed and how much time is devoted to it in a home group or if it should be handled outside the home group or at a future home group. Here are several principles to consider.
Affirm the person asking the question or making the comments
When people talk, affirm their comments and questions when you can. There are some talkative people who think home group is a “yak and snack” place and they almost control the meeting by talking so much. However, most people are much more hesitant to speak too much and encouragement and affirmation is important in their spiritual growth. So if someone asks, “I saw the baptism on Sunday, what about baptizing for the dead?” you can say, “That is a great question! There is one passage in 1 Corinthians that addresses that and let’s get together after home group to discuss it more.” Or depending on the people you have, you could say, “That’s a great question! That was a cultural issue Paul was addressing in Corinth for an unbiblical practice. Paul was questioning the Corinthians who practiced this. But let’s talk more about this during our fellowship time after home group tonight.” Or another way to answer that would be, “That is a great question! I don’t know the answer to that question. Let me do some research and I’ll get back to you.” Notice in each response there was affirmation to the question. The third response did not open up the discussion to other input, because without knowing the answer (unless there is a trusted leader or pastor in the group), there may be some responses that are very different from research that you will do on the subject and that will only spread confusion.
If the subject is or has been divisive, handle it with great discernment
The purpose of home group is to grow and multiply. If the subject is or has been divisive, be very wise on how you respond. It may be the good intentions of a person that the enemy is using to create division in the home group and that hinders growth and multiplication for the kingdom.
If a brief answer can be made, provide that answer
Sometimes someone will ask a question and a brief answer can be made. Discern the situation and the people present and give an appropriate answer and move on. For example, if your study is in the book of 1 Timothy and someone asks the question during the welcome and opening, “I was preparing for 1 Timothy and I happened to look in Revelation and I was confused about the order of the judgments. How do you remember if the trumpets are before the bowls and where do those seals fit?” That can be briefly answered by saying, “That’s a great question. I always remember STP oil treatment, but instead I think of STB, which is the order: Seals, Trumpets and Bowls. Does that help?” Then you can move on without getting into a long rabbit trail in Revelation.
Do your homework for the discussion on the deep theology
You do not need to know every question. You only need to know that God has all the answers and what He wants us to know, He has revealed to us (Deut. 29:29). If difficult theological questions arise, it is far better to either not discuss them at all or respond that you are not prepared to discuss them than to potentially lead someone down the wrong path. On the other hand, do not hesitate to discuss basic theology, even if you are not fixed on your position. You will be sharpened as you discuss it and become more dependent on the Word and the Spirit’s guidance into the Word. In either case, do your homework.
Talk to the person outside of the group
When difficult questions or comments arise, you may need to talk to the person outside of the group. That is not a sign of weakness. It may be a sign of wise maturity. Many people will get intimidated about the deep theology. If they had not addressed the subjects themselves or even heard of them, they may become sheepish and lose interest. Use discernment on what should be discussed in the group or outside of the group.
Provide a time of question and answer
Do provide a time of question and answers. I had a great student of the Word submit a list of questions that she was working through. They were great questions. Many of them were the basis for questions that I have posted on my website. As I worked through the answers, I provided handouts and talked through the answers as an aid to the others. We also at one home group devoted most of the time to question and answers. When I am confident of the answer, I’ll ask the rest of the group, “How would God’s Word answer that question?” That keeps people dependent on God’s Word. That can be a real bonding time in the group when several of people interject Biblical answers.
Model how the average Christian should deal with difficult issues
Remember the key is you are modeling how others should deal with deep theological comments and questions. If you provide a “deep” answer, that may overwhelm someone, they won’t think they could provide that kind of answer. That can make them think they could not ever lead a home group. You want to intentionally disciple people so they can think that they too, have the potential to lead in a home group. That is what multiplication is all about.
Deep theology is fun stuff. Do not shy away from it, but don’t allow it to become divisive. Follow the principles and you’ll keep your home group on track and growing with excitement.