Common Misconceptions 

Parkwood’s purpose is to glorify God by laboring together for the growth of all believers while going with the gospel to all peoples. At the core of that purpose is discipleship, maturing disciples within the church or making disciples without. The Growth Group is the primary means of discipleship at Parkwood. Several common misconceptions about the church, though, may negatively affect one’s engagement in Growth Groups. These misconceptions may be felt by Christians and non-Christians and rest in ignorance, in the flesh, or in tradition. The follower of Christ is then behooved to correct wrong thinking and encourage others to join in disciple-making. To this end, consider several misconceptions that hinder discipleship.

1. The church is too big.

The church is not too big, and such a misconception often reveals two flaws. First, the complaint originates from a personal perspective rather than a gospel perspective. What is meant by such a statement is that the numerical size of the membership presents larger crowds than one personally prefers or than one is traditionally accustomed. This complaint is counter to the ministry and work of the gospel. If the size of crowd is legitimately problematic, then simply moving to a different local body would be a sufficient solution. Criticizing the church as too big, however, argues that it is too big for my preference, which is fundamentally a wrong perspective. Second, this complaint misses the purposes of Growth Groups. The Growth Group is the natural solution to the large church since they provide a small group inside the larger church. Regardless how large the local church grows, the Growth Group is always a place to engage, to know everyone, and to be accountable and show accountability. The Growth Group is the small congregation inside the larger one.  [Read more…]

New Growth Group Material

Parkwood unveils new sermon-based Growth Group material today. This new material has one component – Bible Study Guides – designed for everyone and a second component – GG Leader Guides – designed for Growth Group leaders. Each of these Guides will be available one week in advance of the text being preached and studied in GGs during the week. For example, I will preach ‘The Death of John the Baptist’ next Sunday, February 7, so Bible Study Guides and GG Leader Guides are available today in the lobby and downstairs, on the website, and on the City so that you can begin preparing this week for next week’s sermon and next week’s GG discussion.

The theological and methodological inspiration for sermon-based GG material comes from the desire that increasing numbers of people would be equipped to study their Bibles and engaged in GG discipleship. To this end, Bible Study Guides introduce a text of Scripture and teach the student of the Word to study the text through several basic steps of Bible study: observe, ask, gospel, apply, and share. These Study Guides secondarily lead the Bible student through a set of discussion questions that will focus on the primary point of the text from a biblical theology perspective. 

Visual inspiration for the annotated steps of Bible study, while typical of basic hermeneutics (art and science of Bible interpretation) and foundational to exegetical (authority residing in the text and meaning coming from the text rather than being read into the text) study of the Scriptures, originated from an excellent article written by Marshall Segal at desiringGod.org. Segal’s goal is similar to our goal of equipping Christians to study the Scriptures, and his article is also written for the context of small group discipleship. For further preparation, consider reading his article Six Questions to Ask When Studying the Bible in a Group

This new strategy for Growth Group material carries massive potential for the growth of all believers, and I am sincerely encouraged and excited as we begin to make this available today. I pray you will be encouraged as you avail yourself of it, that this material will be as beneficial to you and your GGs as we expect and hope. 

Sermon-Based Growth Group Material

In the past we have used small group curriculum from Lifeway or Gospel Project, while at times venturing into writing our own curriculum. Certainly we are grateful for the godly men who serve the church through writing these curricula, but Parkwood has determined sermon-based material is the best method for our Growth Groups as well as the best overall approach to Bible interaction. Sermon-based material is the greatest opportunity to accomplish our Growth Group’s four-fold purpose of community, maturity, multiplication, and ministry; and it holds the most potential for encouraging and equipping the greatest number of people in personal study of God’s Word. 

As we begin to publish sermon-based Growth Group material, we are also communicating a process for Bible study in five annotated steps. 

  
First, observe. In this first step, the student of God’s Word is encouraged to answer the question, “What do I see?” Practicing the step of observation teaches you not just to read but to read well, to take note of what is obvious while also seeing the detail in the text. Think of the context, the writer, the audience, and the relationship of the passage to the unfolding of redemption and the communication of the gospel. You want to see the main point and take note of what is said less directly. 

Second, question. Question the text to gain further understanding. Instead of being satisfied with information gained from reading quickly or reading once, ask questions concerning what you do not know or what is not clear. For example, if the text reads, “He went up from there to Bethel…” (1 Kings 2:23), ask both the obvious and the less obvious questions, Who is he? Where is there? Why is here to there said to be going up? and Where and of what significance is Bethel? Answering these questions will lead to greater understanding of the text. Also, intentionally asking and taking time to look for questions will help the reader recognize lack of understanding that may otherwise be overlooked. 

Third, gospel. In this step, look for the gospel in the text. What does the text say about sin, about man, and about God? Consider whether the text is in the context of the Old Testament or the New Testament, in the context of the covenant of works or of grace, and then consider the corresponding implications for the gospel. The text may indicate a reason for the gospel, a result of the gospel, or an explanation of the gospel. Taking time to reflect on the gospel in various texts will allow the Scripture to inform your understanding, to see the gospel across the Bible, and to thereby increase your admiration for what God is making available in the good news.

Fourth, apply. Apply the text to your life. The task of Bible study is not at once completed but fulfilled over time as it is applied to the reader’s life. We study God’s word to know God. Study without application is simply gaining knowledge, which alone puffs up, but knowledge with application is humility and spiritual growth. First read the text and seek understanding. Then pursue application. Ask yourself how you can apply the text at home, at work, in the church, at school, and in recreation. 

Fifth, share. Having completed steps to understand and apply God’s Word, consider with whom you might share it. I recall a story once told by David Platt. He was teaching internationally and recounted people crowded shoulder to shoulder into a room, even pressing against him, and looking intently at him waiting. Significantly, he never saw the whites of their eyes once he began teaching. The reason, the men gathered were not theologically hungry merely for themselves; they were hungry to hear God’s Word that they might write it down and retell it to others. Let us do the same. Let us hunger after the Word, but then let us be hungry to tell others also. 

So I would encourage you, embrace the study of God’s Word. In doing so, you can prepare for the sermon, for your Growth Group, and for sharing with others. Should you need help, consider using the steps above: observe, question, gospel, apply, and share. Get a journal and start today!

Why Do We Place Such a High Value on Growth Groups?

Why we place such a high value on Growth Groups…

The purpose of Parkwood Baptist Church is to glorify God by laboring together for the growth of all believers while going with the gospel to all people(s). The watershed of this purpose statement is the growth of all believers. Magnifying the glory of God is, of course, the ultimate purpose for any local body called by his name, and so we labor together to that end. Yet our laboring together would be in vain if we are not going with the gospel to our neighbors and to the nations. A people seeking to glorify God while not proclaiming his gospel are likely working for their own kingdom rather than the kingdom of God. We must then help all believers to grow so they will not build their kingdom but go with the gospel to all people(s). The growth of all believers is therefore a hinge in the purpose statement that determines whether we will indeed magnify God’s glory by sharing his gospel. In an effort to labor together for the growth of all believers and to communicate our desire to fulfill this purpose, we call our small group gatherings “growth groups.” The name is intentional and clearly implies our desire for these groups to be a place for gospel growth so that our laboring together might be profitable in the economy of God.

The gospel, the good news of the saving work of God through Jesus Christ, serves as the center of our lives and ministry together. Apart from Christ we can do nothing (John 15:5).  Accordingly, a group gathered without Christ as the center ultimately accomplishes nothing. Unless we constantly orient our lives together to the gospel, we will elevate certain aspects of our groups to unhealthy places and inadvertently miss the goal of growing believers who will go with the gospel. We must remain unswervingly committed to the following growth group principles that we might keep Christ central in every way.

Gospel-Centered Growth

Colossians 1:28: “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.”

We gather in our groups to study the gospel of God revealed in the Word of God, the Bible. Each week, we dive into the Scripture personally, then together, to offer insight and application so that we may see every member of the group grow in Christ. A group gathered without the clarity, sufficiency, and authority of Scripture being brought to bear both in our individual lives and in our community will quickly drift to an emphasis far from the desire of God to see everyone mature in Christ. Our desire must not be for our growth only but for the growth of every member of our group, remembering Ephesians 4:15: “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ…” and Hebrews 10:24-25: “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

Gospel-Centered Community

John 13:34-35: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

The gospel of Christ reveals both His love for us and the basis of our love for one another. The gospel meets a basic emotional need. Everyone wants to be loved unconditionally and sacrificially. Ironically, no one is worthy of being loved, or interested in giving love for that matter. The gospel, though, intersects our life at this point of need as Christ loves the unloved and the unlovely. Consistent with his love for us is the command to love others just as he has loved us. Christ compels us to live life together in humility, patience, love, and forgiveness. This love for one another is not only for the benefit of the one being loved but also for those observing outside the community. When we share gospel community together, people see the gospel displayed among us and through us. In gospel community we are at once responsive to God’s loving us, obedient to God’s command to love others, and a witness to the redemption he has wrought within us.

Gospel-Centered Ministry

Matthew 25:40: “And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’”

Consistent with the expectation to love one another, gospel-centered community serves others in gospel-centered ministry. Jesus, speaking about the judgment, separates the sheep from the goats. The sheep are invited to come and to inherit the kingdom but the goats rejected and cursed on the basis of whether or not they served others. Jesus spoke sharply to those who did not demonstrate the gospel in ministry, explaining that whatever they did or did not do – food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, welcome to the stranger, clothes to the naked, visit and support to the sick and imprisoned – they actually did or did not do for Jesus. To the same extent that we choose to serve or to ignore others, we choose to serve or ignore Jesus. Likewise, we must serve others to the same degree that we claim to love, live, and surrender to our Savior. Sharing in gospel-centered ministry together provides opportunity and accountability to serve Jesus by serving others.

Gospel-Centered Multiplication

Matthew 28:19: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

Gospel-centered multiplication is the logical and biblical end of laboring together for the growth of all believers. Maturing believers make disciples, not only because discipleship is what they do but also because fishers of men is who they are (Matthew 4:19). Jesus calls his followers to be disciples and to make disciples. In fact, the Christian without a desire to reach the lost with the gospel is an anomaly. Disciples make disciples. They share the life-giving gospel with the spiritually dead resulting in the birth of new disciples. Gathering disciples into groups results in the birth of new groups. Gospel-centered disciples make disciples, and gospel-centered growth groups reproduce gospel-centered growth groups. And so it follows that multiplication must characterize our groups if they are indeed to be called growth groups.
Parkwood desires to glorify God by laboring together for the growth of all believers while going with the gospel to all people(s). Inasmuch as this goal identifies the purpose of the church corporately, it identifies every member’s purpose individually. Glorifying God, laboring together, growing, going, are not merely owned by the leadership or the spiritual elite, but these elements of purpose are the responsibility of every person in the body of Christ. Will you unite with us to glorify God by laboring together for the growth of all believers while going with the gospel to all people(s)? Let me encourage you to join a growth group if you’re not already part of one. And let’s resolve together to ground our growth groups in gospel-centered growth, community, ministry, and multiplication.